Coming soon to a high school near you: The Georgia Film Academy

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Aldo Bacallao, a broadcast video teacher at North Springs Charter High School, and Allen Norwood, at teacher at Tri-Ciities High School's Department Mission: CTAE News The Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education Department, mount an 8x8 overhead into a large gobo head on a combo stand during their Georgia Film Academy training. Photo: Kyle Sudu

Film-friendly tax policies enacted in 2008 were key in luring hundreds of television and movie projects to our state every year since. Forward-thinking infrastructure like the Georgia Film Academy is meant to help Georgians prepare for jobs in the industry.

In January 2016, the film academy started certificate programs through partnerships with Clayton State University, Columbus State University and Gwinnett Technical College. That April, state and business leaders were on hand for the ceremonial ribbon cutting that officially christened the academy and its new teaching soundstage on the Pinewood Studios Atlanta campus in Fayette County.

A year later, executive director Jeff Stepakoff told us, more than 1,000 people had taken a course through the academy and more than 400 had completed an internship.

Next up: reaching out to high schools.

“Interest in film is rampant throughout the state,” he said. “We are addressing that at the college level but starting to get our heads around the high school level. We have 2 million high school students in our state. They’re making movies; they’re making them on their iPhones. Why are we not bringing them into the fold?”

That process has begun with a pilot program this summer, when nearly 30 high school film teachers from across the state spent 10 days at the Georgia Film Academy.

“They’ll go back and teach a standardized 9-week curriculum, using professional grade production equipment,” Stepakoff said. The academy is planning future sessions, and is pondering dual enrollment possibilities where students could take college-level courses while still in high school. It’s also looking at other college campuses to partner with.

“We’re very focused on making sure we work all over Georgia,” Stepakoff said. “The Georgia Film Academy is working to bring everyone together, building a permanent, sustainable business and creating jobs for Georgia.”

Wilkinson County (McIntyre) Middle School teacher Jan Kump, Fulton County teachers Allen Norwood and Aldo Bacallao and Kenneth Gibbs, Broadcast Video A/V Technology teacher at Stephenson High School in DeKalb County work on the frame for an 8×8 overhead during Georgia Film Academy training. Photo: Kyle Sudu

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