Georgia Entertainment
Georgia Entertainment

Georgia's Thriving Film Industry on Display at Sundance and Cannes Film Festival

Three Georgia cities seek to host the Sundance Film Festival in the future.

click to enlarge Georgia's Thriving Film Industry on Display at Sundance and Cannes Film Festival
Georgia Entertainment
Georgia Entertainment

For years now, Georgia has been a force in the film industry, with hundreds of TV shows and films produced in the peach state. According to the Economic Impact Study of Georgia’s Entertainment Industry Tax Credit, production spending in Georgia grew by more than 17 percent each year from 2001 to 2023, creating a $29.65 billion economic impact on Georgia’s economy and supporting $12.2 billion in wages in the past five years alone.

click to enlarge Georgia's Thriving Film Industry on Display at Sundance and Cannes Film Festival
Travis Wise
Source: Wikipedia/Travis Wise via Wikimedia Commons

With this type of growth and impact, Georgia is at the forefront of places to bring production. This was evident from the representation from filmmakers in Georgia present at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.

"Going outside of Georgia to attend two of the big five festivals like Cannes and Sundance is very important for filmmakers, film commissioners, and others with a vested interest in filmmaking," said Randy Davidson, CEO and founder of Georgia Entertainment. "These festivals represent a qualified audience—people who have paid a lot of money to travel there and are serious about the industry."

Cannes launched in 1946 and Sundance in 1985, and both, along with the Venice, Berlin, and Toronto film festivals, rank as some of the most prestigious in the world, drawing filmmakers, industry professionals, and cinephiles from around the globe.

"Each festival has its own unique characteristics. Cannes was definitely more international, focusing more on feature films and theatrical releases, whereas Sundance was more catered to the independent filmmakers, the smaller filmmakers,” said Davidson. “In both cases, it was important to go along with our partners like the Savannah Regional Film Commission, Crafty Apes, and other vendors that supply the film industry.”

Davidson noted that while Georgia is well known for its generous film tax credits, many attendees were unaware of the state's broader production capabilities and resources. "They don't know that we have great people already here, excellent infrastructure and locations, and professional resources like lawyers and accountants that productions don't have to bring in from elsewhere," he said.

To address this knowledge gap, Georgia Entertainment organized a multifaceted promotional effort at both festivals. At Sundance, the team presented a "From Script to Screen" workshop, an invite-only gathering where they spoke with both aspiring and established storytellers.

"We may have filmmakers who don't even have a script ready yet, as well as those who have a script they're looking to sell," said Davidson. "The goal is to connect them with the resources and support available in Georgia to turn their vision into reality."

There was a strong support of Georgia entities for this workshop as it was presented by RiseImpact and Film Savannah; other partners include Bowen Schmidt Entertainment Attorneys, Film Columbus GA, Tyler Perry Studios, Meptik, Crafty Apes, South Georgia Studios, Fangoria, RDH Partners, and Fulton Films.

“This is the ultimate gathering of storytellers looking to honor the films selected by the Institute and those aspiring to be selected in the future,” said Jezlan Moyet, Senior Vice President of Georgia Entertainment. “We are grateful that our partners have made it possible to engage Sundance attendees, secure new connections, and highlight the Peach State.”

At Cannes, Georgia Entertainment’s multi-day programming kicked off with the ‘From Script to Screen’ Rooftop Soiree hosted at the Misfit Haus, a world-renowned members club and artist collective.

In addition to that, they hosted the ‘Heart of the Peach’ Brunch, presented by Fulton Films, at the American Pavilion. Writer and director Deborah Riley Draper shared insights from her illustrious career and discussed the pivotal role of Fulton and Georgia in her success. This event provided a wonderful networking opportunity, highlighting Georgia’s leadership in the film industry to an international audience.

click to enlarge Georgia's Thriving Film Industry on Display at Sundance and Cannes Film Festival
Georgia Entertainment
Georgia Entertainment’s ‘From Script to Screen’ Industry panels led by Randy Davidson, featuring the state’s leading experts, executives and creatives at the Film USA pavilion in the International Village at the Marché du Film - Festival de Cannes

At Cannes, they also presented the ‘From Script to Screen’ panel series at the Film USA Pavilion, starting with the ‘All Over Georgia, USA’ panel. Davidson moderated a discussion with Walker Dalton (Film Savannah), Genevieve LeDoux (Star Forest), Chris LeDoux (LumaLogic), and Honnie Korngold (South Georgia Studios) about the growth and expansion of Georgia’s film industry. They emphasized the state’s potential to attract more filmmakers to the region.

"The fact that we're there, hosting events and wanting them to come, is something they don't get from everywhere. Georgia has a great reputation around the world, and we noticed that at Cannes and Sundance, they know we have the chops to be a great place for filmmakers, but many just need help putting it all together,” said Davidson.

click to enlarge Georgia's Thriving Film Industry on Display at Sundance and Cannes Film Festival
Georgia Entertainment
Georgia Entertainment’s ‘From Script to Screen’ Industry panels at the Marché du Film - Festival de Cannes

The panel series concluded with the ‘Made with Georgia, USA’ panel. Panelists Elisa Logan (DexMob VFX), Alexander White (Alexander White Agency), Josh Harris (Peachtree Group), Deborah Riley Draper (Coffee Bluff Pictures), and Brando Ross (DexMob VFX) discussed the significance of producing films in Georgia and shared insights into the state’s rising prominence as a global filmmaking hub.

As the state continues to cement its status as a premier production hub, Davidson and his team remain committed to actively promoting Georgia's unique assets on the international stage. "The heart, passion, Southern hospitality, and cultural history we have are very attractive on a worldwide scale," said Davidson. "That's what sets us apart and makes Georgia such a compelling destination for the film industry."

This very attraction has now landed three Georgia cities on the shortlist to potentially host the Sundance Film Festival in the future. In April, the Sundance Institute initiated a Request for Information process to scout for potential locations across the United States to host the Sundance Film Festival starting in 2027. Savannah, Atlanta, and Athens are vying for a chance to host Sundance.

“I believe the Sundance Film Festival coming to Georgia would be a huge boom for the state and, of course, for either city that is selected. It would really be a benefit for the independent film market because that's what Sundance is known for. It would be a general boom for tourism in the state as well. It would be great for the state of Georgia to add that to its repertoire,” said Davidson.

The three Georgia cities are among 15 nationwide that were required to submit their proposals to the organization by June 21. Atlanta made a website this June for their Sundance Pitch. After reviewing prospective locations, board members are expected to make a formal decision for a host city anywhere from later this year to early 2025.

     

Kareem McMichael

Kareem McMichael is a filmmaker, documentarian, writer, and multimedia content creator. The Macon native enjoys entertainment, and sharing with locals and visitors’ stories about Savannah’s art and culture scene. When he is not working, he enjoys relaxing at the beach, grabbing a beverage, hitting a fun art event,...
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