Local companies are opening all over the state to support the growing film industry, but the University of Georgia recognized there was a gap in coverage.
"We realized what we were missing was the training of people to write, produce and direct feature film and television productions," says Dr. Nathaniel Kohn, a professor in UGA's recently launched Master of Fine Arts program in Film, Television and Digital Media.
Graduate students spend the first year in Athens with classroom instruction focusing on writing, directing, producing and post-production. The second year is spent in "the real world" at Trilith Studios south of Atlanta.
"The hope is that after they complete the program, they'll stay in Georgia," Dr. Kohn says of the students. "We believe that Georgia is a seductive place. Once you come here, you want to stay here."
The UGA program complements education that is available at the Georgia Film Academy, which teaches crafts such as hair and makeup, set construction and lighting.
Having both programs creates a full ecosystem of professionals in the state for TV and film production.
"What's happening in Georgia is fascinating," Dr. Kohn says. "We're building huge infrastructure — crews, rental houses, the whole ball of wax — and we're serving companies from LA. It allows them to take advantage of the state's tax incentive."
With Dr. Kohn, the UGA graduate students are learning from someone who knows what he is talking about. He is the independent producer of numerous feature films and TV series.
"One of the TV series I did was for BET back in 2008. It was called 'Somebodies.' It was one of the first projects to take advantage of Georgia's tax incentives."
"Somebodies" started as a feature film, which he also produced. Both the film, which premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival and the TV series were filmed in Athens.
The producer is the person who makes everything happen. The job starts with selecting the screenplay and hiring the director and actors. Then it's time to supervise production, editing and music. And, finally, it's time to market the project.
It's an involved process that is covered fully in the UGA master's program. But before students get to the graduate level, Dr. Kohn has advice:
"To succeed in film, I think students need a well-rounded liberal arts education so they have something to stay when they start making movies," he says. "They need to take classes in the humanities and then go to study film at the graduate level. They need to train their critical skills so that when they make movies, they are engaging stories and ideas that matter.”