SPECIAL REPORT: Georgia - the next Hollywood - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Georgia - the next Hollywood

SPECIAL REPORT: Georgia - the next Hollywood (Source: WTVM) SPECIAL REPORT: Georgia - the next Hollywood (Source: WTVM)
"Need for Speed" movie filmed in Columbus in 2013. (Source: WTVM) "Need for Speed" movie filmed in Columbus in 2013. (Source: WTVM)
(Source: WTVM) (Source: WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Film and TV production professionals know that Georgia is a Camera Ready state, with highly desirable financial incentives, location diversity, production resources and professional support to make any size production a true success. 

The Peach State has come a long way when it comes to attracting movie makers. 

In this special report, we take a look at why Georgia is quickly becoming the movie making Mecca of the South. 

The “Made in Georgia” logo is becoming a common sight stamped on movies and TV shows filmed in the Peach State. 

Remember the scene from the movie "Need for Speed" shot from the 13th Street Bridge between Columbus and Phenix City back in 2013? 

The movie was released in March of the following year, putting the tri-city area on the map.

"We've seen a lot of shows go throughout the state in film,” said Lee Thomas, Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Film Office in Atlanta. “It's up in north Georgia, it's in South Georgia, Columbus has seen their fair share of films and we hope as the business continues to pick up." 

Thomas says the state is making great progress in the film and entertainment industry and raking in some serious money as well. 

"The first 25 years of our office we did $2.5 billion,” Thomas said. “Last year we did $6 billion, so last year we more than doubled the first 25 years of the office." 

During those years, hundreds of feature films were shot all over the state of Georgia along including “Captain America: Civil War,” which is the number one movie at the box office right now. Much of it was shot in Atlanta. 

So why the sudden interest in Georgia? Let's just say the Peach State has a tax incentive movie producers cannot ignore. 

"What it is, is a 30 percent tax credit, so on the qualified spend of productions that are coming into the state they can earn a 30 percent tax credit," Thomas said. 

"It's very friendly to producers, production companies, Hollywood to come here and be able to shoot more economically," said Christopher Hicks is the Director of Film and Entertainment for the City of Atlanta. 

Hicks says while the state is headed for greater success in the film industry, there's still more to be done on order to become the film Mecca of the south. 

"We are going to try to create tremendous end roads for the creative and cultural developers out of the city of Atlanta and Georgia to be able to again green light projects here,” Hicks said. “Start projects here; run them soup to nuts here, find distribution from here. I think if we're able to achieve that, the sky is absolutely the limit." 

But the growth of what many call "Y'allywood" is being threatened by a shortage of skilled production workers, the rank and file of film and television crews - but that will soon change. 

"What the Governor of Georgia has done is create something called the Georgia Film Academy. A partnership between the University of Georgia and the technical college system," Thomas said. 

That's where Columbus State University comes into play. 

"The Department of Communications at CSU does have three different concentrations, Comm. studies, Public Relations and Integrated Media,” said Dr. Danna Gibson, Ph.D., the Chairman of Communications at Columbus State University. “But with the Georgia Film Certificate it nicely plugs in as a two course component into our normal curriculum, after the course students receive the Georgia Film Academy Certificate." 

Dr. Gibson says those courses will train students for more than 120 positions, which in turn will keep film crews in the state of Georgia for years to come. 

"There has to be a trained work force dispersed throughout the entire state and we feel that Columbus not only with the University and the Communications Department and the other collaborative that are involved,” Dr. Gibson said. “It's great for us!" 

Heather McLendon graduated from college in 2011 but came back to specifically take the film course offered at CSU. 

"I thought that by taking this class, I might learn some things that bigger productions do and that I wasn't aware of," McLendon said. 

We can't talk about the growth of movies and TV shows in Georgia without mentioning Tyler Perry and what he has brought to the city of Atlanta with his multi-million dollar studios, where loads of movies and TV shows are made. 

It's that success leaders in Atlanta are striving for. 

"I think he is the benchmark for what we want to be able to do,” Hicks said. “He is completely self-contained as a unit. He creates his own shows. He directs directors on the shows; he produces them or brings in producers. He runs his own shows and he is responsible for finding his own distribution which he has done by way of Turner and most recently Oprah, so he is prototypically what we would like to do in Atlanta and Georgia on a scale basis." 

It's not only Tyler Perry who's reaping the benefits of a Georgia location. The town of Senoia is cashing in on the dead. 

The once sleepy town of Senoia, approximately a 45-minute drive south of Atlanta, serves as one of the main filming locations for "The Walking Dead," AMC's uber-popular zombie TV show. 

The show's success has sunk its teeth into Senoia, breathing new life into the area like the resurrected dead. 

"That town went from six store fronts to over 50 and now they've built on a new wing that's already completely pre-leased," Thomas said. 

Right now Georgia has several studios with more currently in development-in- and around the Atlanta area – giving Georgia more resources it needs to compete with the big boys in the film industry. 

"I think the power base will always for a long time, for many years to come to remain out of Los Angeles because it's just a content media capital and has been for 100 years,” Hicks said. “But I do think that we will give other places a run for their money as far as the creative component of what we do and the sustainability and the growth no doubt, no doubt." 

According to the Georgia Film Office in Atlanta, The Motion Picture Association of America companies alone spend on average $660 million a year in Georgia. 

Keep in mind that when a film has a budget of around $200 million, 30 percent can save you a million or four of your budget. So it's a win-win situation for everyone involved. 

There's a lot of filming happening right now in the Peach State. For a full list of movies and TV shows filming in Georgia, visit this link

And join the conversation on social media by using #HollywoodGA. 

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