How Atlanta Turned Into A TV Boomtown

Tax-incentive scheme, plus savvy cast and crew, make Georgia productions world-class

Why This Matters

Smart and unique approach to growing production has Atlanta well positioned.

For Evan Katz, executive producer on Fox’s 24: Legacy, Atlanta is feeling more and more like home. The region has emerged as a boomtown for TV and film production, and Katz can see several reasons why. “They have a fantastic tax-rebate program,” he said. “That’s part of it, but a lot of states do. Atlanta also has a critical mass of experienced crew. You need that critical mass; otherwise, you’re starting from scratch and have to bring everybody in.”

To Katz, that’s a sign of a serious TV production town. As he says, many states entice projects with tax breaks. But the towns full of people rich with production experience are in a separate class.

The list of TV productions happening in Georgia goes on and on. Besides 24: Legacy, there’s AMC’s The Walking Dead, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, BET’s Being Mary Jane, OWN’s Greenleaf, syndication’s Family Feud and CBS’ MacGyver, among many others. Local film projects include The Hunger Games trilogy.

The action started when Georgia passed a tax incentive program back in 2008, offering filmmakers 20% back on their projects, and 30% back for embedding a Georgia production logo in the project’s final credits. In those days, the total value of all production budgets stood at around $647.6 million, bringing an economic impact of around $1.1 billion to the market. Per the state’s most recent economic figures, the total value of all production budgets stood at $1.7 billion from July 2014 to June 2015, meaning an economic impact of around $6 billion.

Georgia’s film department counted 248 film and TV projects in 2016.

It’s enough to spark its own tourism scene. “People will travel all over the world for The Walking Dead and Vampire Diaries,” said Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner, Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office.

Fast-Tracking Talent

On 24: Legacy, Atlanta stands in for the Washington, D.C., suburbs where the show takes place. Katz singles out the Atlanta market for its “crazy nice mix of rural and urban,” and cites a lively and diverse acting population to boot. “They’re starting to get a deep bench in terms of the quality of actors you can cast,” he said.

While Katz mentions experienced crews in Atlanta, that’s the one department the state’s film commission seeks to improve. The local government has launched the Georgia Film Academy to, as Thomas puts it, “fast-track people into the industry.” The first half of the 24-week program teaches production skills and the second half offers an internship with an existing production.

Major players in the local production scene include Pinewood Atlanta Studios, Third Rail Studios, Atlanta Filmworks Stage and Studio and ECG Productions. Tyler Perry’s TV and film operation is based in Atlanta as well. He recently shifted from a converted baggage facility by the airport to a new site at the decommissioned Fort McPherson army base. At 330 acres, it is one of the largest studio facilities in the country.

For Katz, Atlanta’s lure goes beyond money and manpower. “24 is famous for decaying warehouses,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of those here.”