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Gwinnett Tech graduate Claire Dunlap works the camera during a sports segment for Warner Media. Through Gwinnett Tech and the Georgia Film Academy, Dunlap has since worked on numerous movies and television productions. 

Many works are art are not the result of one artist but the result of a group effort. Take movies for instance: Film can definitely be art, and the number of talented people it takes to create one movie can be substantial.

Georgia is now the third ranked state in the country for making filmed productions, and Gwinnett County is in the forefront of this booming industry with studio sound stages at OFS and Eagle Rock Studios. According to several weeks ago, Georgia had 75 projects over the next 18 months, needing 40,000 workers.

How Georgia and Gwinnett obtained this respected position owes much to having a trained labor force available in great numbers. Workers are trained for the movie industry by existing technical colleges throughout the state and the Georgia Film Academy, launched last year by the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia.

Gwinnett Tech students are already graduating and working on dozens of movie industry sets across the state.

Jeffrey Stepakoff, Executive Director of the Georgia Film Academy, explained the three reasons how Georgia facilitated this growth in the film industry. He said: “First, Georgia offered filmmakers a favorable tax credit. Second, the Atlanta airport made Georgia very accessible, and soon sound stages were being built all over the state. Then, there is the available work force educated by technical colleges throughout Georgia.”

The Georgia Film Academy is not a nonprofit.

“It uses the existing resources of the entire technical college system of Georgia,” Stepakoff said. “Instead of students registering at a film school, we make courses available at schools that already exist. We don’t teach film theory. Students learn the fundamentals to create films and are immediately hirable. This is a workforce driver. Students now have an immediate pathway to working in the film industry.”

Just ask two young women who recently graduated from Gwinnett Tech and are already working on movie sets in Georgia: Jayda Priester and Claire Dunlap.

“When I first enrolled in Georgia Film Academy, I had no film background whatsoever,” Dunlap said. “I thought getting to work with big names on big projects was so far-fetched, especially while living 40 minutes from Atlanta. But thanks to Georgia Film Academy and Gwinnett Tech, I was able to intern on my first film three months after graduating. Eventually, through hard work and amazing recommendations, my career started taking off.

“I’m proud to say that I’ve been able to work on projects for Universal Studios, Warner Media, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer and Tyler Perry Studios.”

Priester has had similar success. She has worked on the films “Favorite Son,” “Undercover Brother 2,” and numerous television shows.

Career options for this 18-hour certificate program include art department set dressing and props, hair/makeup/wardrobe, sound mixing and boom operator, camera operator and assistants, script supervision and much more.

For information about the Georgia Film Academy and available opportunities plus how to register for classes at Gwinnett Tech, visit

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@

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