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November 7, 2017

Georgia Film Academy’s Jeff Stepakoff On Georgia Film Dominance

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By Patrick Adcock

Jeff Stepakoff, executive director of the Georgia Film Academy, was given a mission in 2015 to get courses approved, developed and created for credit in film and television production for the fledgling school. By 2016, that goal succeeded, and the academy now works in all counties of Georgia to train next generation film talent. For Stepakoff and his team, Georgia is not up-and-coming – Georgia is already a main player in the industry.

“We don’t want to be the Hollywood of the South. We want to be Georgia, and our Georgia has an ecosystem of this industry that can compete neck and neck with New York and California and London and Bollywood,” Stepakoff said.

The GFA and Stepakoff witnessed firsthand the transformation experienced in the region over the past decade.

Stepakoff noted, “What is happening in Georgia is unprecedented. We are now number three in the country for film and television production. We’re #5 in the world for film and television production. And we’re #1 in production of major feature films.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Georgia outpaced California with 17 features filmed here in 2016. In 2007, the state of Georgia experienced $242 million in economic activity in film and television production. In the past fiscal year, that same figure leapt to $9.5 billion.

“You have three things that drive a film industry. First, a film tax credit was created with the 2008 Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act. Second, Georgia has over 100 soundstages and over a dozen major studio complexes,” Stepakoff said. “And third, we have a world-class vendor support system, so you can get your cameras repaired, and we’ve got all of the ancillary jobs to support the infrastructure.”

According to the MPAA, over 25,000 Georgians were employed in the film and television industry in the state as of 2016 — $1.7 billion in wages have been created as a result.

“Production companies love to come and work here. Georgians have a rich and diverse heritage of storytelling. The Georgia Film Academy is equally committed to diversity. And while Hollywood loves to talk about diversity and how they must do something about it, Georgia is actually doing something about it,” Stepakoff added.

According to Stepakoff, the GFA’s student population is 52 percent people of color and 48 percent white. Gender at the academy is evenly split between male and female.

In 2015, using the existing resources of the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia, the GFA was created. Jeff was hired in August of 2015 to develop it.

“We now have a staff who are experts in film and television production training, government affairs, labor relations. Anything to do with the film and television industry, the GFA has an expert in that area,” Stepakoff said.

By building the workforce and incentivizing production, the GFA wants to see that every aspect of the film and television industry is represented here: creative, production, post-production and financing. Stepakoff’s goal is to continue building a permanent and sustainable industry for all of Georgia.

For more information on the Georgia Film Academy, visit: http://www.georgiafilmacademy.org/.

For more information on the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s work to attract next-gen talent to the region, visit: http://www.chooseatl.com/