City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Georgia TV/movie production tax credits spared the ax

(l to r) Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Woody Harrelson star in Columbia Pictures' ZOMBIELAND.

(l to r) Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Woody Harrelson star in Columbia Pictures' ZOMBIELAND.

In 2008, the state of Georgia upped tax credits for movie and TV production companies to 30 percent. That is a huge give away, but supporters argued this was the only way the state could compete for these types of jobs with Canada and other states such as Louisiana and New York.

The good news: it worked. In came big budget films, both good (”The Blind Side,” “Zombieland”) and not so good (”The Killers,” “Hall Pass”). Several TV series have planted roots here, several which could be around awhile, including the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva,” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

BET has practically turned Atlanta into its second headquarters with series (”The Game,” “Let’s Stay Together”), a talk show (”The Mo’Nique Show”) and awards shows (”BET Hip Hop Awards,” “The Soul Train Awards”). On top of that, a massive 30-acre studio has just been built at the old Lakewood Fairgrounds to accommodate new production, including BET’s “Sunday Best” gospel reality program.

So far, thousands of jobs have been generated for caterers, costume designers, make-up artists and technical crews as well as actors. And celebrity watchers have had a chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Betty White, Jennifer Garner and Robert Duvall. Georgia is now one of the top 5 states in the nation for film and TV production.

But the state legislature is grappling with major budget shortfalls. The Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness in January recommended the state eliminate the entertainment industry tax credits as part of a general reworking of the tax code.

Ric Reitz, a local actor who helped design the tax breaks in 2008, said this threat cost the state at least 10 projects, though no existing TV series chose to leave.

Fortunately, this week, the state legislature took the tax breaks off the table. And with Michigan, one of Georgia’s biggest competitors, also threatening to cap its incentives under the governor’s current budget proposal, Georgia may see even more production.

Film and TV production in Georgia tripled to $770 million in 2009, then grew to $897 million last year,  according to the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Even with some early losses, 2011 could be another record year.

Lee Thomas, a director of the office’s film division, said she’s gotten a flurry of calls from production companies that had originally planned to go to Michigan but are now seeking climes with incentives.

“A lot of people are relocating here,” she said. “And some have changed professions. People who were  in construction are now building sets because of the downturn.”

Currently, she said, 16 films or TV shows are being produced right this second in the state of Georgia, one of the busiest times ever.   The tax credits, she said,  “pays for itself in state and local taxes” generated by all this business. “We feel good about it,” she added. “It’s proven its worth. We’re excited the legislators feel the same way.”

This uncertainty the past few weeks didn’t stop ABC and CBS from filming pilots of potential TV series here. CBS’s “Hail Mary,” a crime drama pilot starring Minnie Driver, is being shot now in metro Atlanta. ABC’s “Partners,” another crime dramas featuring two detectives who are secretly half sisters, is set to wrap on April 1. Both shows await clearance from their respective networks for them to return. An NBC movie called “Magic Eye” is also being shot here and could potentially be turned into a series.

Thomas did say that USA Network’s “Unnecessary Roughness” starring “Rescue Me” star Callie Thorne has been given a green light and will shoot in Atlanta. (The pilot was produced here recently.) I just got confirmation from USA Network that the show will begin production this summer. A launch date will be announced next week.

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By Rodney Ho,, AJCRadioTV blog

21 comments Add your comment

Proud to live in Georgia

March 25th, 2011
5:31 pm

I love that they didnt change the tax. The amount of money the crew spends in hotels and food. Really makes a difference


March 25th, 2011
5:31 pm

Boo – yaaahhh!!!


March 25th, 2011
5:34 pm

Yeahhhhh Georgia!!!


March 25th, 2011
5:40 pm

Tax cuts spur economic growth? No, can’t happen.


March 25th, 2011
6:05 pm

I’m so relieved. They did the right thing to keep Georgia competitive, and this will result in more revenue in the long run.

Football Fan

March 25th, 2011
6:27 pm

A personal friend of mine had a successful arborist company and closed it to work for the film industry. He worked on Footloose and the new X-men film and is living his dream. He said that this has been amazing for so many people he works with. Why would the legislature even think about taking that away?


March 25th, 2011
6:28 pm

They finally did something right!! Thank you keeping our state competitive!

The Truth

March 25th, 2011
6:39 pm

Movies just aren’t that good anymore..

Freakshow Blue

March 25th, 2011
7:41 pm

Screw all these shows, the best show out of Georgia is ARCHER, hands down


March 25th, 2011
11:00 pm

I am glad to Film industry will stay in Georgia WWE production crew is setting up shop John Morrison and David Otunga will be at the Braves exhibition game to sign autographs .


March 26th, 2011
11:18 am

Anyone actually know how these credits work? Do the movie production companies actually get cash back from the state of Georgia after they have spent a certain amount?


March 26th, 2011
11:22 am

Great news for the entire GA entertainment industry!

Jake Tompkins

March 26th, 2011
12:18 pm

The 2011 Atlanta Film Festival will host a series of seminars, one of which will serve to outline the impact and importance of film tax incentives. Stay tuned to our website for details!


March 26th, 2011
1:29 pm

Yes! Very happy about this. Atlanta ranks #8 in TV broadcast markets. We need to have the same ranking or better in movie and television production. It can only lead for great things for the state, revenue and otherwise.

Gresham Brown

March 27th, 2011
10:33 am

But what about the poor and the black? How will they survive with a tax cut?

christian satrazemis

March 27th, 2011
11:08 pm

Bets thing that GA ever did so happy ;) ……

Lt. Dan

March 28th, 2011
5:29 pm

It is really hard not to make a political comparison here…talk about easy.


March 28th, 2011
7:03 pm

no reason to stay here if they changed the law. Way to go Republicans!!!!

Craig Miller

March 29th, 2011
8:59 am

I am proud to be a part of a film community that came together and made this work. We all built a strong case with the Georgia Legislature and the Governor and they listened, considered and acted. Georgia Films Create Georgia Jobs. The future is bright.

Steve Rothschild

March 31st, 2011
10:11 am

We will finance tax credit incentives for productions. This credit goes much deeper than most realize in generating business in the state.

Miss Cine-Ma

April 2nd, 2011
10:56 pm

As a member of the film community, I am extremely excited for all of us that are working hard to support ourselves and our families..also for those who don’t quite under all of this…it creates jobs and business opportunities. The production world needs everything to make it happen like jobs in the real world. Just take time to read the film credits….you’ll see.