6. Atlanta, Georgia
It has the smallest population of our 10 Big Cities, but size matters in Atlanta, which boasts one of the biggest film industries in the U.S. After all, a reported 77,900 jobs in Georgia have been created by the film industry to date—a large portion of which is centered in the state capital. In 2014, Atlanta was the site for the productions of Selma, Fast & Furious 7, Taken 3, Insurgent, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, as well as the television favorites The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and resident favorite The Walking Dead.
A major reason behind the continuous influx of production is Georgia’s still-peachy tax incentives—a 20 percent base credit to productions spending a minimum of $500,000, and an additional 10 percent uplift for including the Georgia promotional logo in the credits.
“Because of all the production, we have a lot of support personnel and an infrastructure here,” said Atlanta-based camera operator Paul Varrieur (Girl Interrupted, Flags of our Fathers and the 2014 Atlanta shoots of Dumb and Dumber To and Bessie). Varrieur, who is also first national vice president of the International Cinematographers Guild, rattles off a list of major production complexes, like the freshly opened, 288-acre, six-stage Pinewood Atlanta Studios. “We have a studio and crew base, electric, grip, hair and make-up… each group has increased at least 25 to 30 percent in size.”
The long-running, Academy-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival is a stately mainstay in the city’s film culture. Genre fans, however, flock yearly to Dragon*Con International Film Festival which boasts that it’s “the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music and film in the universe.” And for something completely different, nostalgic moviegoers can take in a feature at the Starlight Six Drive-In theater. How many cities still have a drive-in, let alone one with six screens?
That diversity of taste mirrors Atlanta’s progressive culture—the city has one of the highest LGBT populations per capita in the U.S. Add to that a cost of living that dips slightly below the national average, and Atlanta’s livability is hard to deny.
Back to moviemaking, though: The city doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. The University System of Georgia announced plans in late 2014 to develop a Georgia Film Academy to train students for below-the-line positions, waiving tuition. Now that’s workforce development for the future.