By Maria Saporta
Mystery is solved.
Gov. Nathan Deal wasn’t missing in action after all. He was in England, outside of London in a place called: Buckinghamshire.
“We did visit with Pinewood Studios,” Deal said after speaking to the board of the Georgia Research Alliance Thursday morning.
As one of the largest film studio companies in the world, the company has invested in a joint venture, formed in April 2013, known as Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville.
The full service film and entertainment studio complex is located on 288 acres just south of Atlanta – and has been built for the production of movies, television, music and video games.
“They have six sound stages that have been completed, and five more are in the works,” said Deal, who added that he met with the top executives of the company. “They are very happy in Georgia. We have assured them that we will continue to be good hosts for them.”
Translation: the state of Georgia will not back away from the tax credits that it currently offers the film industry. In fact, Gov. Deal said that he saw what happened in North Carolina when it quit offering movie companies tax incentives. The industry dried up, and many of the people working in the field have since moved to Georgia.
Deal also said that Pinewood’s executives were pleased to hear about his proposed new academy to train Georgians for jobs in the film industry, and he mentioned that there was an existing building at the Fayetteville location that could be used for training.
But he quickly added that he didn’t want to tie down an academy to one location.
When Pinewood was first considering an investment in Georgia, the executives wanted a guarantee that the state was committed to its tax credits for the film industry.
“We had an opportunity to meet with them early on as we were modifying our tax credits,” Deal said.
Obviously state leaders gave Pinewood executives the answers they were seeking because they have since invested millions of dollars in the Pinewood Atlanta studio development.
Another issue Georgia has been considering is the possibility of offering post-production tax credits for the film industry.
We talked to them about that,” Deal acknowledged. “That’s one of the areas we would like to see us grow into.”
But Deal said post production of movies is usually controlled by the film companies themselves rather than the studios, so much of that work (meaning money and jobs) is shipped to California.
“That just means we know what challenges we face,” Deal said. “We would like to see us grow there.”
Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development – who was also attending the GRA meeting and had traveled to England with the governor, said they did not realize there was a question about where Deal was until they landed back in Atlanta on Wednesday evening after having left on Saturday.
“They are a great partner with the future of the entertainment industry in Georgia, and they are excited that the governor’s proposal for a film academy,” Carr said of Pinewood. “They are making great quality films – quantity and quality.”