30% tax credit

fast-furious-7A big part of the future of Gwinnett may be happening right now, and most people don’t realize it.

Already underway at the current 168-acre excess land of the OFS fiber optic cable plant (the former Western Electric site) at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85, is filming of a major motion picture. It’s to be called Fast and Furious 7, an action-crime-thriller, and is a $300 million blockbuster being produced by Universal Studios, entirely in Gwinnett County. It stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson.

It’s the first big movie being shot at this location. Indications are that the site will be used in many major motion pictures in the future, since Georgia gives a 30 percent tax credit off spending for movies shot within the state.

That 30 percent credit can be a huge element of a moviemaker’s budget. If a film company spends $100 million in Georgia, that amounts to a $30 million savings, either against state taxes, or as a credit to be sold to another Georgia company. That produces a double whammy, since the credit-buying company will have spent money on goods and services within Georgia!

There’s another reason movie making will be good for Gwinnett. It’s a movie term called TMZ, (thirty mile zone.) That term means that anything shot within this radius is one for which the movie producers can pay standard rates. Therefore, anything from the Atlanta Airport on the South, to Lake Lanier on the north, falls within the 30 mile circle, saving movie producers millions when within this TMZ.

What's this? It's a "blue screen," said to be the largest on the East Coast, used in producing movies and television shows, and it's located in Gwinnett on property of the OFS Site at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85. It's the centerpiece of a new movie producing venture there, and may be the forerunner of a major film-making venture for Gwinnett County. (Credit: @creepypuppet)
What’s this? It’s a “blue screen,” said to be the largest on the East Coast, used in producing movies and television shows, and it’s located in Gwinnett on property of the OFS Site at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85. It’s the centerpiece of a new movie producing venture there, and may be the forerunner of a major film-making venture for Gwinnett County. (Credit: @creepypuppet)

There’s more. The largest blue screen on the East Coast is now operational at the OFS site. That means that the film makers can project scenes from anywhere in the world onto the blue screen. Actors work in front of these images, and it appears that they are in Hong Kong, or Denver or any place needed for that movie. The blue screen is enormous, measuring more than 35 feet high.

Think of it another way: remember the old western movies, where even young theatre goers could tell that Tom Mix or Gene Autry were talking in front of a painted set in the background? Well, painted sets are old hat, plus being costly. Activity in front of blue screen projected sets look real to the audience. In addition, blue screens are far less costly than actual filming the scene in far-off locations.

Eventually it’s anticipated that the Gwinnett site for movie and TV filming will employ 7,000 people. It’s anticipated to be a $978 million development, mostly without government funding.

Already Georgia is becoming a bigger player in the movie business. For 2013, there are to be 33 feature films and television shows produced in Georgia, employing 30,000 people. This work is concentrated in Atlanta, with lots also in Savannah, but movies are being shot throughout the state.

This Thursday a new feature film shot entirely in Georgia is being released. It is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

For years, developers in Gwinnett have been eyeing the available land at the OFS site. Even the idea of a casino was floated for the site. Now nearly sneaking in quietly is this new wrinkle, a movie studio. This time, it looks like this will become a major long-term reality, creating lots of jobs, and a good use of the site.

Look to next spring or summer for a big announcement about this site, which will change Gwinnett forever. Who would have thought?

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This article originally appeared at Gwinnett Forum.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.