GA Film Industry Is NOT In Trouble - We Do Have ALOT of Work Ahead of Us...and We Need to Stop Being So Damn Defensive

Oh, the power of a headline. It's the trusty magnet writers and publications use to pull in readers since the Guttenberg press revolutionized how we communicate 600 years ago. Unfortunately, headlines are abused and misused, which misinforms and misleads.

Project Casting (of which we have linked to before when they have relevant casting notices) titled a July 7th post "Georgia Film Industry in Trouble? Reps Upset about Lack of Talent". The post itself refers to an Associated Press recap of a meeting of film industry professionals at Georgia State University on July 1st.

This gathering of studios, companies, schools, and union representatives was just one of the series of listening sessions Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's High Demand Career Initiative is putting on around the state. Film was the first topic covered because it has seen the most dynamic growth and impact of all the industries in the state. It is not the primary focus of Deal's HDCI. By the time the October 21st meeting in Athen comes to a close, the HDCI will have covered Information Technology, Military, Aerospace, Healthcare, Auto, Agriculture and Logistics. 

The economic development community in Georgia, led by Governor Deal, has heard from the private sector that one of the greatest challenges facing businesses in Georgia, nationally, and globally is the need for a consistent, trained and reliable workforce. In response, Governor Deal created the High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) to allow those involved in training Georgia’s future workforce – the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) – to hear directly from the private sector about what specific needs they have from a workforce perspective (i.e., degrees/majors, certificates, courses, etc.). With decision makers from each of these entities at one table, we will get a clear picture of what Georgia businesses need and pair them with existing assets and/or collectively tackle any gaps, one by one. -

These type of sessions are nothing new. Versions of it in the 1940s and 1950s lead to the founding of the European Union. It's what governments do. Smart governments use the feedback and turn that into actionable programs.

What They Really Said

As someone who was in attendance, I can attest that the reps from Marvel and NBC Cable did not think we were in trouble. Nor were they upset. They didn't hold back either. In the area of keys in the grip and electric departments, carpenters/set builders, stunt men, speciality costumers, and department heads, they were burning through the most qualified people quickly. Those available after that might be eager, they don't have the experience L.A. crews have. The costs of bringing in crew is very real.

None of the reps thought it wasn't a problem that wouldn't be solved through training in the short-term. Long-term, with the right investment and training programs, Georgia crews will continue to accrue the amount of hours that will put them on par with what L.A. has offered.

One rep also reminded the room of roughly 300 attendees that Hollywood has been doing this for 100 years. He didn't have any illusions that Georgia was going to replicate that overnight.

Each of the representatives was not only effusive about filmming in Georgia, their respective studios and companies have committed to bringing projects to the state far into the future. 

A promising sign of that was the representative from NBC working on Satisfication. His desire was to see more investment in post-production facilities, including SFX. In his words, the ability to farm out post work in the same state as their productions saves time and money, and ensures a stronger quality product.

Let's Keep It Real

It's true that there are those in Hollywood, and around the country, that have been exploiting recent events to tarnish Georgia's "rising" star. While that was, is, and will continue to happen, we cannot afford to brush away legitmate concerns raised by the industry as a whole.

When X-Men: First Class and Fast and the Furious 6 filmed in the state, we were not the primary shooting locations. The weeks spent here, was nothing compared to the months spent shooting elsewhere.

Yes, it's true that Georgia crews were getting experience. No, it's not true that they were working as much as crews in Lousiana or Toronto on some of these same shoots. Two months sounds like quite a bit, it's nothing compared to a production spending six months to a year or more shooting 80 percent of the movie. Georgia stood in for Cuba in First Class as an example. A lengthy and important sequence in the film, that only represented about 15% of what's on screen. Within that, the amonut of SFX work used to replicate the Cuban Missle Crisis blockade, further reduces how much Georgia contributed to the overall film as a shooting location.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire filmming at Swan House

Hunger Games: Catching Fire filmming at Swan House

The tide has turned since then. The amount of experience gained by those who worked on the Hunger Games sequels alone dwarfs what many, if not most, got in their previous projects combined. If we continue on this path, in five years, it will be impossible to say Atlanta crews don't have the experience. That will take years though. That's okay. Remember, 100 years, Hollywood, not overnight.

Two things we cannot do. Let me repeat: CANNOT DO.

First, is get defensive. The moment you do that, you legitimize any criticisms, even if they are unfounded. If a guy who really didn't cheat storms off from the table yelling that he's being dumped on, who are you going to believe? The person making the accusations, or the person who is protesting really, really hard?

Second thing we can't do, is boast so much. I know many of you are excited about the explosion, the opportunities, the energy. This can all go away. Anyone that has heard one of my speechs, talks, etc., knows I refer to 2004 to 2006 quite a bit. It's in that time frame that the impact of Lousiana and Toronto's tax incentives became evident. If some of you new to the industry wonder why we don't quite trust some of you super-boosters, it's because many of you haven't experienced a mass exodus of talent and crew. It's heartbreaking and it's a momentum killer. 

What We Should Do

We must remain optimistic. The future for film is a bright one. Contrary to perception, it's barely out of infancy compared to the printing press in terms of technology, and painting, plays, poetry and novels in terms of art.  

We must continue to create new training programs. Not just for the standard positions of P.A., or for those who want to be writers and directors. Accounting, location managers, legal, office, there are dozens of areas of need, and dozens of professions and hundreds of skill sets well suited to filling this.

We must be willing to admit where we are lacking and where there is fault. No person, no industry, no company is perfect. We have much to lose by not tackling legitimate criticisms head on, and only the world to gain when we embrace those notes and act upon them.

We must elevate our game in creating content. We still aren't launching actors like we should. The films we're producing on the local level have to be the kind of interesting stories that not only draw attention to the state, they offer audiences mind-blowing content they are looking for.  What we create has to travel to festival circuits and create name recognition for filmmakers. We are storytellers, and the world is our audience. Let's entertain them.

Most important. We need to be looking for and recruiting the best. We can wait for the cream of the crop to come to us, or we can go find them, and train them to be the badasses this industry needs.