Moderated by Rick Badie
Most of us know about Georgia’s booming TV and film industry, buoyed by a preponderance of idyllic locations, low production costs and tax incentives that welcome producers. Today, the president of SCAD offers three “main acts” the state should attend to in order to keep the cameras, lights and action afloat. Meanwhile, a music advocate wants more attention given to growing that industry, something she considers a no-brainer given the talent that calls Georgia home. Elsewhere, an Atlanta city official outlines improvements at a troubled agency.
Grow TV, film talent in Y’allywood
By Paula Wallace
“Made in Georgia.”
It’s a proclamation hundreds of film and television productions can make, but none are more deserving of the label than SundanceTV’s “Rectify.” This award-winning series tells the story of a former death row inmate re-adjusting to life in a fictional Georgia town. Every bit of it is filmed in Griffin and creator Ray McKinnon was born, educated and trained as an actor here in Georgia. I’m proud to say several SCAD graduates have remained in state to play critical roles on the set, in fields ranging from cinematography to post-production to costume design.
“Rectify’s” recent renewal for a fourth season was yet another morsel of wonderful news in a blockbuster summer for our $6 billion film and television industry. While the business currently supports 24,000 full-time jobs and shows no signs of slowing, one only needs to look as far as North Carolina to remember that a boom is typically followed by a bust. To ensure the “Hollywood of the South” becomes a permanent film and television destination, all state actors must work collaboratively and follow a script consisting of three main acts. If we’re successful, we’ll see homegrown triumphs like “Rectify” become the norm for decades.
- Act I: Government support for industry. Since the production tax credits were implemented in 2008, the number of film and television productions in Georgia has increased from fewer than 10 to nearly 250. Clearly, these tax incentives have had the desired effect in the short term, but for long-term success, consistency is crucial. Companies will not continue plans to build studios here if they think Georgia will follow the lead of North Carolina, Louisiana and Florida by scaling back incentives.
- Act II: Training top talent. Beyond helping productions meet the increasing demand for crew members, universities should also play a key role in educating talent — the students who will go on to become the next great artists, actors and auteurs. As SCAD president, I have made it our mission to train these future stars. Today, we offer 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in film, TV and entertainment arts. And in response to growing student and industry needs, SCAD has extended courses to its Atlanta campus, resulting in an additional B.F.A. program this fall. That means students can now earn a B.F.A., M.A., or M.F.A. in film and television at our Savannah or Atlanta locations, plus enroll in related courses at SCAD Hong Kong and SCAD Lacoste. Armed with the knowledge they have gained in our classrooms and state-of-the-art facilities such as the newly-renovated SCAD Atlanta Digital Media Center, more than 1,600 SCAD alumni now work in Georgia’s entertainment industry. I’m confident that figure will rise as we continue to expand our professional programs and establish a larger film and TV footprint in SCAD and in our state.
- Act III: Building permanent infrastructure. A stronger brick-and-mortar studio presence will differentiate Georgia from other Southern states. With new studio complexes, Georgia can lure more major companies like Marvel away from Los Angeles and attract new ones looking to build permanent fixtures within the state’s landscape.
At SCAD last year, we built out our own facility, Savannah Film Studios, where we host students and outside productions. Other studios are in development across the state, including Third Rail Studios and Moon River Studios. These complexes will join Georgia-based studios already in operation, including Pinewood Atlanta, EUE/Screen Gems, Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta and Tyler Perry Studios.
With continued government support, additional education and training and the construction of new infrastructure, the future of Georgia’s film and television will be not only secure, but thriving. Now, just where should we build our colossal Y’allywood sign?
Paula Wallace is president of the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Georgia music can matter even more
By Tammy Hurt
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you know Georgia’s film and TV business is booming. Last fiscal year, there were more than 250 productions shot here, representing an economic impact of more than $6 billion.
It wasn’t that way five years ago. It started with a handful of film industry pioneers with a big idea back in 2005 who realized there was a big opportunity to bring this kind of business to Georgia. Now, not only is it driving a sector of our state’s economy, but it’s also putting the Georgia brand in homes, new media and theaters around the world through TV and movies.
But what about Georgia music? It’s one of Georgia’s greatest global assets.
