Georgia’s Film Industry Incentives: Creating the New Hollywood

Though many will still point to Hollywood as the heart of cinema, the last decade of developments have shown an influx of production companies to Georgia.

Georgia has subtly yet quickly established itself as a prime location for the film production industry. Such nicknames as “Y’allywood” demonstrate the Peach State’s rising movie production. With films frequently produced here, Georgia natives can often recognize the state’s diverse scenery in the background of many box office hits, including Georgia’s Appalachian Mountains, extensive farmlands, coastal regions and sprawling metropolitan area.

Major titles filmed in Georgia include “Baby Driver” (utilizing Georgia State Campus and Perimeter Mall) [1], “The Internship” (masquerading Georgia Tech’s campus as “Google HQ”) [2], and “Anchorman 2. [3] In addition to individual films, entire movie series have committed their production activities to Georgia. Disney, Marvel, Netflix, AMC, Sony, Turner Entertainment, and others all film in the state [4].

The $9.5 billion industry (by economic impact in the state) has largely been attributed to Georgia’s Film, Television and Digital Entertainment Tax Credit policies, following the Entertainment Industry Investment Act of 2008. These transferable tax credits subsidize up to 30% of in-state costs for qualifying film productions. Transferability allows companies that do not have income tax liability in Georgia to transfer the credits to others. The state grants a 20% tax credit for production and post-production projects totaling $500,000 or more and 10% in tax credits if the film features a promotional logo provided by the state government (this can be seen in the end credits for Marvel movies) [5]. 

Within the $9.5 billion economic impact, the industry provides $4.6 billion in wages for associated workers. The industry also offers over 92,000 jobs and has attracted 300 industry-supporting businesses since 2010 [6]. Of these jobs, there are now more than 5,000 technicians and other film-related workers; the average number of employees on at least medium budget feature films are upwards of 150 local individuals; the average budget of a film is $41.7 million; and 60-70% of film budgets are spent in the state [7]. Under the incentive, there is also an average of forty filming projects at any given point in the state. These benefits draw from the $800 million in tax credits from the state government, second in the world only to the United Kingdom [8]. 

The film industry has created a demand for related professions within the state as well as drawn upon the state’s universities for untapped talent, particularly the Savannah College of Art and Design [9]. With the industry moving to Georgia, jobs are now retained in the state as opposed to losing young professionals to more traditional film industry locations.

It should be noted that the majority of these projects are concentrated in the Metro-Atlanta region, especially with large-budget feature films. However, rural Georgia is still integral to the industry with its unique landscapes and sharp contrast from the city. It provides producers with distinct settings to draw upon. For example, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is shot throughout Georgia including many rural regions [10]. In addition to direct spending from producers, tourism is growing from added interest for many film sets [11]. The state can benefit from this potential growth of tourism by drawing upon previous sets as tangible landmark locations for tourists and fans to seek out, similar to the ubiquity of the “Forest Gump” bench in Savannah. 

However, recent contentious legislation threatens the interests of many production companies to continue operating here. Disney and Netflix have voiced concerns over the recent “Heartbeat Bill” while Warner Media, CBS, Sony, and NBC have stated that they would reconsider their investments should the bill pass [12,13]. Should these companies leave, students may have substantially fewer opportunities in the industry. Some argue that the flight of production companies harm the wrong people, and may further hinder the women’s rights movement. Macroeconomically, further jobs could be lost without film production as many businesses, from caterers to florists, depend on the aggregate spending of the movie industry to continue operation [14]. The future enactment of such bills threatens Georgia’s image as an ideal location for investment and diminishes its outlook for further growth.

Written by: John Lee