ATLANTA – Although 20th Century Fox's summer comedy "The Internship" takes place at Google headquarters in California, a large part of the film was actually shot in Atlanta.
"We are the Hollywood of the South in a way because now we have the Hollywood infrastructure here," said Kris Bagwell, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Atlanta, where portions of "The Internship" were shot. "Before, we were just a nice place to shoot that had a tax credit."
Georgia offers tax breaks of up to 20 percent on in-state production expenditures, plus an additional 10 percent if the state's official promotional logo appears on screen.
Movie and other entertainment production companies say Georgia is among the most attractive of the 44 states that offer incentives. But critics of the tax breaks say they're an example of government picking winners and losers.
"States have been bidding against each other and bidding higher and higher exemptions, better and better deals for the film industry," said Christine Ries, an economist at Georgia Tech. "And if you imagine at some point all states offer exemptions, then where are we but back where we started."
But production spending in the Peach State more than doubled after the tax credit took effect in 2008, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Last year alone, more than 300 film and TV projects were produced in the state, creating 25,000 jobs, according to the department.
This spring, Pinewood Studios, home to the James Bond franchise, announced plans to build its first U.S. studios in suburban Atlanta. Other big industry names, including Tyler Perry and Panavision, have recently established or expanded operations in the state, contributing to the industry's estimated $3.1 billion impact on the Georgia economy.
"We have seen… hundreds of millions of dollars in capital investment, the kind of investment that stays here and is not transient in nature," said Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA). "So, it has had a huge economic impact, and with that comes jobs."
On the EUE/Screen Gems lot, John Weeks is designing sets for the USA Network TV series "Necessary Roughness." The North Carolina transplant says he moved to Georgia because of the quality of life.
"It's got affordable homes, got plenty of work," Weeks said. "That's a big thing, plenty of work right now. It's where we are light years ahead of L.A. -- we have plenty of work. We have more work than we can handle."