COLUMBUS, Ga. — The film industry has brought in nearly $10 billion to Georgia’s economy this year since tax cuts and new development put the state on filmmakers’ radar. That makes around $2.5 billion more than last year.
The local Way Down Film Festival hopes to make sure Columbus is no exception to the economic growth the film industry has to offer.
Now in it’s second year, the Way Down Film Festival attracts movie makers and fans from around the world.
Organizers say this event, hosted at the Springer Opera House from Friday to Saturday, is all about bringing filmmakers to a town they may never have heard of otherwise. It also gives filmmakers the opportunity not only to showcase their work, but also network and collaborate.
“I had never heard of Columbus, Georgia. I said what, where, what is that?” says Don Preiss, the producer of My Mom and the Girl, a film to be featured in the festival.
“I had never heard of Columbus, Georgia before I came here and I’m glad to know of it now,” says Michael Hilf who directed The Candidate, another film in the festival’s lineup.
Both Preiss and Hilf work and live in Los Angeles while they make their films. They came to Georgia specifically for the Way Down Film Festival.
They say they appreciate the emphasis Georgia makes on allowing filmmakers to have a comfortable and convenient environment to showcase their work.
“This state really subsidies film making and people really support it. I think it’s a great place to come for people to make a movie,” Hilf says.
Production companies that spend at least a half million dollars on a project get 20 percent tax credits from the state. A $9.5 billion dollar economic impact makes Georgia the number one film location in the world.
Jacy Jenkins, a co-founder of the Way Down Film Festival, says Atlanta and Savannah take a large portion of the credit for that massive total. She says she hopes events like this will help put Columbus on the map too.
“We’re seeing with this and other projects that now we’re getting a foot in the door to some of that impact,” Jenkins says.
In fact, hundreds of industry professionals will come through the Fountain City this weekend and spend thousands of dollars at local hotels and restaurants.
But does the impact end after the two-day event does?
Jenkins says it’s not that simple.
“This week is kind of a drop in the bucket, but there are ripple effects. They are becoming familiar with Columbus to come back here and shoot,” she says.
So far, the film festival has recruited three full feature films to be shot in Columbus, and the sights are already impressing some of the other festival visitors.
“We came in last night and walked out this morning and quite surprised. It’s a beautiful town,” Preiss says.
A beautiful town way down, vying for a spot in the state’s spotlight.
If you would like to check out the Way Down Film Festival, there will be 11 curated blocks of showings. The entries include more than 40 short films, each less than 25 minutes long, to be evenly distributed between all the weekend’s events. Each screening will also be followed by a Q&A session to better understand the films and the work that went into making them.