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Georgia entertainment industry brings inspiration in wake of industry boom

Young filmmakers are flocking to Georgia to bring their media dreams into reality thanks to the state’s booming entertainment industry.

Despite Georgia’s status as an agricultural state, the presence of the entertainment industry has been on the rise in the Peach State for several decades now. Film studios have come to Georgia and set up headquarters like that of WarnerMedia, which has been partially in Atlanta since Turner Broadcasting System was founded in 1965.

In recent years, Georgia has become a hub for film and animation studios. Film studios like Tyler Perry Studios and Trillith Studios, and animation studios like Titmouse and Bento Box Animation, operate in Georgia.

For some modern film fans, independent film is an easy escape from the cinema that allows them to experience something new. Students are often the independent filmmakers bringing their projects to film festivals where crowds gather to experience those exact new experiences.

Georgia is currently home to festivals like the Atlanta Film Festival, Macon Film Festival, Georgia Film Festival and American Youth Film Festival. Both the Georgia Film Festival and American Youth Film Festival have categories specifically for films made by college students.

Nico Heilbrunn, a 22-year-old media and entertainment senior at Kennesaw State University, is one such student who has gotten her work shown at film festivals. Heilbrunn is also the vice president of the school’s film club, For Film’s Sake.Heilbrunn has been working in film since she was 14.

“Outside of school, I’ve been working on commercials for Adobe, helped work on a music video for Ne-Yo, I’ve done some projects for the 48 Hour Film Project,” she said. “The team I did production design for, we won the Atlanta competition and came in fourth at the worldwide competition, and it now goes to the Cannes Film Festival in France. I’ll find out in May if we won anything.”

Heilbrunn also helps other student filmmakers complete projects and submit them to film festivals.

For students like Heilbrunn, exposure to the entertainment industry can start young through programs run by organizations like Atlanta Workshop Players or the Springer Opera House Theatre Academy.

“We would actually make films that had IMDB credits and go into film festivals,” Heilbrunn said. “I acted in a handful of them, I did boom operation for one of them and I was a production assistant for a couple of them, so some of my IMDB credits are through film camp.”

Heilbrunn noted that since she began working in film, there’s been significant growth in jobs for the film industry in Georgia. This job availability attracts people from traditional film hotspots like Los Angeles or New York City.

While the growth has not been as dramatic, Georgia’s entertainment prestige has also been increasing for animators.

Koda Moore, a 22-year-old senior sequential art major at the Savannah College of Art and Design, has been interested in pursuing a career in the animation industry since he was 14 years old, like Heilbrunn.

Moore explains it as being everything in animation except the animation, including storyboarding and character design.

While Georgia’s entertainment industry growth has impacted animation, animation has not reached the same level of impact as live-action filmmaking, Moore said.

“There are a lot of smaller animation studios in Georgia, but the major ones like Disney or Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network only have administrative sides here,” Moore said. “Their animation studios are actually in California or New York, but with the phenomenon of remote work, a lot of remote positions are opening up in Atlanta.”

While the major animation studios hire students from the Savannah College of Art and Design in some capacity, Moore says that local animation studios like Titmouse and Bento Box Animation are much more likely to give opportunities to student animators in Georgia.

“Starting out, California or Texas would be your best bet for getting into animation,” Moore said.

Heilbrunn and More expressed similar opinions on the presence of film and animation studios impacting creative accessibility for students — students will always work within their means, while studios can afford to rent out space or pay for the highest quality of professional work.

Unlike other major entertainment cities in the United States, however, Atlanta provides the benefit of affordability to students hoping to make it in the entertainment industry. Rent costs in Atlanta are more than 50% lower than rent prices in New York City and more than 30% lower than rent prices in Los Angeles, according to Numbeo.

For students in Georgia, the booming film industry and the rising animation industry are providing inspiration to Georgia’s students and giving them the opportunity to get into entertainment industries without straying too far from home.

While both film and animation can be grueling industries, this new presence of opportunities is allowing for more creative works to come out of Georgia than ever before.

“The studios coming here and all the colleges realizing how big film is here, they’re starting to invest more into the film majors,” Heilbrunn said. “Being able to go to the Georgia Film Academy to fill in those gaps helps, too. There’s more opportunities for people to get into film.”

“With SCAD right there, more animation majors are popping up rather than fashion or other programs,” Moore said. “The addition of smaller studios opens up a lot more opportunities for newer people and students to get into the industry.”

Heilbrunn and Moore are both set to graduate in 2022, and thanks to Georgia’s support of entertainment arts, they can both expect a bright future ahead.

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Alex Guevara

Kennesaw '22

My name is Alex and I'm a senior journalism and emerging media major at KSU. My hobbies include Dungeons and Dragons, collecting board games and learning about agriculture.
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