Forty University of Georgia faculty members stopped in Senoia for a tour Wednesday morning to see how the movie industry has impacted Coweta, and some of the professors will be able to use their new knowledge in the classroom.
The tour, hosted by the UGA Public Service and Outreach, started on Monday and will take the faculty through 14 cities and 43 counties by Friday.
“This tour is an ideal way for our faculty members who are new to the university, and many to Georgia, to learn about the diversity of the state's culture, history, geography and economic drivers,” said Laura Meadows, interim vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach. “They see firsthand how this university partners with governments, businesses and communities to boost economic vitality across the state. We hope they discover opportunities to use their own academic expertise to further the mission of the land-grant and sea-grant institution.”
Coweta legislative delegation members – Sen. Matt Brass, Rep. Lynn Smith, Rep. Josh Bonner, and Rep. Bob Trammell – were present to welcome the new faculty.
Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner at the Georgia Department of Economic Development and division director of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, gave the faculty a brief history of the film industry in Georgia and Coweta.
“Legislators received a wake-up call when Louisiana became more aggressive regarding tax and film incentives, and the movie ‘Ray’ was filmed in Louisiana instead of Georgia because of the incentives,” she said.
“Ray” is based on the life of Georgia native singer, songwriter and musician Ray Charles Robinson.
Thomas said because of the booming film industry in Georgia, the Georgia Film Academy was created.
Classes are offered through the University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia partners, and will provide students with extensive hands-on experience. Students will have an opportunity to network, build resumes and learn to market themselves in order to become integrated into the film industry as entry-level workers, according to www.georgiafilmacademy.org
Three of the new faculty members on the tour, Booker T. Mattison, Taylor C. Miller and Anne Gilbert, will be teaching in the entertainment and media studies in UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
All three agreed that the growing film industry in Georgia demands more educational outlets for producers, directors and filmmakers.
Mattison is an assistant professor in the department. He is a filmmaker and author who wrote and directed the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime. His novel, “Snitch,” received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
“I’m looking forward to developing the next generation of producers and directors,” he said.
Miller said that students in Georgia will have a chance to work in the film industry directly after graduation or even while in school because of the growing demand.
Scott Tigchelaar, former president of Riverwood Studios, gave the faculty a bus tour of famous film locations in Senoia and explained the growth of the city because of the film industry.
AMC, the cable channel that produces “The Walking Dead,” recently purchased the Senoia studio where the show is filmed.
Tigchelaar said Main Street Senoia has grown from five businesses to 50, and that tourists from as far as Australia come to visit the filming grounds of “The Walking Dead.”
At the end of the tour, the faculty was entertained with a skit from the Georgia Tour Company in Senoia, which offers tours of the city alongside the locally inspired gifts based on film activity in Georgia, according to its website.
Gov. Nathan Deal recently announced that Georgia-lensed feature film and television productions generated an economic impact of $9.5 billion during fiscal year 2017. The 320 feature film and television productions shot in Georgia represent $2.7 billion in direct spending in the state.
Thomas said there are currently 31 television series and 18 feature films being filmed in Georgia.