From breakout cable television hits like The Walking Dead and Atlanta to mega-blockbuster films Black Panther and The Avengers: Infinity War or streaming sensations like Stranger Things and Ozark, some of the industry’s finest production work is currently being done in Georgia.
As an independent filmmaker, working in close proximity to projects like these is always exciting, but there are also more substantive benefits to living and working as a filmmaker in Atlanta today; here are five reasons I believe Atlanta is currently the best place to make films.
1. An Exceptionally Supportive Creative Community
The professional network of filmmakers in Atlanta is more enthusiastic and sophisticated now than ever before, and as a result, the opportunities for education, training and collaboration have become some of the best in the world.
First and foremost is the incredible community of artists and technicians that has sprung up as a result of the growth of the entertainment industry in Atlanta. If you are an independent filmmaker, there are a number of local organizations here to provide their support along with an ever-increasing pool of talent to draw collaborators from.
The Atlanta Film Festival is an incredible source of knowledge and community, and last year, the festival opened with the first annual ScreenCraft Writer’s Summit, a marquee lineup of panels, pitches, workshops and mixers during the first three days of the festival. For an indie filmmaker living outside of Los Angeles, the summit was an incredible opportunity to meet and discuss the craft of screenwriting with Oscar-nominated writers like Eric Heisserer and Diana Ossana, and will be returning to Atlanta this year with another stellar lineup of guest speakers.
I’ve met some of my closest collaborators while attending the festival’s screenings, workshops and mixers throughout the year, and serving as a guest liaison during the festival, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and spend time with some of my filmmaking heroes, many of whom continue to provide me with support and guidance.
In 2016, I was offered the opportunity to establish a brand-new film industry outreach program for The Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. Open to the public and affordable to attend, SCADFILM hosts an incredible lineup of mentors and speakers every month like Writer/Directors, Richard Donner and Amy Heckerling, Actor and Filmmaker, Edward James Olmos, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Kim Krizan as well as highly-acclaimed development and acquisitions executives.
New film degree programs in Atlanta from The Savannah College of Art and Design and Georgia State University, as well as professional certificate courses like the state-sponsored Georgia Film Academy, have also stimulated incredible growth in the filmmaking community, giving rise to new meet-ups and industry mixers every month where young filmmakers are building strong creative networks.
2. World-Class Infrastructure & Crew Base
Since it opened in February 2014, Pinewood Studios Atlanta has grown to become the largest studio complex in the United States, outside of Los Angeles, and the last five years have seen studios, stages and production facilities pop up all over metropolitan Atlanta.
With the steady influx of production that these facilities and other production support companies have enticed to come and shoot in Atlanta, there’s been explosive growth of skilled crew. That means when production slows down in the off-season there experienced crew members are often sitting around, looking for interesting side projects.
I also have to give a huge shout-out to the vendors in Atlanta. I’ve worked with a number of remarkably generous rental houses, sound stages and post houses on local projects that would have been impossible were it not for the generosity of these businesses. If you have a strong, homegrown project in need of support, they are always willing to help.
I’ve had equipment and facility rentals discounted to ridiculously affordable levels, traded for the use of my own gear or my services, or donated entirely, just because folks in the Atlanta filmmaking community are eager to support local projects.
3. Southern Metropolitan Culture
Atlanta is home to a uniquely diverse cross-section of artists that is truly inspiring to be a part of. The city feels young, tenacious and situated at an exciting crossroads of art, culture, technology and industry.
From the highest echelon’s of black entertainment like Tyler Perry Studios or Will Packer Entertainment to upstart indie production companies like Fake Wood Wallpaper, whose quirky festival darling The Arbalest recently won the SXSW Grand Jury Prize, Atlanta has become a place where unique artistic voices can find the support for work that represents their singular, oftentimes under-represented points of view.
Working with the general public is also still a joyful experience in Atlanta. Unlike larger production markets where much of the general public has become accustomed to (or even disenchanted with) film productions working in their neighborhoods, the community in Atlanta still possesses an undiminished enthusiasm for the art of filmmaking.
Need a location for your next film? Researching a script? Need a shooting permit? Whatever the needs of your project are, Atlantans are always excited to be a part of the filmmaking process and lend their support.
4. The Cost of Living
With a cost of living average 40% lower than Los Angeles and 50% lower than New York, you’d be hard pressed to find another city on the planet that offers independent filmmakers the same level of access to talent and resources at Atlanta’s price point.
With rent prices an average of 35% lower and income levels roughly on par with LA, the ability to live and work in the film industry is much more attainable in Atlanta than in New York or Los Angeles, providing Atlanta’s filmmakers with greater access to the culture, resources and amenities of a large city.
5. Tremendous Growth Potential
Finally, Atlanta’s film industry is uniquely poised to continue growing for years to come, thanks to an aggressive tax incentive with no sunset, cutting-edge facilities and a world-class crew base.
As the local film industry continues to expand, new post-production and animation houses are opening their doors and expanding their client bases, film degree programs like SCAD and GSU are rapidly expanding enrollment year to year, and thousands of professional transplants are making the move to Atlanta.
As a writer/director what excites me most is this city’s future. Development houses are beginning to open shop in Atlanta. Focus is beginning to shift to above-the-line talent. Local writers, producers and directors are finding paths to market for their work. A soup-to-nuts independent film industry is taking root in the “Hollywood of the South”, and as a filmmaker, there’s no place I’d rather be.
Brandon Osterman has served as a writer, producer and director of feature films, commercials, music videos and short films seen by millions of viewers around the globe. His short films have been selected by some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and exhibitions, including the Cannes International Film Festival: Director’s Fortnight Exhibition and The National Gallery in London. His projects include work for large international clients like Wix.com, “Sol De Inverno” (one of the highest-rated television dramas in the world), concert videos for international recording artists Nico Vega and The Naked and Famous, and a diverse catalogue of competition shorts and independent feature films. Mr. Osterman earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Computer Animation from The Savannah College of Art and Design, as well as a Master of Arts degree in filmmaking from The London Film School, where he studied directly under seven-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh. In 2016 he founded the SCADFILM training initiative for the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia, where he programmed world-class training programs attended by more than 2000 filmmakers, led by an esteemed lineup of guest instructors including Edward James Olmos, Amy Heckerling and Richard Donner. He now serves as a writer and producing partner at Nimble Giant Studios in Atlanta, where he is currently developing the comedy series “Zombie Raygun” and the indie sci-fi feature “Dragon Flowers” with studio partners in Los Angeles and the United Kingdom.