Clayton, Henry among state's 'camera ready' areas

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Clayton and Henry counties are ready for their close-ups, Mr. Demille.

The two Southern Crescent communities were named at the Georgia State Capitol, on Monday, as two of the 73 communities in Georgia that are deemed to be "Camera Ready," the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office.

They join a group of 16 counties that were among the first group of communities to receive "Camera Ready" status last fall. That status means a county, or a city, has designated someone to serve as a liaison between the local community and film and television production companies, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which oversees the state's film office.

In Clayton County, Grant Wainscott, the county's director of economic development, serves as the director of the county's film office. In Henry County, Laura Luker, the director of tourism and communications for the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, has been named as the "Camera Ready" liaison.

"It's more of a designation that we have policies and procedures in place, and assets in place to really fast-track the process for a film company that comes to the county to shoot a scene or two," said Wainscott, on Tuesday. "It signifies that the county understands what a film production needs to do its job."

Wainscott and Luker said their respective counties are looking forward to growing the number of film productions to which they play host. They attribute the growing interest in this area to Georgia's film tax credit, which went into effect in 2005. To qualify for the credit, production companies have to spend at least $500,000 in a state-certified production, according to the state's "Georgia Industries" web site.

Nearcommunities that also received "Camera Ready" status this week include Butts, Cobb, Fayette, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties, and the city of Decatur.

Luker said the only major film production to come to Henry County in recent years was the movie "Zombieland," which shot scenes near Hampton, as well as in Morrow, in Clayton County, in 2009. She said the economic impact that the film industry could have on Henry County is not yet clear, but she added, "as these things become more common, we'll be able to track that."

Luker said Henry County chose to pursue "Camera Ready" status because it wanted to be in a position where it could attract more productions, being able to meet the needs of the industry. "being ‘Camera Ready,' we will have better interaction with film scouts, and we'll have a better handle on what film crews need when they come to the county, so that we'll be able to meet their needs much more quickly," she said.

Wainscott said six film productions, including "Zombieland," have already come to Clayton County to shoot scenes in the last 18 months. He said he is presently working with scouts from two more films to bring those productions to the county.

He said an NBC television show pilot also spent three days last week shooting at Tara Stadium, in Jonesboro, and several commercials have either, been filmed, or are slated to be filmed, in the future in the county. Wainscott said the full economic impact of many of the productions filmed in the county will not be known until their tax information becomes available at the end of the fiscal year.

Still, he said the county can expect a noticeable impact whenever a film production is in town. "The NBC pilot had 250 extras on the set, and each extra was paid $100 per day ... and we talked to several extras who were from Clayton County," Wainscott said. "That's just a small part of the impact on the county. I would envision that, depending on the production, the economic impact for the county could be $20,000, to $25,000 per day."

The Georgia Department of Economic Development boasts that Georgia is one of the top five states for film and television production. There were 335 productions filmed in Georgia during fiscal year 2010, and those productions brought in more than $759.3 million in investments in the state, according to the department's news release.

The department also claims the total economic impact for the state, from entertainment productions, was $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2010, which the department boasts is 440 percent higher than it was in fiscal year 2007.

"We have experienced a significant increase in jobs, investment, infrastructure and film-induced tourism, making Georgia's entertainment industries among the state's fastest-growing sectors," said Chris Cummiskey, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, in a written statement.

"The statewide response has been tremendous from Georgia counties that want to become Camera Ready in order to help bring jobs and investments to their local communities," Cummiskey added.

A threat is brewing to the state's film credentials, however. As Georgia has struggled economically, and the General Assembly works to craft a balanced budget, some legislators have floated the idea of eliminating the film-industry tax credit, which can amount to as much as 30 percent for a film production.

But, Wainscott said a threat to the film credit is a threat to the entire film industry in Georgia. He said film producers who have come to Clayton County in the past have told him it would be difficult to continue filming regularly in the state, if the credit was gone, resulting in them having to pay more to shoot movies in the state. Losing the credit would be "devastating" to the state, he said.

"Things like fields, houses and shopping centers are easy to find, because they're all over the country," Wainscott said. "I've talked to producers about this, and they told me, ‘if you do away with the tax credit, you're going to lose all of the attention you're getting from the film industry' ... If they [legislators] went through with eliminating the tax credit, it would be one of the most shortsighted decisions in this state, in a long time."

On the Net:

Georgia Camera Ready Community Program: http://www.georgia.org/cameraready/