ATLANTA – Representatives for the film and television industry told state officials on Tuesday that they regularly struggle to find crew members in Georgia and have to hire staff from other states, a threat to the tax incentives that have caused a boom in filming in the state during the last few years.
Tuesday's listening session is the latest in a series of discussions on workforce development in Georgia, and the first to focus on one industry.
Georgia is expecting to award $163 million in the credits in fiscal year 2015, according to state budget documents. Production companies that spend at least $500,000 in qualified expenses are eligible for the 20 percent tax credit and can receive an additional 10 percent credit if the project includes a Georgia logo.
The problem, industry representatives said Tuesday, is finding people will both the training and on-the-job experience to help projects get done on time and on budget.
David Grant, vice president of physical production for Marvel Studios, is producing the studio's first project in Georgia, "Ant Man," and called the state's incentive program one of, if not the best, in the U.S. But Marvel has struggled to find the experienced and trained special effects technicians, specialty costumers and stunt team members especially important to an action hero production, Grant said.
When they can't hire locally, crew members have to be flown in from California, he said.
"We've found because Georgia is so busy, some of the advantages of being here via the incentive are wiped away because of the amount of people we have to bring in," he said.
Other projects have struggled to find construction crews, grip and electric teams and special effects, especially for television teams facing a deadline of only a few weeks, said Craig McNeil, production executive at NBC's cable arm Universal Cable Productions. McNeil is midway through shooting the first season of "Satisfaction" in Georgia and said the number of projects shooting simultaneously in the state can make it difficult to fully staff.
"In a way, Georgia has become a victim of its own success," McNeil said.
Last year, film and TV spent $933.9 million on projects produced in Georgia, with a total economic impact of $3.3 billion according to state Department of Economic Development estimates. In 2007, film and TV production costs totaled $132.5 million.
Lee Thomas, director of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, said Tuesday's event was intended to bring workforce issues to the attention of the state's public universities and technical colleges. Companies depend on both the incentives and being able to find crews they need, she said.
"It's a huge concern, and that's why we're here to try to get ahead of it and try to make sure that we can stem the problem," she said.