Street closings here will cost Square shops and eateries some business, no doubt. But that loss is nothing compared to what the state of California is losing as a result of filmmakers moving to Georgia and other states.
It’s an issue in the California governor’s race and the Republican frontrunner, state legislator Tim Donnelly, has pulled a little publicity stunt by having a billboard erected at Interstate 285 West and South Cobb Drive a week ago. It says: “Movies should be made in Hollywood. I’m working hard to bring you back home.” An empty director’s chair emphasizes the point. Incidentally, the billboard company, Clear Channel, has its Atlanta market office in Smyrna — and Donnelly’s buy indirectly adds to film-related revenues in Georgia.
Donnelly, who won his legislative seat with tea party backing, recently introduced a bill in the California Assembly to provide a 30 percent transferable tax credit for films shot and produced in that state — which opponents labeled un-conservative. He said his bill was modeled after Georgia’s legislation that in the past decade has lured “thousands of jobs and millions of dollars” from California, once the undisputed capital of movie making. His bill died in committee in the face of opposition from other conservatives and the Legislative Analyst office’s report that the state gets back 65 cents in revenue for each dollar in film tax credit.
California’s plight: In the past two years, only two of the 41 big budget films released were made exclusively in that state, and in the past decade, its share of one-hour TV shows plummeted almost 36 percent, costing nearly 10,000 jobs.
Georgia, meanwhile, has vaulted to fourth place in filmmakin behind California, New York State and British Columbia, Canada — thanks to generous tax “incentives.” The website of the state Department of Economic Development says: “Georgia production incentives provide up to 30% of your Georgia production expenditures in transferable tax credits.” That’s not peanuts.
Since 1972, more than 700 feature films, TV movies and series, single episodes and pilots have been produced in Georgia, generating $7 billion in economic impact, says the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office. During that time, 11 soundstage facilities have located in Georgia, with more than 70 film-related companies locating or expanding here, says Chris Carr, economic development commissioner. The industry spent $933.9 million in Georgia in fiscal 2013, up from $880 the previous year.
Incidentally, Covington is also in on the “Selma” production with filming there May 20-22, no doubt to use its old courthouse.
A comment by a California cameraman during debate over legislation to increase tax credits illustrates what’s happening. He said he’s moving to Georgia in a few weeks, adding: “I don’t want to move, but there’s tons of work in Atlanta.”