From one of our first musical ambassadors, Ray Charles, who blended gospel, country and soul to create a new sound, to Sugarland and Janelle Monae performing at the Nobel Peace Prize Awards in Oslo Norway; acts from Macon, like the Allman Bros and Otis Redding, to Jesssye Norman and James Brown from Augusta, everyone knows our music. Artists like Zac Brown Band, Ludacris, Luke Bryan, Outkast, Jason Aldeen and the Indigo Girls reach a global audience live on world tours and online via digital global distribution platforms. Georgia music festivals, such as TomorrowWorld, A3C and the Savannah Music Festival, draw fans to Georgia from all over the world.
All good. But we can do better.
In 2011, B. William Riall conducted an economic impact study, commissioned by Georgia Music Partners , which determined the state’s music industry has an economic impact of $3.7 billion that generates more than $300 million in tax revenue for state and local governments and created nearly 20,000 direct and in-direct jobs, which resulted in more than $888 million in wages, salaries and benefits.
As the national music landscape has evolved, Georgians have remained at the forefront of creativity and innovation across diverse genres including gospel, blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, country, hip-hop, indie and Christian music. However, our fertile ground for songwriters, producers, musicians, etc., is no longer enough. Cities such as Nashville, Austin and New York have surpassed our entire state’s music impact. The reason is simple. These cities see a direct correlation between a growing economy and further development of their musical brand. Music matters in those cities and music matters in Georgia. But we’re falling behind.
Our industry and state government must more effectively link arms and re-establish the Georgia music brand. We need to advocate for more music education and specialized industry training. As with other entertainment industries in the state, we need to encourage practical business behavior that will secure the future of Georgia music.
As Georgia moves closer to becoming a creative powerhouse, there is a huge opportunity to leverage our diverse musical talent and our studio facilities (which already exist) with our homegrown resources (students being educated in post-secondary, state music programs). Imagine the growth potential of a concerted effort supporting the film, TV and video game industry to create more work in Georgia. We are in a keenly unique position to strategically grow the entertainment industry and to create additional jobs in Georgia for Georgians through music.
It is time.
Tammy Hurt is co-president of Georgia Music Partners.
Earning public trust one action at a time
Michael. T. Sterling
One year ago, shortly after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed tasked me to reform the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, theThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board said: “Fix it. Or shutter it … a succession of Atlanta mayors and a host of city councils have not been able to conquer the problems of this profoundly dysfunctional agency.”
I took that opinion seriously as a candid critique of a historically plagued agency and a challenge to avoid superficial changes. I resolved to implement systemic and cultural changes that would put the agency on a path to success beyond my tenure.
In 2013, the city auditor reported to the mayor and city council that the agency was beyond repair and recommended its closure. In 2014, an AJC investigative team uncovered fraud and misallocation of funds. In that same year, state monitors cited the agency with multiple findings that included lack of a budget and a cost allocation plan.
I knew that what I inherited would be difficult to repair and reform. I also knew those difficulties paled in comparison to the individuals who were jobless, broke and struggling to find employment resources. Work needed to be done.
Uncertain about where to start, I took small steps. I talked with workforce experts, studied best-practices, read highly-acclaimed management books such as Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” and David Aesch’s “Driving Excellence.”
I knew that I could not do it on my own, and so I took the advice of Jim Collins, “First who, then what.”
Step by step, I made personnel decisions until the right team was in place to transform the culture and perform true reform.
Dedicated to improving lives, we rewrote the mission, established five pillars and reorganized the structure of the agency — from a system of operating to meet mechanical performance measures to one dedicated to helping every customer regardless of circumstances.
Ten months later, we resolved all audit findings from the state’s 2013-2014 monitoring report and had no repeat findings during the next audit. We built a budget, established a cost-allocation plan and a business division and brought in a labor market analyst so training efforts aligned with business needs.
This year, we have placed more than 154 individuals into employment, 268 into training, 534 into work experience and provided more than 115 students with college scholarships to pursue their dreams.
Agency reform is far from over. But a year later, we are improved, changing lives every day and refusing to declare victory until every person in Atlanta that wants a job has one.
If you met individuals like Army veteran Alcedric Jackson, who we helped to upgrade his avionics maintenance skills or 19-year-old Cameron Brysdon, who was homeless but is now attaining his automotive technology degree, then you would understand that the work of this agency is vital to the fabric of Atlanta.
We will continue to earn it every day: earn the public’s trust and earn opportunities for people every single day.
Michael T. Sterling is executive director of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.