Crafting jobs for movie-TV studios
Pinewood sees need for college, career academy
When Pinewood Atlanta studios opens in January in rural central Fayette County, it will need qualified people to fill an employment gap.
That, according to Len Gough, an associate with the Pinewood development company, is exactly why the company needed to purchase Rivers Elementary School: to have a place where the filmmaking crafts can be taught. It is also why Gough is a believer in the need for a college and career academy in Fayette County.
Georgia has a deficiency when it comes to in-state production talent and currently has to import some employees from out-of-state, Gough told the Fayette College and Career Academy advisory board last week. There are about 1,600 specially-trained folks in the state who handle such work; but when Pinewood Atlanta opens the need will jump to 3,000.
It can take up to 2,500 folks to run the production of a blockbuster movie over six months, for example, Gough said.
“Frankly I don’t know what each and every one of them does, but that’s quite an impact for a county that only has about 100,000 people in total,” Gough said.
As an example, the filming of “The Hunger Games” movie recently needed 240 carpenters, 120 painters and more than 40 hairdressers, “and they ran out of labor,” Gough said.
There is a huge demand for cosmetology and production assistants, he added.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking as Pinewood plans for its first production to begin Jan. 15, he said. Thus, the plan for the company to ramp up its education program starting with the area of greatest need: the art department.
“We are going to start with what we call the art department,” Gough said. “... Electricity, air conditioning, plumbing, painting, welding, cosmetology and the culinary school.”
Ultimately the Pinewood school, with the assistance of a number of higher learning institutions, will train high school students as early as 10th grade, who will already have a job when they graduate, Gough said.
“We would give them the opportunity to be trained over three years and frankly go to work when they graduate from Fayette County or McIntosh, whatever the case may be,” Gough said.
“If they say ‘well, I like to blow stuff up,’” Gough said, there will be a training program for them in special effects. Moreover, the class would be taught by a two-time Academy Award-winning visiting professor (“Forrest Gump” and “Backdraft”) who just did the special effects for the latest Superman movie, the current summer blockbuster.
“That will be the case in each and every one of the disciplines that we bring to the program,” Gough said.
The situation is different for already-licensed electricians, who will be able to take training classes offered by Southern Crescent Technical College for say 7 to 10 weeks, ending the course with a special license to work on a movie set, Gough said.
“They are immediately employable,” Gough said, saying the same situation will apply to other disciplines such as those who are already licensed cosmetologists. In the film industry, cosmetologists average about $1,650 a week “and there is a demand,” Gough added.
In addition to Clayton State University being a large component, there will also be educational possibilities through Georgia Tech, the Savannah College of Art and Design, Gordon State College and more. Georgia Tech will be key because about 90 percent of moviemaking these days involves computers in some fashion, particularly in animation, Gough added. Tech and SCAD may not be on the Rivers site with classes, but they will be affiliated with Pinewood, Gough said.
Gough credited Janet Winkler of Clayton State University, who has been helping pull together educational components for Pinewood.