Augusta Committee Talks Future of Film, Economic Impact

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Augusta, GA – We could be seeing more lights, camera and action in Augusta.  Commissioners spent time in committee Tuesday discussing how to be more involved in helping boost the city’s economic impact from movies filmed here.

The latest movie, The Reason, brought Academy Award winner Lou Gossett Junior to the Garden City.  When he left, so did news that Augusta is open for film business. Now, Commissioners must grab some popcorn and get ready to be entertained more.

City Administrator Janice Jackson presented how Augusta can expand its participation in film for economic development.

“What does it take for us to get involved in this area of economic development,” she began.

Jackson told the Public Services Committee that film brought an estimated $6 billion dollars to the Peach State last year. Now, she believes the city should become more involved with the local movie industry, an area Brad Owens told Commissioners he has already put his stamp on.

“We’ve spent eight months working on this and delivered $2.1 million worth of direct spending in the local economy. Which will have about a $5 million economic impact. We would stack that up to any organization, especially one that’s been claiming to have done that for 20 years,” Owens said of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Owens, the Director of the Augusta Regional Film Office said he has helped bring two movies to town since November and four more are planned for this year. But Jackson said the film office will need to work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city to get future films done.  She recommended a Memorandum of Understanding between the three to the committee.

Jennifer Bowen said CVB has been left out of the loop of what the film office has done, citing she had no idea about the two movies coming that Owens promoted.  Instead, she said CVB has spent 25 years bringing movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to the CSRA.

“If it is the Commission’s will and body for us to work with the Augusta Film Office then we will most certainly do that and have a great partnership,” she said.  Owens also agreed to work with CVB.

The committee decided not to make a recommendation, but most noted they look forward to seeing more filming locally.

District 1 Commissioner William Fennoy pointed to the movie about Augusta’s own James Brown as a missed opportunity.

He said after he viewed the film, “Only to find out that none of the scenes were shot in Augusta.”

Many local actors and production crew members sat in on the meeting.  Terrence Williams, Grip, Electric, said he has even talked about Augusta to people in Hollywood. But he feels the city is losing talent.

“We’re losing people to Atlanta. We have actors and actresses running to Atlanta. They have to stay in Atlanta for a year and claim residency. And what? We’ve lost ten people because we can’t get this thing together and get along,” he said.

Jackson also recommended increasing marketing dollars and revisiting how this Memorandum of Understanding is working between the three if it passes.  The full commission will vote on this recommendation at the meeting next week.

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