In fall 2007, Ben White 08C was a few months away from earning his bachelor’s degree in film studies at Emory, but something was missing. He enjoyed studying world cinema and its themes and genres, but what he really wanted to learn was how films are made — and, by extension, how could he get into the movie business?
During his senior year, the Department of Film and Media Studies offered its first filmmaking course. It was an introductory, 101-style look into the basics of what happens on a film set, and it helped confirm White’s desire to go Hollywood — literally. That next spring, he and 10 of his classmates decided to move out to Los Angeles after graduation in order to break into movies and TV.
Four years later, with dozens of screen credits on his resume as an assistant director and crew member — including several feature films with budgets in the tens of millions — White, a Seattle native, decided to pursue his career back in Atlanta. That’s partly because he developed a liking for the city during college, but also because, thanks to Georgia’s film-production tax credits and the ongoing construction of new TV and movie studios, this is where the work is.
With metro Atlanta now the third-busiest production location in the country behind L.A. and New York, White is among a growing number of Emory alumni working in the industry locally.
Set against the leafy, green backdrop of the state’s 30 percent tax break, nearly 250 films and TV projects were shot last year in Georgia, double that of about five years ago, according to the state Department of Economic Development. Included in that tally are some of the most complex and expensive productions around, such as Marvel’s "Captain America: Civil War" and upcoming entries in its "Spiderman" and "Avengers" franchises, as well as top-rated TV shows like "The Walking Dead."
Back at the ranch, Emory’s film studies program has added a number of production classes to its curriculum, as recent graduates and some from decades past continue to be lured by the energy, excitement and exploding career opportunities of the so-called Hollywood of the South.