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Cities Feel Film Boom

September 5, 2014
‘The Last Pedestrian’ by Guiding Star Cinemas recently filmed in the city of Douglas.

Several Georgia cities got a piece of the $5.1 billion economic impact generated from the 158 feature film and television productions shot in Georgia during Fiscal Year 2014. The productions spent at total of $1.4 billion during FY 2014, which ended in June.

“Not only has this industry created jobs and investment opportunities for Georgians, it also has revitalized communities, established new educational programs, tourism product and more,” said Gov. Nathan Deal, who announced the economic figures in August.

In Athens-Clarke County, television and film productions have picked up, as the state’s generous tax credits have lured more filmmakers to Georgia.

“We recently had a film shoot here called “A Walk in the Woods” and it had Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in it,” said Athens-Clarke County Public Information Officer Jeff Montgomery, whose office coordinates with film productions. “We’ve had an independent film that shot here—“Spectacular Now.” In the meantime we’ve had commercials, TV shows and other independent films shot here. We are slowly growing and we do know that the economic impact to the area in recent years has been more than $1 million.”

That the film and television industry means dollars for Georgia’s cities is no surprise to Victoria Ashmore. She works at Gerhardt’s World, an antique shop owned by her father Richard Gerhardt in downtown McDonough. When a crew member from the ABC tele-vision show “Resurrection,” which films in downtown McDonough, stopped in to purchase an antique bathtub, she immediately posted the event to Facebook. Re-curring cast member Michelle Fairley also came in and bought a lobster bowl—another purchase Ashmore shared on Facebook.

“After they left on Monday, our business picked up 50 percent,” she said, in a telephone interview the Thursday after the purchases. “Everyone wanted to know about the place that sold the bathtub. We’ve had a really good week.”

While the film and the television industry is helping to fill hotel rooms and ring cash registers at local businesses, Athens is among the cities also reaping the rewards from having a strong creative community and film-ready workforce, Montgomery said. “So when productions come here, there are opportunities for people to be able to work in Athens.”

According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the motion picture and television industry is responsible for more than 77,900 jobs and $3.8 billion in total wages in Georgia, including indirect jobs and wages. The MPAA member companies paid $696 million to 4,066 vendors in Georgia in 2012. These local businesses include technology, lodging, real estate and food service.

Several Georgia cities want to see more of those dollars flowing to their tax base so city officials are working on ways to ensure the city is welcoming and has a process in place to manage film activity. As Athens is a camera-ready community, Montgomery’s office acts as a liaison between film producers/crews and various city entities including the University of Georgia, the police department, traffic engineering, the downtown development authority and downtown business owners.

“We try to work with filmmakers to make sure they know the right places to go and the right procedures to follow,” Montgomery said. “We will also assist if a filmmaker comes looking for a particular type of environment. We are in the process now of working on a guide to filming in Athens-Clarke County and what we have to offer.” Athens is also on working ways to help train people in the film industry and have established a part-nership with the Clarke County school district for that purpose.

Douglas Media Relations/Event Coordinator Blondale Thomas said the city recently hosted two productions—a short film titled “The Last Pedestrian” by Guiding Star Cinemas and a commercial that was filmed by Georgia Public Systems for Wiregrass Georgia Technical College.