Party Before The Storm

For anyone who isn’t in the film business in the southeastern United States the only thing you need to know is that in the past two years, 9 out of 10 film projects targeted for the region have gone to Louisiana. Georgia, once rich in features and television projects has gone lacking and many of our best technicians have roamed far afield in search of steady work. But all of that may have just changed last week.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law a tax incentive measure meant to compete with Louisiana and other states in the region for the production of feature films and television movies. Tonight the Georgia Production Partners in conjunction with Lab 601, tossed an industry gathering in celebration of the passage of this law.

In attendance were producers, actors, technicians, union representatives, lawmakers and lobbyists. For many of us who’ve been working in Atlanta since the late 80’s it was old home week, with several people openly discussing moves to Louisiana and California. For many this legislation has come too late to change their professional demands.

For many others the law and the lack of competition means opportunity. Companies like Rainforest Productions have stepped into the breach to produce earnest (albeit workmanlike and necessarily low-budget, straight-to-video) films to feed a clamoring demand for films that address the black community’s sensibilities. The moment when the popular press ceases to euphemistically call these “urban films” couldn’t come too soon. Come on guys, break out of catchphrase prison.

What really struck me as I moved around the party were the people who cornered me to discuss my “Film Georgia” license plates. In fact, I sold TWO tags tonight with no intention of doing anything other than seeing some old friends.

Boom Operator Doug Hill stopped me to tell the story of running into an old man in a strip shopping center parking lot. Doug said that he was a little apprehensive when the old gent ambled up to him (for some reason I was left with the impression that the man was wearing overalls). The old man took a look at the license plate on the front of Doug’s Jeep and turned to Doug and inquired “Film business eh?” to which Doug replied “Yep.”

“So,” the old man asked, “do you think they’ll pass that bill this year? We could really use the business.”

Boom. Like that, Doug realized how deep down filmmaking can reach into the community. I wasn’t the least bit surprised at what the old fellow told Doug; you have to begin to UNDERSTAND how deeply film and television is ingrained into modern life and how WELL the Film-Georgia license tags work to spread the idea that filmmaking is IMPORTANT to our state, financially as well as artistically.

Part of me never ceased to be amazed at how short-sighted our Atlanta community’s “leaders” have been in regard to these license plates; plates designed to operate as rolling envoys of our business. Another part of me, the conservative, realistic part, respected that fear and did not pursue the passage of legislation for these film tags until we had substantive, competitive legislation in-place for the production of feature films and television productions here in the state of Georgia.

Well guys, we drank some wine, slapped some backs and congratulated ourselves for getting a law passed. What’s next on YOUR agendas? Why not do some advertising for your industry and generate some revenue for the Greg Torre and the Film Commission now?

Let’s talk.

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