Georgia Governor Brian Kemp swore in 18 appointees from various facets of the entertainment industry to be a part of his new Georgia Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment Commission. The move is not unprecedented; previous Georgia Governor Nathan Deal had a similar commission. The appointment of this commission is a move that fortunately implies Kemp does in fact want to protect and foster the booming industry. All individuals, from educators to lawyers to union representatives, are already actively involved in advocating for and representing the industry in various agencies and organizations throughout both the state and country. At press time, the commission had not yet met, so members were not certain how Kemp plans to utilize their expertise, but those Oz spoke to have grand goals for how they aim to help keep the industry thriving and growing in the Peach State.
Craig Miller, the owner of Craig Miller Productions, is one of the newly appointed members of the commission, and also served as the chair of Deal’s iteration. “Governor Deal’s commission usually met about once a quarter, and we served at the governor’s pleasure. We monitored what was going on in the film industry during those meetings, and were proponents of the continued growth and development of the industry. That commission didn’t really have any problems to solve,” said Miller. Miller plans to use his role to help push the industry into what he considers the final stage of full sustainability. “First we needed the legislature to create a tax incentive,” he began. “Then after the incentive was in place, we needed infrastructure; there were only one or two soundstages in Atlanta in 2008, and now there are more than 20 studios and multiple soundstages across the state of Georgia. After infrastructure is education, to get Georgians to work and get everyone up to speed to be able to handle the volume of work coming in, and then after education you need content creators. We are right at that stage now. We need Georgians wanting to tell their stories. We need investors to make financial commitments to making the stories of Georgia writers and Georgia directors and Georgia producers. That is what will create an industry that is fully sustainable and provide work for Georgians for years to come.”
Dan Rosenfelt, president of Third Rail Studios, also sees cultivating creatives as an important step for the industry. Rosenfelt moved his family to Georgia from Los Angeles three years ago to work at Third Rail. “In LA, I just did my job,” he explained. “I didn’t have to advocate for my industry, but here, it’s a different thing. Any time you have a tax incentive that is the driver of production, and a place that is relatively new to the industry, there is a lot of education that is needed, not only with the public, but with lawmakers, to really show them what it looks like on the ground making TV shows and movies.” Rosenfelt is passionate about being an advocate for the industry, and has actively done so since he moved to the state. His role on the commission only furthers his ability to do so, and he hopes to create a clear picture of just how broadly the industry impacts Georgia. “It goes far beyond just the number of jobs and how much [production] spends directly in the state annually,” he stated. “It’s staggering just how many people this industry touches in Georgia. There are ways it spreads out that you can’t entirely measure. Cast, crew, and production members spending money at outside businesses, giving time and money to non-profits; it’s untrackable how much money is spread around town to businesses that would never in a million years think that the film industry would connect with them.” He is also acutely aware of how legislation could affect the industry, and hopes he can make sure all sides of the picture are seen by policy makers, so they know the broad scale ramifications of laws they propose. “The studios are absolutely beholden to their By: Emily L. Foley GOVERNOR KEMP SWEARS IN 18 APPOINTEES TO SERVE ON THE GEORGIA FILM, MUSIC, & DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT COMMISSION talent: actors, directors and creatives, and most of those people, if given their ‘druthers,’ want to film in California, so they don’t need much excuse to put their screws to the studio,” he explained.
" We need Georgians wanting to tell their stories. We need investors to make financial
commitments to making the stories of Georgia writers and Georgia directors and Georgia producers. That is what will create an industry that is fully sustainable and provide work for Georgians for years to come. "
Pinewood Atlanta Studios president and commission appointee Frank Patterson has served governors in Georgia and Florida and is excited to do so again with Kemp. “I want to help our state recognize all the value of this industry way beyond that which has already been publicized,” said Patterson. “We don’t hear much talk about new jobs created by this industry. Federal data shows that while [the film industry] represents about .5% of all jobs in Georgia, we also represent 5.5% of new jobs in Georgia! We are an industry that can create enormous innovation and education and splinter industry. We have some of the best educational institutions in the world right here in Georgia, and we’re perfectly primed and positioned to create what this industry needs to spur innovation at a level that isn’t even being talked about.
Patterson, a professor in Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts, is understandably focused on the educational aspect of his role on the commission and aims to educate Kemp and other policy makers not just on how important blue collar skills and laborers are to the film industry, but also the economic impact the film industry in turn has upon those individual industries. “People focus on the creatives, but the directors and producers and special effects are just small parts of the industry,” he said. “It’s an amazingly diverse eco-system of skills, from landscape artists and riggers to grips and electricians, and when it’s successful, history has shown that it creates great growth in all those other industries."
And what about the music side of things? A clearly more established side of the entertainment industry in Georgia, our state has fostered noted musicians for many decades from James Brown, Little Richard and the Allman Brothers all the way to Jermaine Dupri and the groups R.E.M. and Sugarland. However, the industry still stands to benefit from tax incentives and the attentive eye of the state’s political leaders. Appointee Mala Sharma has more than 20 years of experience in the music and entertainment industry, and currently serves as the GM of audio postproduction company Wabi Sabi Sound, Inc. She also helped found the non-profit music advocacy coalition Georgia Music Partners (GMP), and is a noted advocate for the music industry. “Georgia’s music industry has provided the soundtrack for the world for many decades,” she shared. “We educate and grow the music industry in every county in this state, but more often than not, those musicians end up leaving. Georgia is taking film production from California, while Nashville, Austin, LA and New York are taking our musical talent.” Sharma hopes to shine a light on that fact, and wants to see the state’s music incentive become as viable as its filming incentive, so Georgia can keep musicians here, working in the state. “The strength of the hip-hop industry is already here. The Atlanta Symphony orchestra has more than 26 Grammys; we have the talent, we just need some investment from outside companies,” said Sharma. “We’re not starting at zero with the music industry, so the growth would likely be exponential.” Sharma also believes that just as the commission sees members of these different branches of the entertainment industry working together, that is how the industry as a whole should work. “It shouldn’t be separate silos,” she said. “We should look at the big picture. We have incredible film and TV growth, and we’ve got digital entertainment growth, so we can have all three components! Instead of looking to Silicon Valley and Nashville and Hollywood, [Georgia] could be all three!”
It’s obvious that the 18 members were well thought out, and have the vast industry experience to be dynamic counsel for the governor and perhaps most importantly, truly have the industry’s best interest at heart. If their individual visions become reality, our state and its filming industry will truly become, and remain, an epicenter of creativity for decades to come.
The 18 members of the commission are:
MICHAEL AKINS, business agent, IATSE Local 479 (labor union)
CHRIS ALBRECHT, partner, Double A Productions
DANIEL DAWSON, country music singer/songwriter Representative
CARL GILLIARD, House District 162
CARDELLIA HUNTER, Co-director of operations and productions for the Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment
STRATTON LEOPOLD, executive producer and owner, Leopold’s Ice Cream Senator
DAVID LUCAS CRAIG MILLER, executive producer, Craig Miller Productions Senator
JEFF MULLIS JOHN NEEL, JR., CEO, The Sandford Company, Inc.
FRANK PATTERSON, president of Pinewood Atlanta Studios
KEITH PERISSI, director of Joel A. Katz Music & Entertainment Business Program at Kennesaw State University
JOHN RAULET, VP of Raulet Property Partners Representative
BERT REEVES, House District 34 Representative
TERRY ROGERS, House District 10 DANIEL
ROSENFELT, president of Third Rail Studios
MALA SHARMA, GM, Wabi Sabi Sound, Inc.
STEPHEN WEIZENECKER, entertainment lawyer, Barnes & Thornburg