New head of Georgia state arts committee wants to bring more show biz north

  photo  Rep. Kasey Carpenter

State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, said he wants to bring Georgia's booming film industry to Northwest Georgia and educate citizens on how the industry benefits the state as a whole.

"It's hard, a lot of times, for our area, North Georgia, to understand the impact of the film industry because a lot of it happens around the metro (Atlanta) area," Carpenter said in a phone interview.

Carpenter has been appointed chairman of the House Creative Arts & Entertainment Committee for the new legislative session.

The state estimates $4.4 billion was spent by the film and television industry in Georgia in fiscal year 2022, but some are criticizing the tax credits provided to the industry by the state -- projected to top $1 billion in 2023. Rep. Mitchell Horner, R-Ringgold, said he wants to end the tax credit and is presenting a bill that ends the tax credit's transferability.

"To give a contrast, this ($1 billion) is half of transportation funding, 10 times the state tax job credit, or the cost of providing every private and home-school parent the funding equivalent to public school spending," Horner said in documents relating to the legislation.

(READ MORE: New Northwest Georgia elected officials speak on values, plans for legislative session)

Enacted in 2015, the tax credit has grown by an average of nearly 15% annually, according to the state Department of Revenue. In fiscal year 2022, the tax credit was $894 million, and in fiscal year, 2021 it was $760 million.

Carpenter said he was skeptical about the film credit at first and knows where Horner is coming from, but he changed his mind after he learned more about the state's film industry. When asked about any changes to the film tax credit that he'd support, Carpenter didn't offer any specifics but said there's always conversations to be had.

"Once I understood the industry and toured various facilities and saw the magnitude and the investment in the state of Georgia -- it was an eye opener," said Carpenter, first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2017.

The film industry's expansion north is limited by union rules restricting how far workers can be required to travel, Carpenter said, and most of the film industry workers are based in Atlanta. Because of that, Carpenter said the challenge is to grow the industry statewide, and that's an issue the committee is working on.

Right now, he said the biggest thing to do is educate the public and new members of the General Assembly about how the film credit benefits Georgia's economy.

Georgia's Department of Economic Development reported that between July 1, 2021, and June 30, the state hosted 412 productions, including 32 feature films, 36 independent films, 269 television and episodic productions, 42 commercials and 33 music videos. The department maintains a "Now Filming in Georgia" list, which currently includes a zombie television series, fantasy feature film and reality show starring Atlanta rapper Lil John.

Productions will have short-term shoots in places outside the Atlanta metro area such as Rome, Carpenter said, but the real money for communities is in long-running shows such as "Ozark." Rome is the farthest north productions have worked, Marie Gordon, director of communications for Georgia's economic development department, said in an email. Both season four of the television show "Stranger Things" and "Spirit Halloween: The Movie" were filmed in Rome.

Filming has occurred in many Northwest Georgia locations over the years, said Marie Gordon, director of communications for Georgia's economic development department, said in an email.

Whitfield County hosted “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in 2019, and 2020's “The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland” featured the scenic McLemore Cove. Rossville, Ringgold and Tunnel Hill have also seen filming, Gordon said.

In the state Senate, Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, said he has also drafted film tax credit legislation. Those tax credits are transferable and can be sold to others who owe Georgia taxes, Moore said in a phone interview.

"We're subsidizing the film industry -- not the proper role of government -- and this must end," Moore said, encouraging taxpayers to pressure their representatives to support legislation to end the tax credit.

(READ MORE: Georgia could tighten film tax credit, give sports tax break)

Live music is also important to North Georgians, Carpenter said, as well as places such as Atlanta, Southwest Georgia, Macon and Athens. State researchers studied Georgia's music industry recently, he said, looking for opportunities in an industry that's more evenly spread throughout the state.

"It (the study) showed where we were behind the times when it comes to states around us," Carpenter said. "Tennessee, Nashville's stealing all our talent. We're working through it but need to be precise about what we do."

Touring musicians such as Luke Bryan, he said as an example, spend two or three weeks in one place practicing teardowns and working out technical problems before hitting the road. He said there are ongoing discussions about giving tax credits to musicians preparing to tour, to benefit a community's hotel, retail and commercial space industries.

As a father of four, Carpenter said the neatest thing about the film industry is the opportunities it provides for the youth. The Georgia Film Academy is part of the state's technical college system, meaning students can participate in its programs at any technical college in the state and get hands-on training two days a week at the academy in Peachtree City.

"You come out, you're making $100,000 a year right out of school," working behind the scenes on jobs like lighting and set work, Carpenter said.

Some people criticize the film tax credits because they benefit outsiders, but Carpenter said most of those working in that industry are Georgians.

In general, Carpenter said the Creative Arts and Entertainment Committee is focused on education as well as legislation.

"We will evaluate ways to make sure our taxpayers benefit from the future successes in this industry (creative arts), as well as focus on making sure the whole world knows Georgia is No. 1 in film production and climbing the charts in music," Carpenter said in a statement about his appointment. "We have a lot of work to do, and I can't wait to get started."

Contact Andrew Wilkins at or 423-757-6659.