Georgia Film Industry Faces Uncertain Future As Pandemic Continues
Atlanta camera operator Brandon Thompson has worked on a Netflix production in the city for several seasons. This year, everything came to a halt.
Thompson went from being a steadicam operator to being a stay-at-home dad in a matter of months because of the coronavirus pandemic. He's filed for unemployment and still has no idea when work will return to normal.
"Our schedules going to be shooting this whole year," he said. "So it's like now they're basically half a year behind."
He said the production he's working on didn't even finish filming the first episode of the season they were shooting. They got 10 days in and were forced to close down production. Now, it's a waiting game.
"We don't know where things are going to go from here," he said. "I'm not even sure if we're going to use the footage we got done shooting before this happened."
For Thompson, who is a member of a union for camera operators, an open question lingers around the future of his health insurance. For him and his peers, health insurance is contingent on how many hours he works.
"For a lot of people, they were right on the cusp of getting health insurance before this happened," he said.
He's hopeful that the camera union will step in and advocate for a change in the rules surrounding what qualifies someone.
Glenn Peison is a propmaster on another Netflix show that shoots in Georgia. He is planning to return to work this week. For him, everything has changed in a matter of months.
"I'm doing a lot of work remotely. I'm limiting my shopping," he said. "Limiting my time in the production office. Scripts have changed to reduce the amount of cast."
The film industry in Georgia created $9.5 billion in revenue last year. For Peison, the immediate future seems bleak.
"A few small productions like mine (might resume production), sure," he said. "But Marvel? No. I expect to see more and more shows heading to Canada and abroad where it is more feasible to shoot."
But in the long term, he believes Georgia has a lot to offer.
"As long as an incentive is in place, we have a great crew base, excellent facilities, and all of the ancillary businesses needed for a thriving industry," he said. "Budget strains could have an impact of tax incentives next year but that’s speculation at this point."
But Peison has still struggled like many others in his industry.
"I’ve been out of work since mid-March. Thankfully I’m very good with finances and working in the film biz, you get used to work gaps," he said. "I was prepared financially. Unemployment helped tremendously."
As far as the future, he wants people to know the economic impact caused by the pandemic has a human face.
"I’m just a young, 37-year-old guy trying to make his way. There are thousands of others like me. This is what Hollywood looks like. We’re not a bunch of fat cats from LA that come out here to make a buck and then leave," he said. "We live here. We love our city. We want good things for our community."