Georgia is celebrating continued growth and investment from the film and television industry. Numbers announced earlier this month show productions spent a record-breaking $4.4 billion in the state during fiscal year 2022.
Those figures, generated by 412 productions, which include 32 feature films and 269 television and episodic productions, demonstrate the competitive advantages of having this multi-billion-dollar industry in the Peach State.
What brings these productions to Georgia time and again? A winning combination of encouraging state partners, a plentiful workforce, variety of filming locations, and ample support services.
And it’s all happening at the local level. It’s happening at places like the Silver Skillet Restaurant, an old-fashioned diner in Midtown Atlanta that’s held onto its vintage charm since opening in 1956.
The Silver Skillet is often chosen by film crews as a set location because stepping into the space feels like going back in time. Everything from the floor tiles to the booths to the windows are intact from the period.
“Directors and producers, they’re given instructions to go find a roadside diner or a small-town diner, so when they come in here they just go ‘oh my god, everything’s ready, we don’t even have to dress it. It’s done,’” Teresa Breckenridge, owner of the Silver Skillet, told CBS46.
Breckenridge said the best-known movie to have filmed scenes in the restaurant is “Remember the Titans,” starring Denzel Washington, as well as “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” “Trouble with the Curve,” and 2022’s “I Want You Back.” Even award-winning Netflix show “Ozark” has filmed inside the storied diner.
Not only do the productions pay fees to Georgia locations, but they also generate film tourism as well.
“People ask where did certain people sit, and we try to tell them and they want to go sit there,” Breckenridge said.
The Cheshire Motor Inn on Cheshire Bridge is another filming favorite due to its period looks. It has been used in Robert Redford’s “A Walk in the Woods,” Jason Bateman’s “Identity Thief,” “American Made” starring Tom Cruise, and “The Mule,” a recent Clint Eastwood film.
Manager Bikash Sunar says productions have to buy out the entire place to film there, bringing in extra revenue.
“That helps us stay in business,” Sunar said.
Local businesses see big benefits
Atlanta is seen as a hub for the industry, but productions have long been setting up all over the state.
Take Macon for example, whose filmography includes “Zombieland: Double Tap,” “Fast and Furious 5,” and “Need for Speed.” Aaron Buzza, vice president of development and COO of Visit Macon, said the city sees four to five major productions each year.
“It brings more revenue to its restaurants, its bars, its hotels, so that’s money that’s coming in that doesn’t necessarily have to come from ‘the regulars,’” Buzza told 13WMAZ. “Each production leads us to another opportunity because somebody had a good experience here.”
According to Visit Macon, $4-5 million is generated in Macon each year due to the film industry, with some of that money going towards local businesses.
Amy McCullough, who owns Macon Clay on 2nd Street, said her building was used during the filming of “The Color Purple” musical.
“It was fun because you got to meet some of the actors, I got to watch a lot of the filming. I mean Macon has a beautiful downtown, historic buildings that are intact…culturally I think it’s wonderful for Macon,” McCullough said.
Communities welcome film crews
The city of Thomasville in Thomas County has been the backdrop for five films in the past four years, and is working to bring in more.
“We have seen a huge increase in local spending and hotel stays during the movie production period, often these film crews are staying in Thomasville for several weeks at a time,” Bonnie Hayes, the city’s director of tourism development, told The Albany Herald. “Our reach is expanding, so we want to make sure Thomasville looks at filmmaking as a viable opportunity for economic development.”
The city has added a film page to its Visit Thomasville website to make it easier for producers and citizens alike to get resources related to filming in the city.
Like Thomasville, Forsyth County has become another film-friendly destination, with its close proximity to Atlanta and a variety of locations to choose from making it a popular film hub. To grow its reach, the county created Film Forsyth as an initiative to provide resources and information to productions interested in filming within the county, helping with everything from location sourcing to assisting with filming permits.
“We understand the positive economic impact the film industry brings to our community and the sense of pride and joy it brings to our residents to see our county on the big screen,” Joni Buford, the director of tourism at the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, told NewsBreak. “The creation of Film Forsyth has made the process of scouting remarkably easier. The next phase of Film Forsyth is to institute a Film Commission to further aid in these efforts in late 2022.”
Forsyth County has been featured in several projects including “Ozark,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Fate of the Furious,” and more.
State partners encourage production success
The state works to maintain a strong partnership with the film and television industry, including providing tax incentives. Communities like Savannah take full advantage of the incentives by adding some of their own. On top of state tax credits, the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) offers an additional incentive for any productions that shoot 50% or more within 60 miles of Savannah’s City Hall.
In the last 18 months this area has seen numerous productions including “The Menu,” “A Jazzman’s Blues,” “Halloween Ends,” and “The Color Purple” musical, bringing entertainment stars like Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Jamie Lee Curtis and demonstrating the wide spectrum of projects that are attracted to the state.
With such strong investment in the state, it’s clear Georgia has everything film productions need.