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Clayton hopes to attract more movie business

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In order to capitalize on Georgia's growing film industry, the Clayton County Department of Economic Development has created a film office within the department, to meet the needs of crews seeking to shoot movies, television shows, and commercials in the county.

The county launched its film office this week, according to Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott. Through the office, producers and film crews wishing to film in the county will be able to receive site scouting and permitting assistance, logistical help, and help acquiring catering, lighting, moving, and other services.

"We've been researching this for six months and working with the CVB [Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau]," Wainscott said. "We have created a film office within the office of Economic Development, which is geared toward helping location scouts and producers find appropriate, usable spaces for TV commercials, movies, scene shots for television shows. It's a suite of services and we offer them what would be appropriate for the project.

"The permitting process [to shoot a film] can be daunting," he continued. "They might need the police to close off a street or for crowd control. They have food catering needs. When you have a film office, and you have a one-stop shop, they call us and we take care of everything. They can give us one call, and they don't have to spend time and money trying to track down who is in charge of what."

On May 12, 2008, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act, creating a number of incentives for film, music, and digital-entertainment companies to do business in the state of Georgia.

Among the incentives in the act, qualified productions with a minimum state investment of $500,000 can receive a 20 percent, flat, tax credit and an additional 10 percent tax credit by including an imbedded Georgia logo on approved projects. The act also offers a sales-and-use tax exemption -- regardless of investment -- through which qualified companies can get an immediate point-of-purchase sales tax exemption of up to 8 percent on most material purchases and rentals.

According to Bill Thompson, deputy commissioner of the Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the incentives are working. In the past year, major movie productions such as Left Tackle Pictures' "The Blind Side," Sony Pictures' "Zombieland," and Overture Films' "The Crazies" have chosen to film in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development web site.

"This is one of the few industries right now that is growing in our state," Thompson said. "From last year, all the way to this quarter, we had film projects in 50 Georgia counties, which was rare in the past. In the last year, we had 15 [film and television] companies move into the area. When a big movie company comes to an area and drops a million dollars in a day ... talk about economic stimulus."

Thompson said that governments in North Carolina and Florida have already created county and municipal film offices, and that similar efforts are currently under way in Macon, Valdosta and Douglas County. He believes the efforts in Clayton may help strengthen the base of the state's film industry.

"We certainly support what they are trying to do down there in Clayton County," Thompson said. "I think that all of us are on the same page. I think we have a very good chance at developing a very mature industry here. When you really think about Georgia and compare it to other states you have been to, the diversity of locations here is probably the best in the nation. From the Okefenokee Swamp, to the north Georgia mountains and the lakes and rivers ... we have a tremendous number of looks here."

Wainscott said the Clayton County Department of Economic Development is currently in the process of creating a database of local film- and television-related companies, which will also include pictures of sites with potential as film locations. He said by next summer, the department will expand its web site to include marketing materials to entice filmmakers.

"We're creating this office and we're looking for businesses that can add to this industry," Wainscott said. "If you're a photographer or a set designer, we want to make sure that if they are in the county, that they are represented ... and that people who have a site that they feel may be of value, to give us a call and give us a chance to evaluate it.

"We're hoping that we brand ourselves in the marketplace as a film-friendly community," he said.

For more information, call (770) 477-4450 .