Posted on June 23, 2017 in Podcasts
Film Producer Craig Miller on Breaking Into Georgia’s Booming Movie Industry
Today, we’re very excited to welcome Craig Miller— owner of Craig Miller Productions and chair of the Georgia Film, Music, & Digital Entertainment Advisory Commission— to our monthly podcast. We sat down with Craig to learn more about Georgia’s film industry, the benefits that it’s drawing to our state, and what we have to look forward to as the industry continues to grow.
Craig Miller Productions, in conjunction with Craig’s colleagues on the advisory commission, is dedicated to finding employment for Georgians within the film industry all over our state. Right here in Georgia, we’re training a new generation of filmmakers via local universities and unions, providing on-the-job training on any of the 45 projects shooting here at this moment. With the combination of Craig’s efforts, our top-notch education opportunities, and the vast number of projects drawn to this state every year, we’re confident that the industry will continue to create new jobs for emerging filmmakers and more opportunities for steady employment to the 80,000 Georgians currently working in the film industry.
Below are a couple of our favorite excerpts from the podcast. We were happy to learn right away that Craig shares an appreciation for buses with us here at Shofur, and that he’s got some great advice for student filmmakers who want to break into the film industry:
Craig: Did I tell you about my great story with a bus?
Craig: Did I tell you my great bus story? My one great bus story. Okay:
So I was working on a project for Coca-Cola. I was out of town, and Katrina was coming into New Orleans at the same time. I got back to town safely, and I got a call from what was then Cingular— they’re now AT&T Wireless— and they said, “We’ve got a gigantic PR problem. When we designed the mobile services in Louisiana and Alabama and Mississippi, we put a lot of the towers in flood plains, and the power sources are at the bottom of the towers. And now, Katrina’s come ashore, and it’s wiping out everything all around it, but it’s also flooding all of these areas. And our cell towers are going out when people need them most. We need you to go down and document how we get all this back up.”
And I said, “Man, but everybody’s coming out of Louisiana and Mississippi. We need to get in.” So we said, “The only way we can do that is if we have a bus,” you know. Well, needless to say we’re a little late to the party; CNN and Fox News and everybody else were picking up buses and taking their buses to go in.
But we lucked out! So Gwen Stefani was on tour, and she’d gotten to Atlanta, but the storm stopped the tour so her bus happened to be here. So we got Gwen Stefani’s tour bus and a driver, and drove into New Orleans… it was just amazing that that one bus was there for us to take a crew of five into Louisiana and cover the storm.
Mike: Didn’t we book a ton of buses for Katrina?
Armir: We booked a ton for Hurricane Matthew…
Craig: Oh yeah, I can see how that works.
Armir: We evacuated over 10,000 people out of the coastal lines.
Craig: That is amazing.
Armir: Yeah, and it was all done within 24 hours.
Craig: It’s amazing how when storms, or acts of God, or those kind of events happen– that folks that you don’t usually assume would be involved in helping people out, are just on the spot, and are ready to help folks that are in need and get them to safety. It’s pretty impressive.
Mike: So this is Johnell. He’s on our content team. Here, come on in.
Craig: Sure. Yeah. Share the love!
Johnell: So you just really caught my attention with what you said about trying to get college students a little bit more acclimated, especially in the Atlanta area.
Johnell: Because I know for me, at Georgia State— I recently graduated a few years ago— I minored in film production, and I know a big, big struggle for a lot of us students who are kind of in that lane was that there wasn’t really much bridging the gap between independent creatives trying to make something and the actual companies here.
So the issue we would often have was that we would all have to just work independently— we’d have to come together after class, make our own stuff. And we kind of would do this in the hopes that by the time we graduated, there would just be like this magical job waiting on us. But it’s like, you get your degree, you do your internship with like maybe GPB or something, and then you’re out there in the real world, then you’re kind of just on your own.
With all of these film companies, in a way, it’s kind of like carpetbagging. They come from L.A. or New York, they bring their whole crew with them, come here for a month or two or three months, and then leave. And then it’s kind of like, well, there’s thousands of people with the same skill set here that are hungry, that wanna do this, that are ambitious, that work twice as hard; but a lot of us come into college with these expectations as film students, and then you’re kind of just out there on your own.
And the only real way it seems to make a dent is if you fund— get your own financing, you do like your GoFundMe— you raise your money, produce your own thing, maybe in hopes of like a film festival picking you up or something like that. That’s the only way it seems to make your mark.
Is there any way around that, or any advice you have?
Craig: There is. There is a way around this. And it doesn’t cost you any money, which is amazing. We call that, “getting through the wall.”
You got all these degrees, you’ve got a movie you’ve demoed in your trailer or something and you’re trying to get picked up. So you say, “Well, but how do I get on set? How do I get through the wall to get the job?” And the governor of Georgia has created a way. He created a workforce initiative plan, and it covers several industries, but one of the industries that it covers is filmmaking— and the Georgia Film Academy was formed.
The Georgia Film Academy is a two-semester course, so it’s not expensive if you did have to pay for it. It has a proper tuition that is affordable, but because it’s part of the workforce initiative, if you fill out the right paperwork, you can go to school for free.
The way it works is this way: They are virtual. So they can be on any campus, any University of Georgia system campus, or they can be at any technical college in the Georgia system, and they just have to have enough interest from students to be a part of this. It’s a certificate program, not a diploma program, but the Hope Scholarship applies.
The first course you take is sort of “getting introduced to the industry.” We have a way of talking in the industry about equipment, and about how to do the job and how we communicate. And so it sort of gives you that level of hands-on, technical, kind of get-used-to-the-industry, and sort of see whether you like it or not. Because a lot of the industry is a lot of hard work– it’s, you know, 14-hour days. Also, it gives you an OSHA training program so that you’re safe. And then, the real gem of this program is the fact that on the second semester, you are actually interning on a real feature film.
So you are working on “Avengers,” you are working on “Walking Dead,” you are working on projects for Adult Swim. And they have agreements with lots of these productions all over the state because they have classes in Savannah and Columbus where they train these students as interns. You get paid, which is a great thing. It’s minimum wage or there about, but you get paid. You’re limited to how many hours you can work every day. But at the end of this period, at the end of the second semester, you have two things going for you:
You’ve met a bunch of people that you would have never met if you hadn’t gotten through the wall. So do a good job, work your craft, kind of figure out where you wanna be, and you’ve got connections in the industry to make it work, you know, to go back and say, “Hey, Bob, remember me?” “Yeah, you were great,” you know.
The second thing is it gives you enough skill set to get you ready to apply for your Union Card. And that is what really puts you to work.
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