Humble beginning and ongoing leadership support fuels thriving opportunity for Georgia
Georgia’s booming film industry started in a swamp. The first “talkie” produced in Georgia was “Swamp Water” filmed in 1941 by a French director in the Okefenokee swamps. Walter Brennan starred as the hunted fugitive.
Walt Disney came to the state in 1956 to film “The Great Locomotive Chase” in the North Georgia Mountains where the real-life Civil War episode took place, but the industry didn’t begin to grow until Burt Reynolds, along with his crew and canoes, came to film “Deliverance” along the Chattooga River and in the Tallulah Gorge near Clayton.
The 1972 film was a smash hit, but its real impact came soon after when Reynolds needed Gov. Jimmy Carter’s permission to film “The Longest Yard,” a story about a prison football team. Carter made the filmmakers a deal: You can use the state prison outside Reidsville as a setting if you leave the football field there when you’re finished. That deal launched the Georgia Film Office and a decades-long boom in film and television production that has brought blockbusters like “Black Panther” and top television shows “Stranger Things,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Vampire Diaries.”
Learn More About Georgia’s Film & TV Production Industry and Opportunities
Why Georgia? It has everything from urban streets and skyscrapers to a variety of natural wonders. But most of all, it has a talented population as a source for support and growth — and an attractive tax incentive.
What kickstarted the expansion was government support in the form of a tax incentive known as the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act. Signed into law in 2005 and expanded since, the act granted a transferable tax credit of 20 percent of all in-state costs for investments of $500,000 or more. Another 10 percent was added for the inclusion of a Georgia promotional logo in the title or credits of each production.
The tax credit has become a powerful catalyst for growth resulting in hundreds of film and television productions, thousands of jobs for Georgians, and billions of dollars in economic activity throughout the state.
The impact includes in influx of the industry’s professional technical and support people migrating to Georgia because of the many opportunities here. Of equal consequence are the benefits accruing to thousands of businesses already rooted in Georgia who became suppliers of a vast array of goods and services. There is no sector of the Georgia economy untouched by the investment in infrastructure and the subsequent growth of the entertainment industry.
Gov. Brian P. Kemp echoed the pride of all Georgians when he announced that Business Facilities Magazine in July 2020 ranked Georgia as the No. 1 Film Production Leader. This ranking came as no surprise to the tens of thousands of Georgians who drive this dynamic industry.
“Thank you to Business Facilities Magazine for featuring Georgia in their 2020 Rankings Report,” said Governor Kemp. “Our production numbers show Georgia was on pace for another record year for film before COVID-19, and they confirm that Georgia continues to lead the way in film production. The film industry has had a significant impact in communities across the Peach State, and this top ranking puts a spotlight on the hardworking Georgians who are the real faces of this great industry.”