Film Athens describes itself as a non-profit organization that serves and educates the film community and fosters the growth of the film industry in Northeast Georgia. They promote, produce, and educate the community of Northeast Georgia in all things film.
“Our mission has been the same since the beginning, and now it is actually possible with the tax incentives for the state. The Governor is now doing specific press conferences about filmmaking in Georgia. It is very exciting for us and is a big step forward,” said Executive Director Danielle Rusk.
The tax incentive Rusk refers to is a Georgia incentive for production crews to work in Georgia. It has been very successful in bringing film to Georgia as well as public attention to the region.
Chris Hines, a board member for Film Athens, also shares Rusk’s excitement.
“It’s great to see people who have never met each other at one of our events start to work together,” he said. “We have seen some great things from really creative people and it is really exciting for all of us.”
Film Athens’ roots come from a unique love for film that is inherent among the founders as well as everyone involved.
“I grew up watching a lot of Monty Python and I wanted to be an actress when I was little. I even used to do May West impersonations,” Rusk said. “I used to just watch black and white movies and kung-fu movies all the time, she said. Humphrey Bogart and Carey Grant were my favorites. Also Lauren Bacall. I even force my kids to watch them now that I am a parent.”
In many ways, Film Athens was a product of the remnants of older Athens film communities. Rusk started getting into the Athens film scene by becoming involved with Athens Film Festival.
“The festival dissolved pretty much after the first one I was a part of, but it was great experience helping organize it,” she said.
With that experience she was able to get a job as an extras coordinator for a film called “Say Yes Quickly.” It was done by one of the producers of the cult classic horror film The Blair Witch Project. These experiences, along with the network of people she met along the way, paved the way for Film Athens’ inception.
University of Georgia student Shelby Eggers, who is an intern of Film Athens, commented on Rusk’s career as well as her own aspirations describing film as a difficult career path to Rusk.
“It is cool to think that, especially now in Georgia, that is now possible to get into the industry. I think Film Athens is a great opportunity for that,” said Eggers.
Regarding the future of the Georgian film scene, Film Athens has great expectations for their growth and the overall recognition of Georgia as a center for film. Rusk cited the AMC’s survival horror series “The Walking Dead” as a start in upward momentum for Georgia film and television production as well being a catalyst for outside interest in Film Athens.
“I love The Walking Dead, and not just for its impact on production in Georgia. I read the comics before it was a show. I think the tax incentive was the spark that lit that fire,” said Rusk. “The whole world knows about Georgia because of The Walking Dead. As far as numbers, it is showing the value of film to tourism, especially in the little town of Senoia which has seen a great increase in tourism due to show. It has brought nothing but great things to Georgia. That is really all this is about. Bringing great things to Georgia.”