The DeKalb Difference Blog

Georgia Film Day Celebrates 50 Years of Film

When then-Gov. Jimmy Carter opened the first film office 50 years ago this year, the state’s fledgling film industry began.

While it was only a trickle for about three decades, after the state legislature passed tax credit film incentives about 15 years ago, the industry blossomed. In last 2 years alone, Georgia has seen $8.6 billion in direct spending for film and TV productions.

On Georgia Film Day, March 18, 2024, we celebrate with Georgia Production Partnership the impact film is having the economy of Georgia and DeKalb County specifically.

Thanks to the high demand from movie and TV producers those incentives have produced, private industry has built enough studio space to rank Georgia second in the nation and third in the globe for dedicated production facilities.

Today, it’s easy to say the industry is entering its Golden Age in Georgia.

And Georgia’s workforce is keeping pace. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently told a room full of movie executives that thanks to the Georgia Film Academy,  students are taking classes at 30 campuses across the state to work in the industry.

And tourism follows the movie industry, Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson added at the 50 Years of Georgia Film celebration at the Fox Theater.

“Sometimes film tourism has a greater impact than the movie or tv show filmed here,” he said, pointing to several examples, such as the five episodes of Dukes of Hazard filmed in Covington, Georgia, that has led to tourists visiting the county to see where a beloved show was taped. He mentioned the Vampire Diaries and the Walking Dead as similar tourist draws. “The tourist dollar lives a long time,” he added.

DeKalb County has some of the biggest and busiest film production studios in the state.

Shelbia Jackson, DeKalb Entertainment Commission Director, says, “Entertainment has always been happening in Georgia,” said Jackson. With film, it started in the 1970s when then-Gov. Jimmy Carter launched the Georgia film office after the film “Deliverance” was filmed in the state. But it kicked into high gear when “the state legislature passed a tax credit in 2008, and the industry really began to take off in 2011,” she said.

Today, DeKalb County has five sound stages, making it one of the busiest places for film in the state – not to mention incredible locations for productions, from Stone Mountain to the historic Decatur courthouse

“We’ve created a one-stop shop for production companies,” Jackson says. “It’s a centralized department they call to find shooting locations, to learn how to file permits, to get police and fire services on their sets, and to find available properties to build a stage or convert an existing site like a school, mall or hospital.”

The effort has borne impressive and lucrative fruit. Over the past few years DeKalb has hosted film crews for movie and television productions including Netflix blockbuster series “Stranger Things,” “Sweet Magnolias,” “Wonder Years,” “P-Valley,” “MacGyver,” “Dynasty,” “Black Mafia Family,” “Doom Patrol” and many more, Jackson said.

“We love having television series here year after year. It has a continuing impact,” she said.  In addition, she noted, there are requirements for production companies benefiting from the state tax credit. “One of the incentives is that they have to spend at least $500,000 and they have to hire local workers,” Jackson said. “That’s core economic development.”

For more on producing TV and film in Dekalb, visit DeKalb Entertainment Commission.