How Forsyth County helped Georgia’s film industry break its economic impact record - again

Ben Lacina

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'Freaky' filmed at Denmark High School in Forsyth County(Photo/'Freaky' trailer)

(Forsyth County, GA) Georgia’s film industry is one of the largest in the nation, and it’s now bigger than ever before. As Forsyth County keeps pushing to attract producers and filmmakers, be on the lookout for what everyday places around the county are getting a cameo on the big screen.

2022 was another record-setting year for Georgia as the state spent $4.4 billion on film and television productions this last fiscal year. This is a significant increase from what was already a record-setting $4 billion spent for the fiscal year of 2021.

Georgia has become the South’s mecca for movie and television productions as its film industry has grown to be the third largest in the country behind New York and California. While the peach state has sprawling cities and beautiful landscapes, what exactly sets Georgia apart from so many other places?

The simple answer is money. Since 2008, Georgia has offered a very generous tax credit to filmmakers that allows productions to earn up to 30 percent of their spending back, and there’s no limit on how much these productions can spend. In the fiscal year 2021, Georgia issued over $1.2 billion in credits back to filmmakers, more than twice as much as California or New York.

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Lake Lanier, a common Forsyth County film location(Photo/Explore Georgia website)

Filming in Forsyth County

This incentivizes productions to come to Georgia, and Forsyth County is one place that offers varying, beautiful landscapes while also being in close proximity to Atlanta, which has turned into a film hub.

Joni Buford, the director of tourism at the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, says the county has truly become a film-friendly destination.

“We understand the positive economic impact the film industry brings to our community and the sense of pride and joy it brings to our residents to see our county on the big screen,” said Buford.

One measure taken to attract potential filmmakers was the creation of Film Forsyth, a team of film experts that allocates resources and information for any production looking to film in the county.

Film Forsyth offers help at any step of production. Some of their services include an ongoing database of film-friendly locations around the county, detailed lists and staff ready to assist with filming permit applications and requirements, and several complementary services in tandem with local businesses during the filming process.

“The creation of Film Forsyth has made the process of scouting remarkably easier. The next phase of Film Forsyth is to institute a Film Commission to further aid in these efforts in late 2022,” said Buford.

With local resources to assist producers and location managers, Forsyth County is considered a “Camera Ready” community. This has led to the county being featured in several projects - such as local homes and Lake Lanier seen in the hit Netflix series Ozark. Other features include Vampire Diaries, Fast and Furious 8, HGTV’s Bargain Hunters, and Goosebumps among others.

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Local antique store featured in Ozark(Photo/Lakewood 400 Antiques Market Instagram page)

Beyond the screen

Georgia’s relationship with the film industry has not always been smooth sailing. In the past few years, Georgia’s passing of certain laws has left parts of Hollywood hesitant to continue filming in the state.

Last year, Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua pulled production of the movie Emancipation out of the state in lieu of the passage of new restrictive voting laws. In 2019, many major film and media companies stated the signing of HB-481, a law restricting abortion after roughly six weeks, is causing them to reconsider future projects in Georgia.

Most companies were waiting on due process to make a decision, but with the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, HB-481 is now taking effect. Companies such as Disney and Netflix have hinted at pulling productions from Georgia entirely. WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, AMC Networks, and others have expressed hesitance toward future filming as well.

Although Georgia and parts of Hollywood are currently in a stalemate, the financial incentives of filming in the state still show a bright future for the state’s film industry moving forward. And as the state moves forward, so does Forsyth County.

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Doors pictured in the trailer of 'Freaky'(Photo/Kate Hall)

“As we continue efforts to strengthen our stance as a Film Friendly destination and with our reputation for being a great place to film in the state of Georgia, more and more projects will set their sights to our community to consider filming,” said Buford.

She adds, “We are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to share an exciting film project that took place recently, so keep an eye out for the announcement [on] @DiscoverFoCo on Facebook and Instagram!”

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Ben Lacina at benjaminclacina@gmail.com

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Ben Lacina's writing experience allows him to tackle a myriad of subjects and stories. His background in science helps him use his writing experience to translate complicated topics into understandable content for a wide audience.

Athens, GA
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