♦ The Avengers are doing some real world saving, as well. Scarlett Johansson has organized a benefit reading of Thornton Wilder’s classic play Our Town to be performed on November 6th at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Joining Johansson on stage so far are her fellow Avengers comrades Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Chris Evans all taking a break from their shooting of Avengers: Infinity War, with Kenny Leon on as director of the stage reading. Johansson is promising more surprise appearances at the one-night-only event. All proceeds from the star-studded affair will be going to relief efforts supporting victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. “The struggle faced by Puerto Rican residents since their island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria is terribly heartbreaking and has left many feeling hopeless and helpless,” said Johansson in her announcement of the event. “Please help me and my co-stars in coming together for an extraordinary, one-time-only evening to raise lifesaving funds for a devastated island and to help celebrate the true meaning of community with this unique reading of a great American classic.” Tickets are now on sale through the Fox Theatre website.
♦ With the incentives program becoming such a success, many Georgia communities are looking to get in on the action. Columbus, Georgia is one such community. An early adopter of the Camera-Ready location scouting program and Columbus State University’s recent participation in the Georgia Film Academy are all steps in their approach to become a key player in the burgeoning film industry in Georgia. Future steps to ensure their success could include adding further incentives to shoot specifically in Columbus, similar to how Savannah has done in the past. Incentives not only bring more temporary productions to the area, but they encourage crew members to take up full-time residence in areas where there is steady work. Richard Baxter, dean of CSU’s College of Arts, stresses that the incentives program would also help the students in the area as they will have more opportunities for internships and real world experience on active sets. “We have more than 100 students who are in the pipeline right now taking the Georgia Film Academy coursework with us,” Baxter said. “But if we’re going to have 100 to 150 students (perpetually), they all can’t go to Atlanta for internships, either because of financial reasons or inconvenience.” Peter Bowden, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, says he is aware that they do not have the big city locations of Atlanta or the mountains or coast, but Columbus is a great option for everything in between. “We can do historic. We can do modern, even, with some of the technology that comes with the filming. We can do rural,” said Bowden.
♦ Another community looking to take advantage of the incentives program is Atlanta’s eastern suburb Dekalb. Their latest big step is the launch of the DeKalb Entertainment Commission with the goal of furthering the development of media of all varieties in the county. Commission chairman, Andrew Greenberg said, “It will be the economic engine that drives growth for our county across the entertainment industry, encouraging companies to locate here while creating jobs and spurring construction, development and overall industry growth.” Previous productions in Dekalb County have included Driving Miss Daisy, The Boss,and Barbershop: The Next Cut.
♦ Georgia’s incentives program is seeing it become one of the world’s largest production centers. It’s “camera-ready” moniker is aided by 30,000 production professionals and over 1,000 production suppliers. The state grants a transferable tax credit of up to 30%, highly competitive with that of other states. This 30% rate comes specifically from the 20% transferable tax credit granted by the state, with an additional 10% if the project includes that increasingly omnipresent Georgia peach promotional logo in the credits. You know the one. The minimum spend required for each project is $500,000. Savannah productions are offered an additional 10% rebate. Recently, this incentives program has seen the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and this summer’s Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Logan Lucky. TV series productions have recently included Stranger Things, Ozark, and The Walking Dead.
♦ North Carolina is taking a big swing at luring productions to their neck of the woods. NC Governor Roy Cooper has recently signed legislation that effectively ends their incentives program’s sunset language. This legislation removes the previously set end date of July 2020, a move that will hopefully give some needed stability to the industry in North Carolina. In addition, $31 million has been added to the funding for the program of the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Bill Vassar, executive VP at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington said, “The elimination of the sunset will allow a television series to start a production in town and settle in for the long term. We can again focus on attracting television programs that run many years. The industry will keep local people employed and local businesses busy.” TNT’s Good Behavior, which was just renewed for a second season and is shooting at EUE/Screen Gems Studios, is one of those shows that will benefit from these changes. North Carolina currently offers a rebate of 25% of a production’s in-state spending.
By Ellen Lloyd