1. Atlanta, Georgia
“Georgia has the most robust incentive program in the country,” Christine Dudley, director of the Illinois Film Office, asserted to a Crain’s business news reporter in 2017. “They incentivize anything that walks across the street.” That may be overstating it, but there’s no question that in 2008 Georgia’s new incentive program sparked a rush to the Peach State with its 20 percent tax credit (minimum $500,000 spend) and an additional 10 percent available for productions that add in promotions. By 2014, Pinewood had built a campus in Atlanta with six sound stages; two expansions followed, and the 700-acre site now boasts 18 sound stages and just under 1 million feet of covered space and has hosted films such as Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man. Film and TV productions spent $2.65 billion in Georgia in fiscal 2017, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner of Georgia’s FM & DEO Office, summarized the way that the influx has impacted local vendors when speaking with U.S. News & World Report in October: “I went to get contact lenses one day, and they said they were so busy because they had to be on set to outfit The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries with contact lenses.” One of those Vampire Diaries creatives, Brett Matthews, was recently tapped to be a new showrunner for MTV’s series reboot of Scream, which has ditched New Orleans for its upcoming third season in favor of Hotlanta. When Season Three premieres in March, 2018 (with a new cast and backed by executive producer Queen Latifah) the show will have a Southern flavor that goes with being Atlanta-produced.
“For me, it was a pretty easy decision—this is where I wanted to bring the show,” Matthews says. “It made sense for the story, I know the infrastructure Atlanta has, and I know the crew base. It’s a place with multiple disparate locations, the weather’s okay, there’s great infrastructure, your dollar goes far, and of course the state rebate allows us to make the show on the right budget. It’s not just the rebate—Atlanta is a great city in its own right—but it makes a big impact on the bottom line.” Matthews says that he’d advise young actors to go to Atlanta and see what all the fuss is about—“get a bunch of credits on your resume”—and enjoy “a lot of life and a lot of culture” that’s pumping through the city: the cost of living is only about 1.8 percent above national average.
“There’s a whole industry that’s sprung up around the city—you’ve got some highly-skilled professionals across all departments in terms of crew. It’s kind of a Hollywood East scenario, which is awesome.” One thing Matthews says he won’t do when it comes to Scream is force Atlanta to double for another location. “It’s Atlanta for Atlanta, which to me is the fun of it. I’ve spent a lot of time in the city over the years and I didn’t want to fake it for any other place. One of the pleasures of the show was that we shot it entirely on location and we could really make the show and the story about Atlanta.”