Cue Columbus Scene 3

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Columbus is making a concerted effort to become the third movie hub in the State of Georgia, behind Atlanta and Savannah. 

The Fountain City is making great strides in meeting that objective as we’ve seen over the past two nights. 

But how does Columbus overcome the fact that it’s cheaper to produce movies in Atlanta where the sound stages are and where the union workers live? 

That’s the topic we’re exploring in the final installment of a News 3 Special Report: Cue Columbus, Scene 3. 

Columbus and the surrounding area have been the backdrop for numerous movies, from “The Green Berets” starring John Wayne and David Janssen, to “Tank” featuring James Garner.  More recently “We Were Soldiers Once and Young” starring Mel Gibson.  “Need for Speed” showcased a car crashing into the Chattahoochee.  And who can forget Cuba Gooding, Jr. And Beyonce in “The Fighting Temptations” shot at the Rivercenter? 

Luring more film producers to shoot in Columbus is a primary objective of folks like Peter Bowden and Richard Baxter.  Peter runs the Columbus Film Office.  He also heads up the Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Richard has moved from the Communication Department at Columbus State University to become an associate vice-president of economic development for the university.   

They both want Columbus to get its share of the booming 9.5 billion dollar film industry in the Peach State.  According to Baxter, “Atlanta gets 90 percent of that money.  Savannah gets 10 percent.  If you think in terms of Columbus getting 3 percent of $9.5 billion, 5 percent, 10 percent as Savannah does…think of the economic impact of that.” 

But here’s the rub.  Film producers incur extra costs when shooting outside Atlanta.  To bring a movie to Columbus requires having to pay the required union per diem and housing for those union workers relocating to Columbus for the duration of the shoot. 

Jeff Stepakoff, the executive director of the Georgia Film Academy, has met with Columbus business and civic leaders to come up with a strategy to level the playing field.    

Stepakoff presented a game-changing idea, as described by Bowden.  “We’re very close to finalizing a public/private partnership to create what we’re calling right now a film fund that would over incentivize film makers.” 

Baxter adds, “That film fund would be five million dollars which would be applied toward those expenses that a film producer would incur coming to Columbus versus filming in Atlanta.” 

On top of the film fund, Stepakoff has also proposed that the Georgia Film Academy in cooperation with the city of Columbus bring ten movies to the Fountain City over the next three years.  Those movies would allow CSU film students to work on the projects as interns in Columbus, instead of having to travel to Atlanta for that experience. 

Peter Bowden is already calculating the impact ten movies would have on the Columbus economy.  “The average (film) project would have a total budget of about 3.5 million dollars.  Then if you look at the spending that would take place in the community in the processes, it would generate over 100-million dollars.” 

A memorandum of understanding is in the pipeline between the Georgia Film Academy and the Columbus Film Office to bring those ten movies to Columbus and to create the five-million-dollar film fund.  That memorandum is expected to be presented to the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia next month for his approval. 

The first movie would be expected to hit Columbus this fall. 

Richard Baxter tells News 3 that tonight in Los Angeles, California, a group representing the Georgia film industry is having a reception with Hollywood film producers that was arranged by Governor Nathan Deal.  For the first time ever, Columbus, Georgia is represented at the table.  Baxter is there pitching Columbus as a great place for Hollywood producers to do business. 

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