Lights! Action! Camera! Georgia Film Academy aims to change state beyond ‘Hollywood of South’ label


Georgia Film Academy students learn about different ways to use a video camera as part of the Introductory On-Set Filmmaking course. (Courtesy of Georgia Film Academy)

Georgia’s booming film and television industry contributed $4 billion to its economy last year. But state officials want more than to raise record sums. They want the Peach State to be a national star in the lucrative entertainment industry.

“The unprecedented growth of the film and television industry is due to the unprecedented growth of our workforce,” says Jeffrey Stepakoff, Executive Director of the Georgia Film Academy. “We make sure we have a permanent and sustainable workforce.”

When the academy opened in 2016, there were fewer than 100 students enrolled at colleges in Gwinnett and Clayton and Columbus counties. Today, about 11,000 people are enrolled in 29 state colleges and universities.

Jeffrey Stepakoff was a Hollywood writer and producer before returning to metro Atlanta to run the Georgia Film Academy.

The academy’s flagship campus is at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, where students receive hands-on training. A new graduate program focuses on content creation, such as script and screen writing. The idea is to build a complete “ecosystem” of the entertainment industry in the state, Stepakoff explains.

Sonja Chappell, 22, enrolled in the academy in 2020 while attending the University of West Georgia. She’s now a production assistant on a Marvel movie and works on sets, costumes, and even fetches lunch for the staff.

“The courses I took at the academy really helped me narrow down the department I wanted to work in,” she said. “I’m horrible in post-production, but I’m very good at painting and detail work.

“I wouldn’t trade my experience with the Georgia Film Academy program for anything in the world. This program has shaped me into the person I am and helped me get an amazing job doing what I love,” she said.

Georgia’s film industry took off more than a decade ago when lawmakers approved generous tax incentives to attract major production companies from California and New York. Then the studios started building over 100 sound stages in and around metro Atlantaincluding two of the largest in the country.

Post-production editing tools and techniques are taught to Georgia Film Academy students interested in pursuing careers as assistant editors.

These sprawling warehouses provide the infrastructure and space needed to make blockbuster movies like Marvel’s “Ant Man” and “Black Panther.” Georgia’s film and TV industry has grown from $25 million a year to $4 billion last year. The exponential growth and success achieved Georgia the title of “Hollywood of the South”.

But Stepakoff says Georgians are now leading the industry, rather than outsiders from California, largely due to the film academy’s rapid growth and graduates taking up jobs once held by film pundits and filmmakers. television out of state.

“We’re not interested in being known as the ‘Hollywood of the South’ anymore,” he said.

“One day Hollywood may be known as the Georgia of the West.”

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