The Many Names of the Booming Entertainment Destination: Atlanta, Georgia
The Many Names of the Booming Entertainment Destination: Atlanta, Georgia
A high school visit with my mother to Spelman College, a Historically Black College (HBCU) and part of the Atlanta University Center (AUC), was what brought me to Atlanta, Georgia, for the first time. We flew in from my hometown of Philadelphia, aka the “City of Brotherly Love,” and immediately realized we had left the old world behind. Is that a SUBWAY… in the AIRPORT? Are you kidding me?? This is awesome! I felt like an extra on Battlestar Galactica or Logan’s Run (look it up.) The campus was filled with stylish young, Black academics, driving fancy cars… Black women everywhere running everything. Definitely a different world than where I came from. It was confirmed - I found my new college. I had no idea I had just found my new home.
Whether it be for the weather, the thriving food scene, or because Ludacris & JD ever so cordially welcomed them, people are moving to the city known widely by its airport code or by just one letter en masse, making it the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Atlanta, Georgia, aka “The ATL,” “The A,” “Atlanna,” “A-Town,” never-ever “Hot ‘lanta,” has people settling in for reasons as numerous as its many monikers. But what makes it an attractive option for people, specifically in the film & television industry?
Let's play the "Name Game" to see all the reasons Atlanta has become a great place to build an entertainment career...
Georgia has been named the #1 city to do business in for several years in a row. It is home to eighteen Fortune 500 companies and thirty-four Fortune 1000 companies, all lured here via considerable incentives and state tax credits offered by the state of Georgia. But business owners didn’t come here to get their fill of sweet tea & red velvet cake, they came here to make money, and to do that, they need people. Metro Atlanta has the second highest rate of job growth in the nation among large metro areas at 6.7%, there’s no shortage of entry-level or corporate positions. Film productions can be so demanding of our time, yet, many of us still need to supplement our inconsistent, unpredictable income. With a stable job market, it is easier to find a variety of employment options in Atlanta. This is doubly good if anyone else in your household is also in need of a J-O-B.
Georgia’s shrewd business tactics don’t just benefit large corporations - 33% percent of jobs in Atlanta are generated from startups. Maybe it’s time to level up that side hustle or create an entirely new stream of income.
- Metro Atlanta ranks #5, and Georgia ranks #2 in growth of women-owned businesses
- Georgia ranks #2 in the U.S. for the highest number of Black-owned businesses
- Latinx-owned businesses grew by 34%2 – faster than any other ethnic group
- Georgia has the 3rd most veteran-owned businesses in the nation
Truth be told, I loathe these titles. Who wants to be known as a derivative of another city? We are ATLANTA, with our very own awesome attributes. However, the film industry has contributed $4.4 billion dollars and over 90,000 jobs to the local economy thanks to Georgia’s lucrative Film Tax Incentive. 32 feature films, 36 independent films, 269 television and episodic productions, 42 commercials, and 33 music videos all shot in Georgia in 2021-2022. Even one of my day jobs, Stranger Things, spent over $190 million locally while filming season four, a small part of which went to yours truly, Mrs. Sinclair.
It isn’t just film & television making a splash. Another big contributor, the gaming industry employs thousands of Georgians, a number that continues to grow especially as esports & virtual reality production takes off. Atlanta is set to become the next digital entertainment design and development hub.
For many years, Georgia was the big city people moved to from smaller markets, usually around the South/Southeast. It was generally a higher cost of living, but still manageable. Post-pandemic, outside investors jacking up housing prices coupled with the rapid population growth put Atlanta in second place for the highest rate of inflation in the country, making the decision to move more difficult. While higher than before, living expenses still pale in comparison to those coming from traditional film markets. The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Atlanta is about $1,758 compared to $2500 in Los Angeles, $3500 in New York, $2,200 in Chicago, and $2,300 in Miami
“UnOfficial Capital of the South,” ”Black/Black Gay Mecca,” “LGBT Capital of the South,” “Wakanda” (maybe, one day, “Talokan??”)
