Rumors about a film studio being built in Augusta have floated around for a couple of years, but on Sept. 21, one film producer removed all speculation.
“I plan to bring a purpose-built studio here,” said Warren Ostergard, who has made a few films in Augusta including The Hill, The Royal and Agent Game.
Ostergard made the announcement at the Georgia Unscripted Roadshow at the Hyatt House Augusta. The event brought together industry experts, business executives, government officials and others to hear about Georgia’s burgeoning film industry and how it impacts cities such as Augusta.
Ostergard, who lives in Charleston, said the studio is still “in development” and that it’s “probably a 24-month endeavor.” He has been scoping the area for a location, but he didn’t give any more details.
Jennifer Bowen, Film Augusta’s film liaison, called the announcement a “big deal” for Augusta.
Ostergard hopes to begin filming his next project in Augusta in the first quarter of 2024. The timeline is contingent on the current strikes being settled. The project will be based on a bestselling-book with musical ties.
Ostergard was one of several speakers at the roadshow event.
Georgia’s film industry accounted for $4.1 billion in direct spending in the 2023 fiscal year, according to Lee Thomas, the Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Film & Entertainment Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
The office started 50 years ago under then Gov. Jimmy Carter and in its first 35 years contributed $1.2 billion to the economy.
“It seems like the film tax credit is working,” she said.
The Georgia tax credits have lured filmmakers to the Peach state from other states. North Carolina and Louisiana had lucrative film industries there; however, when lawmakers capped or changed tax incentives, filmmakers picked up their stakes and moved on.
Barbara Zagrodnik, who has worked on multiple film projects including The Hill, Five Star Murder, Agent Game and Christmas Party Crashers, relayed her story about moving in 2014 to North Carolina after her husband was offered a job there. He sold her on the move by telling her she could find work in North Carolina’s film industry.
“In July, we moved to North Carolina, and little did I know, just about that time, the government decided to put a cap on film production, and by the time I got moved and settled and started to look for these magical film jobs, they were non-existent. The industry just completely stopped. By September, nothing was happening,” said Zagrodnik, who along with her husband eventually returned to the area.
The Augusta area has a lot of people skilled in behind-the-scenes and technical aspects of filmmaking. About 50 locally-based crew members worked on The Hill.
Not only are there people in Augusta who make their livelihood in the film industry, but there’s a push to educate and train tomorrow’s workforce through programs such as the Georgia Film Academy, which has partnerships with Augusta Technical College and the Augusta-based company, IndieGrip.
Scott Votaw, the Georgia Film Academy executive director, spoke about that initiative. Also at the event was Brennen Dicker from Georgia State University who spoke on “Building Georgia’s Digital Entertainment Future.”
Augusta University has its hand in the future of filmmaking as well. One of its fastest growing programs is its animation department.
A.B. Osborne, the program’s director, said there were six students taking animation in 2019. There are currently 80 students, and they are projecting 400 students in seven years.
To facilitate the growth, two “huge warehouses” are being renovated and they will contain design labs, an art studio, virtual reality lab and an esports’ arena, he said.
Randy Davidson of Georgia Entertainment said education was the main purpose of Thursday’s event.
“We have 51 new legislators,” he said.
And informing them about what the film community does for Georgians and how much the tax credits directly impact moviemakers spending is critical for government officials to know. Keeping those tax credits is important to the health of the industry.
Davidson is traveling to a total of nine Georgia cities with the Unscripted tour, which kicked off in June in Athens. Five cities remain including Savannah, Rome, Valdosta, Columbus and Warner Robins.
Article Originated in: Georgia Entertainment