Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal wants to keep the Peach State on Hollywood's mind.
Deal and a coterie of film industry officials held a reception, called "Georgia Night in L.A." at the Sunset Tower Hollywood Thursday night for a group of studio executives and producers. The purpose was to thank them for their business -- and to keep it coming.
"We think it's a just good way for us to ... say thank you to the industry for their presence and their economic impact on our state and to get to know them on a personal basis," Deal said in an interview at the Sunset Tower Hollywood.
The outreach comes as Georgia is facing some fresh competition from California, which has beefed up its own film incentives.
California last year agreed to triple annual funding for the film and TV tax credit program to $330 million in the hopes of keeping more production from fleeing to places like Georgia. The new program, which provides tax credits up to 25%, kicked off this month when the California Film Commission accepted applications for TV projects.
Georgia has become a major film hub thanks to a generous film tax credit that allows filmmakers to offset as much as 30% of their qualified production expenses. Georgia's tax credit is still higher and more comprehensive than California's. For example, it allows producers to deduct the cost of actors' salaries, not just crew members'. Unlike California, Georgia also does not have a cap on how much money it allocates each year to the film industry.
Currently, nearly 40 film and TV projects are filming in Georgia, including AMC's hit series "The Walking Dead" and Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War," the "Divergent" sequel and the drug-trade movie "Mena," starring Tom Cruise.
Georgia also is building infrastructure to attract even more productions. Britain's Pinewood Studios, for example, has opened a sprawling studio complex outside of Atlanta that recently hosted Marvel's "Ant-Man."
During his meeting with studio executives, Deal touted Georgia's long-term commitment to the film industry at a time when other states, notably North Carolina, have rolled back their programs over questions about their effectiveness.
Some of Deal's Republican colleagues have been especially skeptical of the idea of giving handouts to Hollywood, but Deal said Georgia's program has brought undeniable economic benefits.
Georgia film industry officials say the film and TV industry now employs nearly 80,000 people and contributed $5 billion to the state's economy in the current fiscal year, up from $244 million a decade ago.
"Most people are convinced that it's a good investment for our state," Deal said. "It's good for Georgia and it's good for business."
Deal and state Film Director Lee Thomas also touted a new state program called the Georgia Film Academy to subsidize training for film crews. Funded through the state lottery, the program will work with technical schools to provide training and apprenticeships for aspiring crew members.
It was developed in response to a complaint from studios that Georgia had a shortage of qualified workers to support an expanding industry.
"We want to make sure we've got a steady supply of qualified people," Deal said.