With the film industry arriving in Georgia in a major way and Pinewood choosing Fayette for their new U.S. campus, opportunities in television and the movies abound. But film is a unique industry, and getting your foot in the door can be more than a little baffling. So what’s an aspiring actor, production assistant, craftsperson, or business owner to do? How do you get involved in this booming Georgia film industry?
People interested in breaking into the industry first need to decide if they want to work on-camera or behind the scenes – or both. Those who yearn to see themselves on the large or small screen, or who are looking for an interesting way to make a little extra cash, will want to sign up with one or more casting companies. Many such companies can help you find services you’ll need such as head shots and resume assistance, and most have Facebook and other social media accounts where they post casting calls. If you want work as an extra, make sure the companies you choose to work with cast extra roles. Also, make sure you understand the duties and demands of the job and have reasonable expectations regarding pay rates and availability of roles. More interested in make-up, costuming, props work, set carpentry, lighting, sound, or PA work? Check out our article about the Georgia Film Academy.
Movie and television companies aren’t just looking for people to film, though. They also need locations. Your home, subdivision, office, barn, or other property may be just the ticket. If you’re approached about such a deal, remember that the process can take quite a while. Also know that it’s quite common for scouts to make initial inquiries about several properties that could work for the project, though they will eventually only choose one. If you own a unique item such as a classic automobile, a rare collectable, or a hard-to-find antique, you might find yourself in a similar situation as film companies sometimes make arrangements to rent or buy such pieces. Once you get to the stage of discussing terms, experts say, make sure you review all contracts carefully and make sure you fully understand the conditions surrounding the proposed arrangement. Make sure both your responsibilities and those of the crew are clearly outlined – and be prepared to stick to your end of the deal. This is particularly important when you’re dealing with communal property or with multiple properties with different owners, such as in the case of a homeowner’s or office complex association.
Just as with private individuals, the uptick in Georgia’s film industry offers new opportunities for area businesses and their owners. In some cases, such as restaurants from which companies might order meals for meetings or dry cleaners and car services that visiting actors and crew members might patronize, there are a few things business owners can do to make themselves attractive. This includes making sure websites are easy to find and navigate and offering conveniences such as delivery and/or extended hours.
In most cases, however, having a good product isn’t enough to catch the attention of decision-makers. Making connections and building a strong reputation are key in the film industry – more so than in the regular business world. Cold calling and direct mail are not likely to be effective, and start-up companies with no verifiable experience may find it especially difficult to catch an opportunity.
“The entertainment business is built on relationships and referrals,” says Judiffier Pearson of the UGA SBDC at Clayton State University. “Attending industry events offered by organizations like Georgia Production Partnership (GPP) and the BronzeLens Film Festival are great ways to meet influencers, connectors, and decision-makers.”
Attending events is just the start, however. Once you’ve initiated relationships, you need to get to know the day-to-day point people, such as creative directors, crew foremen, assistants, and others. You also need to understand what each of these people do, what challenges they face, and what they most need from a vendor. In fact, staying in the know on all fronts is critical in this particular industry. Keep up with local film news through both your local publications and resources such as Oz Magazine and the Georgia Film & Television Production SourceBook. And don’t forget to register your business with the Reel-Crew Production Directory, a free online resource offered by the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office.
Remember, though, that landing a sale is just the first step. Equally important is what happens once the deal is struck. Aim not to just meet expectations, but to exceed them, and never promise something you can’t make happen. The entertainment industry rarely gives second chances, and failure to deliver is the fastest way to shut down future opportunities – not only with the current client, but with others as well.
“Poor performance puts not just your company’s reputation on the line, but potentially Georgia’s as well,” Judiffier points out. “Especially when some production companies are still importing goods and services from other states and outsourcing work to out-of-state vendors with whom they’ve already built reliable relationships.”
The advice to stick to your commitments and always behave professionally applies whether you’re selling goods and services, allowing a crew to film at your home, or spending the day as an on-set extra. Entertainment may be a tough industry to break into, but if you learn how the business works, stay in the know, and always give your best, it can be very worth your while