A little more than a year old, the EUE/Screen Gems TV and film production site on the former Lakewood Fairgrounds is already in expansion mode.
Executives said demand for studio space has exceeded expectations so the company has broken ground on a new 30,000-square-foot sound stage on the Atlanta property. Chris Cooney, chief operating officer for EUE/Screen Gems, said it will be ready early next year, in time for “pilot” season. That’ s when broadcast networks will shoot dozens of potential new shows for possible airing during the 2012-13 TV season.
Already, EUE/Screen Gems has worked with the BET cable network on three shows: “Let’s Stay Together,” “Sunday Best” and “The Game.” USA Network also used a 37,500-square-foot sound stage that opened in April to shoot its first season of “Necessary Roughness,” a drama the network renewed for a second season last week. Several major films with A-list names such as Billy Crystal and Denzel Washington are planned on the lot as well.
Georgia’s industry-targeted tax credits, established in 2008, have fueled a massive growth of film and TV production in the state. Any production that spends $500,000 or more can get up to a 30 percent tax credit back from the state of Georgia.
“The tax incentives are working better than any other tax incentives we have,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at a press conference at EUE/Screen Gems Wednesday. “We’re attracting very well-paying jobs to the state of Georgia… This is not Hollywood fanfare showy stuff. These are life-changing jobs that are replacing the old economy with the new economy.”
Reed noted that, three miles away, the former Ford Hapeville plant is now “a vacant lot that the city of Atlanta just purchased. Think of the folks who used to go there,” he said, contrasting it with the Lakewood site. “There’s a new creative, cutting-edge sector developing here because of [the state's] financial decisions.”
On a typical day, said EUE/Screen Gems executive vice president Kris Bagwell, 200 to 300 people are working at the TV and film production lot.