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Pearson: Learn how to become vendor to growing film industry

If you’ve ever lingered at the close of a movie to watch the credits, you may have noticed a Georgia peach embedded at the end. The presence of that logo has grown to represent over $7 billion of economic impact in Georgia for the fiscal year 2016 alone.

Georgia currently ranks third behind Louisiana and California in U.S. feature film production. Production investments in the state’s entertainment industry has grown from a direct spend of $526.1 million in 2008 to $2.02 billion in 2016.

This upward trend is not only good news for the state’s 30,000 working production professionals, but also for Georgia’s small businesses.

When television networks, film studios and independent production companies spend money in Georgia, it includes the purchase of support services and goods that make production possible. But, gaining access to business opportunities in the “Hollywood of the South” requires competence and engagement with the community behind-the-scenes. You will need to get your business “camera-ready” by aligning operations with these five best practices: Be Legit. You must operate as a legal business entity and have the necessary licenses, tax identification numbers, permits and commercial insurance to do so. You can also bolster your credibility with a professional website and social media presence.

Get Listed. There are several websites that you should visit to register as a vendor. The Georgia film office maintains the Reel-Crew online directory. The Savannah Film office maintains the Savannah Crew and Services Directory which is a database for local vendors. There is also the Georgia Film and Television Sourcebook published by Oz Publishing.

Connect with the Community of Practice. Relationship building is important. Costly mistakes can bring operations to a screeching halt so decision makers tend to stick with what (and who) they know. Gaining entry into this market is easier if you take the time to get to know, or be known, by some “insiders.”

Attend industry events offered by the Georgia Production Partnership and local film festivals. Meetings, mixers and workshops are strategic ways that you can find common ground with industry professionals and get to know them.

Get on the radar of line producers, unit production managers and department heads that are responsible for “below-the-line” expenditures.

Leverage social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to build industry relationships.

Adopt critical success factors, production etiquette.

• Speed, agility and flexibility are vital. Assign one point of contact in your business to handle all production inquiries and build industry relationships.

• If you are in a production zone, be aware of crew needs like barricades, portable structure rentals, food delivery and transportation.

• Don’t be star-struck and make celebrities feel uncomfortable. Be respectful and ask for permission before requesting photographs and autographs. Remember that these are professionals who are working.

• Understand that professionalism and relationships are non-negotiable. If you build a great relationship, word-of-mouth will spread and doors will open.

Work with purchase orders. Production companies handle purchase and rentals with purchase orders. Submit invoices immediately and make sure you get paid before a production wraps or its local office closes. Otherwise, you will have to search for post-production contact information.

The key to seizing opportunities is recognizing them when they appear and this is a great time to have an entertainment-adjacent business in Georgia.

If you are interested in capitalizing on these opportunities, plan to attend the “Becoming a Camera Ready Vendor” class on March 3 that is being sponsored by the Savannah Film Office and the Savannah Economic Development Authority.

For more information, contact either organization or the UGA Small Business Development Center at 912-651-3200.

Judiffier Pearson is a business consultant at the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center at Clayton State University. Contact her at jpearson@georgiasbdc.org.

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