Southern Hollywood: A Look at Teen Involvement Inside The Booming Atlanta Film Industry

  |  Topic: Career, Entertainment, Media Analysis, Movies, News, VOX Media Cafe
By Holyn Thigpen and Kaylynn Parks, VOX Media Cafe reporters
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With filming for hit television shows and blockbuster movies happening in our own backyards, down the street from our summer jobs and at our schools, the Atlanta film industry is growing rapidly.

According to Bizjournals.com, in 2016 alone, 320 television shows and movies were filmed in the state of Georgia. In 2017, director Tyler Perry began building one of the biggest film studios in the country approximately 10 minutes from downtown Atlanta. Seemingly in response to the industry’s boom, colleges and nonprofits have shifted gears in education and training in order to crank out skilled workers for “ATLwood’s” sets. With all the filming, building and educational changes, it’s no wonder that Atlanta is going from “Hotlanta” to “Hollywood of the South” or, as some are calling it, “Y’allywood.”

If you’re a teen looking to get into the Atlanta film industry, you should know a little context on how the industry came to be. Back in 2005, former Georgia governor Sonny Purdue signed the Entertainment Industry Investment Act that offered tax incentives to makers of films, TV series, commercials and music videos and video games. This led to a record-setting $475 million being boosted into the state’s economy the following year. Still, our benefits were less enticing compared to other shooting locations, so in 2008, Georgia lawmakers upped their game and began offering 20 percent tax breaks with an extra 10 percent tax credit if the final product includes an animated Georgia promotional logo. In the past five years, 16 film and TV companies have expanded or relocated to Georgia because of these incentives, and the number of new companies forming in the Atlanta film industry continues to grow.

Presently, some of the most anticipated films and the most talked about shows are being filmed right around the block. In the past year alone “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Baby Driver,” the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the Netflix hit series “Stranger Things” have all been filmed in Georgia. The Atlanta film industry is flourishing and has led to immense economic growth in the city. Bizjournals.com also reports nearly $9.5 billion was generated in the last year, and more than 85,000 jobs have been created in the entertainment boom, which amounts to more than $4 billion dollars in wages. This is good news for young people. With all that opportunity, there has to be an opening for 20-somethings and teens to get their foot in the door.

While it may be fun and rewarding to be a crew member on set, the Atlanta demographic is absent from the cohort of “above-the-line” workers (producers, directors, and writers). Atlanta natives make up the majority of “below-the-line” workers (cameraman, light crew, sound crew, etc.), yet the above-the-line workers are still mostly outsourced from Los Angeles and New York. All3Media producer Angela Edmond said that Georgia had almost become the “backlot” of New York and Los Angeles films. In order for the film and television industry to become fully rooted in Atlanta, there must be an upheaval that allows Atlanta residents more leadership and creative authority in the production world. Atlanta has the technical expertise needed to become a film hotspot but is missing people who have a unique voice to share.

Georgia film workers and teachers, however, have caught on early to the lack of Georgia voices in the film industry and have combated the issue in a multitude of ways. Top colleges and universities like Georgia State University (GSU) and the Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art & Design are adjusting their programs.

GSU’s Department of Communications recently split from the film program and joined theater to make the new school of Film, Media and Theater. Douglas Barthlow, the director of Undergraduate Studies, Communications, said the goal is for GSU alumni to, “write, produce, and direct their own film here in Georgia rather than waiting for somebody from Hollywood to come in with their scripts and crew.”

There has also been the recent formation of the Georgia Film Academy. Started this year, the Academy offers a quick 18-hour course turn around, meant to get you into school and out on set as quickly as possible.

A nonprofit organization, Re:imagine/ATL, aims to empower an even younger filmmaking demographic: teenagers. Terp Vairin, the project manager to Re:imagine/ATL said the program was created to give Atlanta teens a voice and identity through their film and media creation. Re:imagine teens have created multiple pieces, such as “No Comment,” a web series that allows teens to broadcast their voices.

Young people who want to get involved in the Atlanta film industry have access to a ton of resources and opportunities. Now, the only question left is this: Which of you will be the next big Georgian filmmaker?

Kaylynn, 16, is a rising senior at Atlanta International School and self-diagnosed stress eater. Holyn, 17,  is a rising senior at DeKalb School of the Arts who loves crime novels and international film.

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