Leapfrogging our way over California, Georgia was recently named the top filming location in the world (Film L.A, 2017). The numbers paint a staggering spike in economic impact, with Gov. Nathan Deal recently announcing film and television productions generated $9.5 billion in economic impact in fiscal 2017, including $2.7 billion in direct spending. Ten years ago, the economic impact was just $242 million, with a $67 million dollar direct spend, an almost 200% increase.
Fueled by a robust tax incentive, the film/TV industry has also been buoyed by the development of the Georgia Department of Film, Music and Digital Entertainment’s “Camera Ready Community Program.” The innovative program is the first of its kind in the nation, making Georgia the leader in offering a community-based production assistance program. All of Georgia’s 150 counties are now officially certified as “Camera Ready,” where film and TV productions are connected with skilled county liaisons to provide local expertise and support on locations, permitting, photography, road closures and other film/TV needs.
As Gwinnett’s Camera Ready liaison for the past 4 years, I can certainly attest to our astonishing growth in film/TV. In just the past year, 320 film and television productions were shot in Georgia. What’s more surprising is how many of these productions are now filming in Gwinnett. There’s a growing film and production infrastructure, strong community support, boundless location options, and with the new Georgia Film Academy program at Gwinnett Tech, workforce development.
Many residents may not realize that Gwinnett is already home to two major TV/film studios. Eagle Rock TV Studios (yep, owned by the folks who bring us our favorite adult beverages) is home to the largest studio facility in the U.S. under one roof. At over 470,000 square feet, their covered breezeway provides over a ¼ mile of safe, convenient and private base camp parking. The facility has four 30,000 square foot soundstages to handle multiple productions, and it’s the only facility in Atlanta that offers 87.5 tons of “silent air” on each stage. Productions love the 150,000 square feet of air conditioned flex space for construction, set dressing and wardrobe, as well as office hubs just seconds away from the stages. Current productions include “Dynasty,” the Netflix show “Ozark” and “Greenleaf.” They’ve been home to feature films including “Mother’s Day, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Longest Haul,” “Escape Plan 2” and “The Darkest Minds.”
Just down the road, the Atlanta Media Campus (located on the OFS campus) is one of metro Atlanta’s quiet powerhouses in TV/film productions. The facility has hosted several Marvel productions, as well as serving as the stages for the Fast + Furious, Hunger Games and Divergent franchises. Their massive facility goes big – creating the largest blue screen in Georgia for a Fast + Furious production, as well as housing one of the largest backlots in Georgia.
Yellow production code signs dot Gwinnett’s landscape on a regular basis. Popular and recurring locations include Gwinnett Place Mall (closed portion), the Infinite Energy Center, Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation, the Gwinnett County Jail, Historic Norcross, the Southeastern Railway Museum and numerous others.
As the Camera Ready liaison, I am always looking for previously undiscovered locations, and recent photo shoots have included an abandoned house on the Chattahoochee, an airplane hangar, a closed car dealership and several schools. Eagle-eyed viewers may have recognized the Lawrenceville Shooting Range, the closed restaurant on Oakbrook Parkway or Chateau Elan in recent episodes of Ozark, and my inbox was full of numerous shots of the recent “Dynasty” filming at Suwanee Town Center.
The impact on our local community is profound. Each TV production averages 85-100 crew, who spend their time and money with our local businesses, including restaurants, hotels, hardware, lumber and tire and car rental agencies. There are now over 200 Gwinnett-based businesses in the film production guide, and the many members of Gwinnett Tech’s inaugural graduating class for the Georgia Film Academy are working on production sets.
Yet it is not enough to have a myriad of locations, a technical college and a robust image library. Gwinnett has developed a reputation as THE place to film over the past few years not because of our infrastructure, but because of our people. As the Camera Ready rep, I depend on our community – city officials and staff, school or parks officials, private residents, economic development teams – for ready recommendations and quick responses. They never fail to be timely and accommodating. Gwinnett County has been incredibly supportive of the film and TV industry, and our fire and police departments have well-deserved reputations as the most knowledgeable and easy-to-work with departments in metro Atlanta.
2018 is poised for more growth, and we’re tremendously excited to be part of it.