Obviously, Atlanta is often referred to as Wakanda because it is where both movies were filmed, but also due to its high African American population. It is not just a place where African Americans live, though, it’s where they thrive, right along with other People of Color, women, and many other marginalized groups, which keeps folks flocking. As the current wave of immigration further changes the overall landscape of America, Atlanta’s population continues to diversify fully throughout the Metropolitan area and beyond.
- Atlanta is home to nearly 824,000 foreign-born residents
- Over 49% of all foreign-born residents in metro Atlanta identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx. In the past ten years, the Hispanic population increased by 31% while the Asian population increased by 55%
- There are over 125,000 American Muslims in Georgia, 100,000 in the metro Atlanta area, with over 80 mosques throughout the state
- Our LGBTQ community has had a vocal and active presence since the early 1950s. Georgia has the second-highest LGBTQ percentage in the South, with 4.5% identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. A first-ever full-time LGBTQ Affairs Coordinator was recently appointed to the city.
Whatever your perception is about politics in Georgia, understand it’s probably not the full story. Yes - “Atlanta is Blue” and “Georgia is Red,” but how Georgia operates regarding business is decidedly… “Purple.” The tax incentive that enabled Georgia’s dominance in the film industry has prospered because it has had support from both sides of the aisle. Georgia is too busy getting stuff done, the only color it sees is green. Of course, if the current political climate is a concern for you, take a closer look into what’s really going on. Local politics and the industry are intertwined in a way that is unique to the state.
While northern cities flourished in a post-Civil War industrial age fueled by immigrant labor, Atlanta was left to rebuild itself from the ashes left in Sherman’s wake, which is why it is forever linked to the mythical creature. While other older cities were thriving, Atlanta was rebuilding. Now that older cities are in need of major recalculations, Atlanta is on the rise. Many years ago, I heard someone describe Atlanta as a teenager in comparison to middle age/senior northern cities. Exactly. Though we are still experiencing some growing pains, the city has a long, prosperous future ahead with an overwhelming young populace.
- Atlanta was voted the #1 city for Gen Z or “Zoomers” and #2 city for Millennials
- The median age of metro area Latinos is 26, and Millennials account for more than 40% of Latinx entrepreneurs
- The average age of LGBTQ Georgians is 36.2 years old
- With 57 colleges and universities throughout the Metro region, including Georgia Tech, Emory University, Georgia State University (which boasts a state-of-the-art film & media facilities through their Creative Media Industries Institute CMII) as well notable HBCUs - Spelman College (my alma mater), Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and Morris Brown College, “new” young people are in constant supply.
- Apple and Southern Co. have invested $25 million to develop a technology and innovation hub for students at Atlanta University Center.
Once called Terminus, no, not because of my other day job, THE WALKING DEAD*,* because it marked the railroad station hub for several train lines. You could travel to pretty much anywhere from this location. As the city developed around the hub, the area became known for welcoming those traveling through the southeast, thusly called “The Gate City.”
Hartsfield-Jackson Airport now serves as not just a hub for the Southeast but is the busiest airport for passenger traffic in the world, offering nonstop service to more than 150 domestic and 70 international destinations and averaging 275,000 passengers a day. You can still get to wherever you want to go from Atlanta.
Much has changed since this former wide-eyed teenager first arrived on a plane from Philly. If you told me back then that a majority of film and television shows would be shot in the Peach State, I would never have believed it. Yet here we are. Atlanta is still on the course it set nearly two centuries ago; only the railways have been replaced by clogged highways. The city built to do business is doing what it has always done, yet in entirely new ways. Atlanta is a city where its past, present, and future are always present. People have arrived by train or plane for centuries with visions of a better life for their families, as can you. But before you decide to pack up, move with the masses and start saying “Y’all,” please know - WE FULL. Peace up, A-Town down.
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About the Author
I am a Philly born, Atlanta dweller who is an actor, writer, coach and mother to a budding filmmaker. I love being involved in the rise of the south as a bonafide player in the exponentially growing entertainment industry.