Film students at Georgia State have the opportunity to hone their production skills at the Georgia Film Academy and may have opportunities for film writing careers in the future.
The Georgia Film Academy (GFA) was founded in 2014 by the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia and its main objective is to train film students in film production in order to keep up with the demand for film crews in Atlanta.
Georgia State is one of the GFA’s 14 partner institutions; film students wanting to participate in the Georgia FIlm Academy’s programs must complete GFA Course 1. This course introduces students to the skills needed to operate professional equipment and follow on-set procedures.
The Georgia Film Academy internship, which is the second course at the academy, allows students to work with grips, electric, lighting and set decoration. Jeffrey Stepakoff, Executive Director of the Georgia Film Academy, explained that this course is taught by professionals to give students everything they need to work in film production.
“This is not classroom work, our students train with 30 plus year veterans in the entertainment industry. If they’re good, hungry and smart they have the opportunity to sign up for the on-set Production Covercraft Internship,” Stepakoff said.
Many of the students participating in the internship have been able to work on productions for “The Walking Dead”, the second season of “Stranger Things”, and “Pitch Perfect 3”. These students are often rehired by department heads of the productions they’ve worked on and go off to find production jobs that average at $84,000 a year.
While Georgia State has its own film production curriculum for its students, it doesn’t lend itself to working on-set with other well known productions. Georgia State film major Dean Wylie prefers this setup, because the course allows the students to use the production skills learned in class to make their own projects.
“We can create our own work and submit them to festivals. We wouldn’t be able to do that on something like Stranger Things or The Walking Dead, because it’s someone else’s work. We’d just be helping,” Wylie said.
According Stepakoff, Georgia’s production industry drew in 245 film productions last year, most of which came from New York and Los Angeles. Stepakoff attributes Atlanta’s frequent patronization from outside studios to the city’s world class tax credit and infrastructure.
However, Georgia does not have a large film and television industry akin to that of Hollywood, because most of what Georgia provides is solely production crews. As far as content creation goes, Atlanta is lacking in this aspect.
“We had 409 television shows in North America in the year before last, so [that’s] 409 writers rooms. Do you know how many of those 409 writers rooms were in Georgia? Zero,” Stepakoff said.
Georgia is number three in the country for film and television production, but the state has no writers rooms. Stepakoff said that in order to have a permanent, sustainable entertainment industry, Georgia has to go beyond production.
“Much of what we’re thinking about now is how we have our own business that can truly stand toe-to-toe with Los Angeles [and] New York; the way we do that is two fold: we train our content creators here [and] we need to support their work. We need to be in the business of keeping our trained content creators [in Georgia] and not sending them to Los Angeles,” Stepakoff said.
The Georgia Film Academy is developing courses in creative writing, television writing and producing. Stepakoff said he wants this to lead to the GFA supporting the production aspects of Georgia grown content creators trained at the school. Kate McArdle, Director of Film Workforce Development and Capstone Projects at the GFA said the school is open to developing writing internships for students akin to that of their production internships.
“Once there are opportunities in GA in writers rooms I would certainly be trying to place students into those slots,” McArdle said.