There could be a silver lining playbook for Augusta filmmaking, despite a Writers Guild of America strikes now in its third week. Destination Augusta and local producers are keeping a close eye on what will happen next, as they should.
Craig Miller believes Augusta could end up benefiting from the strike. He should know. Miller served eight years as the Co-President of the Georgia Production Partnership, the grassroots organization that established the Georgia Film Incentive. You could say his finger is on the pulse of Georgia movie making.
“Jobs are still coming in and the discussions of potential films may have slowed, but they’re still happening. By far, the biggest impact of the strike would be in Atlanta because of union film workers. It could be a plus for Augusta, Macon, and Columbus where gaffers, grips, and others involved in filmmaking are non-union,” Miller explained.
Jennifer Bowen, Vice President of Destination Development & Community Engagement at Destination Augusta, and a film liaison with the Film Augusta office says, “Right now, we don’t feel impacted in Augusta by the Writers Guild strike, because the Writers Guild is mostly impacting episodic, or television series and live television. And we do not yet have that type of production in Augusta.”
Mark Crump, owner of Reflecting Pool Productions based in Augusta who also works with Marvista Entertainment, is also watching what is happening in the industry, particularly in Atlanta. Earlier this year, Crump was able to tap into that pool of skilled labor for a movie that was shot in Augusta.
“I was lucky when I did “Five Star Murder.” I had a lot of very skilled labor that I could choose from for that movie that we did in March because they weren’t working in Atlanta,” he said.
Looking ahead, Miller says there are two more potential strikes that could impact Georgia, also known as “Hollywood South.”
“It’s likely that we’ll see two more strikes by the end of June, including the Screen Actors Guild and the Director’s Guild. It could get ugly, but I still believe that the Augusta film community could reap the benefits,” Miller said.
Miller says there are some big budget projects floating around to the tune of $7 million+ for Georgia. If the current strike and future strikes prevent Atlanta projects, perhaps Augusta’s filmmaking will not be gone with the wind. It’s likely that none of the backers of those future projects are forgetting about the state’s tax incentives for film and TV projects.
Augusta has seen a steady increase in the number of productions shot locally, most notably “The Mule” starring Clint Eastwood, “The Suicide Squad” featuring Viola Davis, Idris Elba, and John Cena, and “Agent Game” starring Dermot Mulroney and Mel Gibson. Bowen said that supported about 300 local jobs and pumped millions into the local economy.
“We can do things here at budget levels that you can’t do in Atlanta. Not all content is being made for hundreds of millions of dollars. You know, sometimes you only have a million or 2 million or 3 million in this case. You know, we have one of those lower budget shows where it’s still great content, you still got to produce it, but it’s a lot more difficult to do in Atlanta,” Crump explained.
In the meantime, Miller who owns his own production company outside of Atlanta, is in the wait-and-see mode, as are other production across the state.