On a warm night in September of last year, Assembly Studios in Doraville, GA, made a grand debut just a few miles Northeast of Buckhead, igniting excitement in Georgia’s film and TV scene. The star-studded opening featured a glamorous red carpet where invited guests lined up fortours of the high-tech facilities on a new 50-acre campus The night buzzed with live entertainment and networking, spotlighting Georgia’s growing status in entertainment and leaving a mark of anticipation for the studio’s future. Though Buckhead is not the epicenter of productions taking place in Georgia, the Assembly Studios opening further solidified it’s position at the geographic center of the major film studios that now form a ring around Atlanta.
The “Made in Georgia” logo has become a common sight as the credits roll for film and television productions, and the state’s film/TV industry continues to flourish after a brief hiatus for Hollywood actors and writers strikes of 2023. Several industry experts underscored the important and unique role Buckhead plays in the state’s burgeoning film industry and the economic benefits to the community are substantial
. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the fiscal year 2023 saw a direct expenditure of $4.1 billion on productions in the state.
Buckhead’s starring role is housing
Georgia’s TV/film industry is now firmly established. As such, many crew members who are considered “below-the-line,” such as grips, makeup artists, camera operators and similar behind-the-scenes roles, now live in the state. But when a production is filming in the Atlanta area, actors, directors, producers and other “above-the-line” talent who do not live in the area require housing. They often move into the Atlanta area for several months for a film production, or longer for a television series.
Cue Buckhead’s production prominence.
Jacob Bean owns Studio Housing Atlanta. The company specializes in providing fully furnished housing — and other relevant services — for cast and crew members living temporarily in the Atlanta area during productions.
“The studios and crew members want something turnkey,” Bean said. “They want it to be fully furnished, with bedding, towels, everything A-Z as they are just showing up with a suitcase.”
Many are coming to Buckhead. Bean said many Buckhead homes are listed for about $30,000 to $70,000 a month. That budget could be even, higher for “top A-list celebrities.”
“Some actors get what they want, and the productions will pay practically whatever,” he said.
Studios will look elsewhere for productions taking place at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville or others area south of Atlanta due to commute times, Bean said. However, Buckhead has become a housing hotspot for productions filming on the north side of Atlanta, including at OFS Studios or Eagle Rock Studios in Norcross, or the newly opened Assembly Atlanta in Doraville. This is particularly true for A-listers who want the estate atmosphere Buckhead provides.
“Buckhead is a hotspot for [more prominent] cast members because it offers the privacy, security and amenities people are looking for,” Bean said.
Buckhead resident Ryan Millsap is the founder of Blackhall Studios, which was sold to a private investment firm in 2021 and now operates as Shadowbox Studios in DeKalb County. Millsap said Buckhead is an attractive housing option for many A-list celebrities as its upscale atmosphere can’t be found in others areas of the city.
“Buckhead is the nicest neighborhood in all of Atlanta,” he said. “This is where you will find the nicest homes. Originally, a lot of stars, directors, and above-the-line teams wanted to live in Buckhead, which I think is still true.”
Millsap said Buckhead has served as a temporary home for major actors like Robert Downey Jr., Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, and Tom Hardy during the production of films, including Jungle Cruise, Jumanji, The Accountant, Venom, and Marvel movies.
Buckhead’s appeal is not limited to housing
Justin Campbell, director of studio operations for Assembly Atlanta — the newly opened 50-acre studio development in Doraville on the former General Motors assembly site — said Buckhead is also an exceptional place for on-site filming.
“(Buckhead) provides something other areas of Atlanta don’t in its unique architecture and fine-end finishes,” Campbell said. “From the homes, hotels, corporate and retail spaces, it brings something you can’t find anywhere else.” Assembly Studios is projected to include over 1 million square feet of stage space at full build-out and already has a long-term partnership with NBCUniversal.
Jacob Bean with Studio Housing Atlanta said the opening of Assembly Atlanta, which is about 12 miles from the center of Buckhead, should drive more talent to be housed in the community.
“I do think Buckhead’s prominence will rise with Assembly Atlanta,” Bean said. “Already there is one production rumored to be coming in the next 30 days. What I know about that film, it will be higher-end actors looking for higher-end properties.”
Cost savings continue to draw productions to the Atlanta area
Millsap said the biggest driver of the Georgia’s film/tv industry growth, and subsequently that of Atlanta and Buckhead, is the state’s 30-percent tax credit for qualifying productions.
“The tax credit really makes the difference in why people want to make movies and TV in Atlanta,” he said. “All of the growth is largely dependent on the tax credit. If the tax credit changes or caps, it could have a significant effect on the future growth of the industry.”
Other cost savings are notable factors. Millsap said Atlanta provides “a massive discounted price for what you get.” For Buckhead, this includes the leasing costs to house actors.
“You can lease a beautiful home in Buckhead, but move that home to L.A. and you have to multiply the cost by eight or 10 times. The same is true in New York. Even in Miami you are probably paying five times as much for the same home. Atlanta provides a deep, deep discount for luxury. It’s a big draw because the quality of life here for the money is unmatched.”
Though the tax credit serves as the draw, the Atlanta area’s appeal for TV/film production goes beyond cost savings.
“The 30 percent qualifying productions receive, that’s what made [Georgia’s film/TV industry] go,” Campbell said. “But what’s allowed it to grow at the pace it has, and sustain, is the bipartisan support, labor development, the great infrastructure with Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and private airports, and thousands of small businesses that have either started in response to the industry or have pivoted to fit this industry’s needs.”
The initial growth of the state’s production industry has also fostered a new workforce of below-the-line crew members. Campbell credits initiatives like the Georgia Film Academy with fostering the state’s TV/film production labor pool. The Georgia Film Academy partners with the University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia providing workforce training and classroom instruction for TV/film production at universities and colleges around the state.
“We no longer have to import crews from across the country,” Campbell said. “Eighty to ninety percent of crews are local, they’re Georgians. That has been a major driver and component to sustain the industry and make it a permanent presence.”