The Atlanta entertainment industry continues to plow forward as we charge into 2018! From award nods to nitty-gritty industry news, there’s been quite a bit to keep up with this week.
The Georgia-filmed movie I, Tonya brought home some non-Olympic gold on Sunday when Allison Janney won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. Janney won the award for her portrayal of the abusive mother to the titular character of Tonya Harding, the Olympic skater who is best known for the media fervor around her involvement with the attack on her competitor and teammate Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. The Macon Coliseum was used to recreate the pivotal scenes in Harding’s life that took place on the ice. Janney’s acceptance speech touched on the film’s focus on class in America, the disenfranchised, and the idea of truth in the media. She even gave a shout-out to one very special Georgia resident, her acting comrade “Little Man in Smyrna, Georgia” referring to the bird who sat perched on her shoulder for a large chunk of her scenes in the film. She won the award against her fellow nominees, Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Hong Chau (Downsizing), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) and Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water).
In upcoming news, Donald Glover and other cast and creators of FX’s Atlanta dropped some hints about the second season of their show while at the Television Critics Association press tour last Friday. The sophomore season is being dubbed “Robbin’ Season” and questions naturally arose as to why. According to Stephen Glover, writer on the show and brother to Donald, the second season takes place around the Christmas and New Year season when the city of Atlanta sees an uptick in crime, as the wealth gap is even more pronounced. “People have to get Christmas gifts, so it’s a time where robbery will go up. You might get your package stolen from the front porch,” he explained. “It’s just a very tense and desperate time.” Similarly, the characters will be going through very tense and desperate transitions in their lives. Other than the city of Atlanta itself, the team looked to a different and unlikely source for inspiration: the 90s cartoon Tiny Toons Adventure. The show’s installment of How I Spent My Summer Vacation provide a good layout for the team of creating an episodic that could either be viewed in installments or as one whole and still be enjoyed. The second season of Atlanta premieres on March 1 on FX.
There have been administrative updates to note as well. The new GOP tax plan could see the burgeoning entertainment industry in Georgia take a hit. A study conducted by Actors Equity shows that union members and those working behind the camera in the working and middle classes would likely see their tax bill increase. Georgia entertainment professionals worry that this could see the industry as a whole affected just as Georgia begins to see the fruits of its robust tax incentives program. The biggest change to the tax plan that is causing this increase is the elimination of individual deductions for expenses such as classes, union dues, and agent commissions. The new tax plan strives for a higher standard deduction, but with most industry professionals working freelance jobs while still being recognized as employees by the IRS, many expenses qualify as unreimbursed employee business expenses. The recent U.S. Census shows that the industry has grown over tenfold in Georgia with now more than 22,000 workers. Established members of the industry are encouraging everyone to find an accountant who knows the ins and outs of the film business to help navigate this new plan.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has slapped the production company behind The Walking Dead with the maximum allowable fine of $12,675 in the wake of the death of stuntman John Bernecker which occurred last July in Senoia, GA. Bernecker died two days after an incident on set where he fell more than 20 feet in a rehearsal of a fight scene. An airbag had been placed below him, but he missed it and struck his head. OSHA cited Stalwart Films LLC, the show’s production company, for “failing to protect employees from fall hazards”. Stalwart Films responded in a statement to the ruling saying, “This was a tragic and terrible accident. We take the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with – and frequently exceed – industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.” Bernecker’s mother, Susan Bernecker, followed up on the announcement from OSHA, saying that she plans to “seek justice for John and to ensure that no other parent with a child working in the film and television industry suffers this kind of heartbreak.” Her attorney, Jeff R. Harris, said, “We have been waiting for the OSHA investigation to conclude so that we can proceed with civil litigation. We are hopeful that the John Bernecker case will elevate safety standards in the film and television industry so that stunt-related tragedies can be avoided in the future.” Kurt Petermeyer, the OSHA Atlanta regional administrator, added, “This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry. The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.” John Bernecker had over 100 film credits that included Logan, Fantastic Four, and the upcoming Black Panther