FILE - Georgia film TV industry

In this Tuesday, July 23, 2019 photo, a sign discourages people from taking photos or video in the wing of Gwinnett Place Mall where Stranger Things was filmed in Duluth, Ga.

(The Center Square) – Georgia's film and TV industry had a record fiscal year with $4 billion in direct spending on productions in fiscal year 2021.

Direct spending from the productions increased nearly 38% compared with 2019, contributing $2.9 billion in the fiscal year. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, film and TV productions spent $2.2 billion in 2020.

The Georgia Film Office said 366 productions were filmed in Georgia during fiscal year 2021, which ran from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. The productions included 21 feature films, 45 independent films, 222 TV and series productions, 57 commercials and 21 music videos.

Georgia officials attributed the increase to the state's overall attractiveness to the film industry, including an earlier return to production.

"Because Georgia was the first state in the country to reopen our economy and worked with film productions across the state to ensure they could safely continue operations, the Peach State's film industry is leading the nation," Gov. Brian Kemp said.

Georgia was the first state to produce a COVID-19 safety protocol guide for film and TV, which officials said promoted the rapid return of the industry. Even though new safety protocols added to production costs and timelines, the associated expenses to mitigate risk remained attractive, the Georgia Film Office said.

Officials also attributed a pent-up demand for content after the COVID-19 hiatus to the spending boost. In June 2020, film and TV companies vowed to revive the industry after COVID-19 shutdowns in March. They committed to rehiring and employing 40,000 production workers and investing $2 billion into the Georgia economy over 18 months.

"Georgia allowed productions to return before other markets, so we not only had returning shows that shut down due to the pandemic, but we were also able to attract new shows that were slated to shoot in other, locked down markets," Georgia Film Office Director Lee Thomas said. "This additional slate of projects, combined with increased budgets due to the need for additional crew and space, plus stringent safety measures, led Georgia to have an even higher than projected record year."

According to industry leaders, the Georgia film tax credit has transformed the state into the Hollywood of the South. The incentive program, however, cost the state nearly $900 million in tax revenue in 2019, which was about 3.1% of the state's budget. 

The program offers up to a 30% tax credit to production companies that spend at least $500,000 on selected projects in the state.

Four Georgia productions were nominated for 62 Emmy awards last week, including “WandaVision,” “Lovecraft Country” and “The Underground Railroad.” Georgia-produced films “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Emily Blunt, and DC Films production's “The Suicide Squad" are scheduled to premiere this month.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.