Atlanta Mayoral candidates spoke out about their support of the movie business and their plans to impact the industry at Georgia Production Partnership's special edition meeting on October 3rd.
Candidates in attendance included: former Atlanta Chief Financial Officer Peter Aman, Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Fulton County Commissioner John Eaves, Councilman Kwanza Hall, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, city Councilwoman Mary Norwood and former council President Cathy Woolard. The group, moderated by LaRonda Sutton and Brennen Dicker, was asked how each candidate would be involved in attracting film industry businesses to Atlanta if they win the election.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle logged the responses of the candidates in the order they were asked below:
Aman, who left before questions officially began for another live interview, said, "I am sincerely dedicated to the film industry and the tax credit structure, and to the music industry and arts and culture more broadly. We have to invest more in all of these areas as a city and we have to make sure as a city we're doing everything beyond the tax credit to support the industry."
Woolard said she would work with the entire entertainment industry, from film to music to gaming, as well as high schools, colleges and universities to form a plan that will further solidify the film industry. She also said she would make the film permitting process easier."I was listening to the news today and the city of Roswell has an online permitting process so people know really quickly whether they've got their permits, where they're going to be," Woolard said. "We've got to work though that with our neighborhoods, because some of our neighborhoods that enjoy a lot of film production get a little concerned. I think we can streamline that. I live in Glenwood Park, and we get more than our share of film production. I'm glad every time I see the trucks out there..."
Norwood highlighted the importance of growing post-production in Georgia. She and several of the other candidates also agreed that the permitting process could be streamlined. "Permits are difficult," she said. "It's is difficult to navigate City Hall. And I will be front line working with you, understanding what you need and making sure that if there are logjams and, as Cathy [Woolard] said, hiccups in the system, we will get those solved. Because that's the most important thing. You need a quick turnaround."
Mitchell said Georgia needs to be not only training future film workers, but looking at ways to retain them after they graduate. He said he has a niece in the industry who currently works in Los Angeles. One way to keep talent in Atlanta is to increase affordable housing options in the city, he said. "If I'm mayor, I'm going to make sure that we're producing housing that allows for the creative class to live and work right here in the city of Atlanta," Mitchell said.
Hall noted that the tax incentives are responsible for the film growth in Atlanta, "A local tax credit, we've talked about that...," Hall said. "And even going into different lanes, like productions of shows. If we could [offer an incentive for] the small theatrical productions, we get more talent that we're developing here."
Eaves suggested awarding higher tax credits to productions that film in low-income areas of the region.
"I think we can do a whole lot more with the tax credit option from the local government," Eaves said. "We can do something called 'opportunity zones.' The state has a program already to put businesses and corporations in depressed areas based on the jobs you can create."
Bottoms suggested Georgia playing a bigger role in creating content and deciding what films here.
"Atlanta continues to be really a transactional production hub, if you will, for the entertainment industry," Bottoms said. "[We need to make sure] we are also fostering relationships to make sure we have the ability to have a bigger say in the productions that happen here. There are decisions that I understand are still made in Los Angeles and New York, and we have to make sure we're taking that to the next level..."
More information on the candidates and their stances can be found through their respective political websites. Be informed on these candidates and make sure to vote; this election will have an impact on the film industry!