by Mollee D. Harper, Senior Editor
Georgia Film News brings this special showcase of the Atlanta-based Georgia Film Academy with insights from Founding Executive Director Jeffrey Stepakoff, MFA. Stepakoff is a highly-accomplished 30-year veteran in the entertainment industry with far-reaching contributions in all forms of media from Emmy-winning television and Disney movies to interactive gaming and best-selling novels.
In our one-on-one interview with Stepakoff, he shares how the Georgia Film Academy has intensified its focus to meet the growing demand for highly-skilled film crew talent in Georgia.
Stepakoff explained, “Governor Nathan Deal had the original vision for the Georgia Film Academy. I was brought in as the Founding Executive Director to fulfill that vision in August 2015. We just celebrated our one year anniversary and have grown to a fulltime staff of 12 with 10 consultants, 10 active institution partners and 7 offsite teaching locations throughout the state. This is an incredible privilege and an opportunity of a lifetime. I am 110% committed to the GFA and its success. ”
The Atlanta-based Georgia Film Academy (GFA) is a partnership program with the University System of Georgia (USG) and Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) providing multi-disciplinary classroom and on-set training in the film, TV and new media industries. Students of the academy gain invaluable hands-on experience working with professional equipment, transportation and locations including: cameras, sound gear, lights, production trucks, generators and a new 15,000 square foot soundstage. The Georgia Film Academy offers certification programs and “real world” training to support the workforce needs of Georgia’s now $6 billion annual film and digital entertainment industry.
Stepakoff continued, “We offer two courses right now. The first course combines classroom instruction and hands-on experience with industry-standard equipment. The second course is a semester on-set, where students learn and hone their craft while working on the crew of a professional production. The Georgia Film Academy certification program is comprised of 18 credit hours specifically designed to provide students with a basic level of on-set film production skills, knowledge and experience with film-industry standard organizational structure, professional equipment, and on-set procedures. By the end of the 2016 summer semester, 344 students will have completed the Georgia Film Academy’s comprehensive production training course, and 117 will have completed the on-set production internship.
Stepakoff added, “GFA will be adding an additional course to train writers, producers and all of the other specialties in this business as well. Our goal is offer a full ecosystem for the business.”
In April 2016, GFA had a ribbon cutting ceremony to open its new state-of-the-art soundstage at Pinewood Atlanta Studios where students now have the opportunity to take courses for the GFA certification program. The courses combine hands-on training at the new soundstage along with classroom training. The new facility features the latest technology and systems including a 15,000 square foot soundstage with a 1.5 megawatt power source and a flexible rigging system to accommodate lighting and construction parameters for every production type. Students will be able to learn a very specific set of skills and be properly prepared to fill the 3,000-5,000 new film industry jobs forecasted for Georgia over the next five years.
Stepakoff said, “We think of ourselves as a quick start program. We train right across from real productions so students are able to go right to work. In our first fiscal year, GFA will have trained 1,200 students. 150 of those students are already working on 20 major productions being filmed on location including The Walking Dead, Sleepy Hollow, Spiderman, Pitch Perfect 3, The Avengers, and many more.”
The Georgia Film Academy not only certifies workforce ready employees in needed areas, but it also connects top students and prospective employees with employers, providing its students with a tangible path to employment in Georgia. The GFA Program also allows students who are pursuing a higher education to earn credits toward their AA, AAS and BA degrees. A stand-alone certificate is also offered to non-credit seeking students.
“Our mission at GFA is this, “Stepakoff explained. “Our first focus is leadership to bring all 22 institutions in the state together and working from the same page. Second, we are focused on training and jobs for Georgians to put our students, returning veterans and our neighbors to work in high demand careers needed in television and film production. And, third, we are committed to a permanent and sustainable entertainment industry in Georgia for the long haul. We have the infrastructure development, the best tax credit program in the country, and now a world class crew. Georgia is number three in the U.S. and five in the world in film production today. We already have a world class entertainment industry in the state. We are going to make sure that it is here for the next generation.”
Jeffrey Stepakoff was a founder and has served as Executive Director for the Georgia Film Academy since August 2015. He is a professional writer and producer with a long list of contributions in all forms of major media and has worked for and with the industry’s top production companies including: 20th Century, Paramount, MTM, Fox, ABC, Paramount Digital Entertainment, Citicorp TTI, Inscape (HBO/Time Warner), HarperCollins Interactive, and Digital Pictures.
Stepakoff’s contributions to television include 36 episodes for Emmy-winning series including The Wonder Years, Sisters, Dawson’s Creek, and ABC Family’s Chasing Life. His movie contributions include Disney’s Tarzan and Brother Bear, and EM Entertainment’s Lapitch, The Little Shoemaker. Stepakoff has also written several well-known video games, books and novels including Billion-Dollar Kiss produced by Penguin in 2007.
For more information on the Georgia Film Academy, visit http://georgiafilmacademy.org.
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