Atlanta creates program to teach skills needed to get good jobs in film/TV industry

By David Pendered

It took almost a year from the time the first such recommendation was made, but Atlanta now has a pilot program to teach the skills folks need to compete for jobs in the burgeoning film industry.

Film industry, Zoe Ever After

Atlanta’s new program to teach city residents the skills needed to get higher paying jobs in the film/TV industry is a success, according to the unit production manager of a BET show featuring Brandy that’s being filmed in Atlanta, “Zoe Ever After.” Credit: projectcasting.com

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced Friday the launch of a program titled City of Atlanta Entertainment Training Program. A statement from the mayor’s office said it is the first job-training program in the country to focus on the behind-the-scene jobs available in the film industry.

“I am proud to support the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and the Office of Entertainment’s efforts to facilitate employment opportunities for Atlanta residents in the film and television production industry,” Reed said in the statement.

Evidently, the program has been operating for some time. The statement quoted a production manager who praised the program.

“This program, which is in pilot phase, has been a huge success so far,” said Jim Tripp, unit production manager for Zoe Ever After. “It gave the participants an eye opening awareness of the skilled positions they want to pursue.

The program is a joint effort by the Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment, Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 479.

“Providing a trained below-the-line workforce is critical to the film industry’s growth in Atlanta and Georgia,” Reed said. “This program will ensure that our residents and young people have access to learn from world-class professionals and acquire vital skills.”

On Oct. 14, 2014, Atlanta Councilmember Joyce Sheperd said AWDA should help residents learn the skills needed to get jobs in Atlanta’s film industry.

Atlanta Councilmember Joyce Sheperd

Atlanta Councilmember Joyce Sheperd

Sheperd has long maintained that few city residents have the higher paying jobs available at EUE/Screen Gems Studio, which was built south of Turner Field with help from Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm.

Sheperd has said EUE/Screen Gems hires Atlanta residents for jobs along the line of janitorial services. Area residents are not getting hired for the better paying jobs that were described before the studio opened in 2010 and during its subsequent expansion, Sheperd has said.

“I’m not talking about actors, ‘I want to be a star,’” Sheperd said. “I’m talking about the lights, the grips, all of that. And we’re talking about training to make that happen.”

AWDA Executive Director Michael Sterling was receptive to the recommendation. At the time, he said he was busy reorganizing a department that had been under federal criminal investigation before he took the helm on May 7, 2014.

The program that has resulted calls for AWDA to identify applicants for positions as trainees in the movie and television production projects in the city, according to the statement.

“Through collaboration, we’ve accomplished a goal of getting local residents on production sets in the City of Atlanta, which has never been done before,” Sterling said in a statement. “This program will create the pipeline for more local talent to have continued opportunities in the growing film and entertainment industry in the City of Atlanta and Georgia.”

Terms call for AWDA to pay trainees’ wages for the duration of the program, which can last up to 17 weeks. Trainees will enter a intensive two-day training workshop and work with production companies to place trainees on a set. Production companies will not pay a fee or face liability issues for the trainees they accept, according to the statement.

Admission to the program is on a rolling basis. Atlanta residents who are interested in participating must be 18 years of age, have a valid Georgia Driver’s License and must register with AWDA and go through the intake process, according to the statement.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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