Mostly True
Motion Picture Association of America
The film and TV industry supports more than 24,000 direct jobs and pays local workers more than $1.68 billion in wages in Georgia.

Motion Picture Association of America on Monday, June 8th, 2015 in a press release

Federal data mostly back claim about movie and TV jobs

Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah starred in "Joyful Noise," one of the recent movies to be filmed in Georgia. Photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Georgia’s lucrative tax credits for movie and TV production generate more than just the chance to spot Betty White and Chris Evans noshing in restaurants around Atlanta.

The industry also supports more than 24,000 jobs and pays more than $1.68 billion in wages to those workers, according to a press release this week from the Motion Picture Association of America.

That’s the equivalent of the entire population of the city of Decatur working in an industry that in 2013 saw $261 million spent on location in shoots in Georgia, according to a 2013 report from a nonprofit that tracks English-language film production worldwide.

So, PolitiFact Georgia thought those numbers seemed high but plausible – especially if you count the hordes of zombies needed every week in "The Walking Dead." We decided to check it out.

First, it’s worth knowing that the MPAA released its data for Georgia and other states as part of a hard push of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), in which Congress defines negotiating priorities for trade agreements.

In this case, the Senate has approved but the House has yet to vote on providing "fast track" authority for President Obama to speed a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) through Congress.

In other words, the deal would expand trade and access for Atlanta’s zombies – not to mention "The Hunger Games" franchise and the Evans’ now-filming "Captain America: Civil War" – to much of the Asia-Pacific region, said MPAA spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield.

"The movies made in Georgia are reaching a global audience, and it’s important we can access those markets with as little friction as possible," Bedingfield said. "The jobs grown in Georgia are dependent on being able to market those products easily overseas."

Georgia has heavily incentivized the industry in recent years to lure projects. Production companies can earn a 20 percent income tax credit on in-state costs of projects worth at least $500,000.

Another 10 percent credit is given for using a Georgia logo in production credits.

The MPAA used the federal government’s own data, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, in calculating the total job and wage estimates.

The BLS data broad categories of motion pictures and broadcasting show an annual average of 20,869 employees and total annual wages of $1.55 billion in 2013.

But the MPAA drills down deeper into those broad categories and others, excluding the recording artists covered in the broad category but captures jobs from other categories – such as payroll workers and electricians – it can show work in the film or TV industry, said Julia Jenks, the vice president of research for the MPAA.

In some of those more specific groups, such as cable TV production, all of the jobs and pay count toward the MPAA tally.

Others, such as costume rental and wardrobe, are counted based on U.S. Census or research calculations that tell what proportion of those jobs work in the industry. The MPAA calls that its adjustment factor on the government figures.

"It’s our best estimate, and a very conservative estimate," Jenks said.

Using those parameters, the BLS counts 48,539 jobs but the MPAA tally for Georgia is 24,162:

Job Code

Description

BLS total

Adjustment

MPAA total

334614

Audio/Video Reproduction

152

68.7%

104

512110

Motion Picture Video & Production

3,864

100%

3,864

512120

Motion Picture & Video Distribution

22

100%

22

512191

Teleproduction, Other Post Production

148

42%

62

512199

Other Motion Picture & Video

59

100%

59

532220

Formal Wear/Costume Rental

623

3%

19

532490

Other Machinery Rental, Leasing

1,349

6%

81

541214

Payroll

15,739

30%

4,722

561311

Employment Placement

6,198

1%

62

711510

Independent artists, writers

1,291

23%

297

423990

Prerecorded Video Wholesale

1,738

12%

209

512131

Movie Theaters (except drive-ins)

3,348

100%

3,348

512132

Drive-in Theaters

45

100%

45

515120

Television Broadcasting

7,138

100%

7,138

515210

Cable & Subscription Programming

3,670

100%

3,670

519130

Internet Publishing & Broadcasting

2,778

3%

83

532230

Video & Disk Rental

377

100%

377

Using the BLS tables, PolitiFact Georgia was able to replicate all of the job figures, except in three categories.

The 2013 quarterly census shows 303 jobs in audio/video reproduction – exactly double the MPAA’s count.

And, the official BLS data does not have an annual average for jobs in the one category few think of as a movie industry gig: working in movie and drive-in theaters, economist Timothy Ewing said.

A nine-month average is available for those jobs, which have high turnover. But that means they are comparable to the yearly figures in other categories.

Ewing could not comment on the adjustments the MPAA made in categories, other than to note it would create more conservative estimates.

So, using the BLS-confirmed data, and the MPAA’s own adjustments, the total number of jobs drops to 20,873.

But the MPAA is conservative in other ways. It does not include at all freelance workers common in production, who provide contract work in, say, makeup or construction.

PolitiFact Georgia recently showed that Tyler Perry’s new studio planned for Fort McPherson will alone create between 2,000 to 6,000 of those jobs.

It is reasonable to think the MPAA could easily reach its 24,000 jobs figure if it counted contract work on the 23 movies or 39 TV series filmed in Georgia in 2013.

The question remains if those jobs, and their pay, are truly Georgia jobs. The state incentive allows movie companies to get credits on what they pay stars, and accountants, for the time they work in the state.

Our ruling

The MPAA released data this week to bolster its lobbying to fast-track a trade deal that would open more of Asia to its content.

It claimed the industry supported 24,000 direct jobs and paid workers more than $1.68 billion in the Peach State in 2013.

Federal data confirms nearly all of the job figures and payroll, many of which have been reduced from the official headcount.

The MPAA overreaches in deciding movie theater workers such as ushers are industry workers, versus retail employees. But those jobs would likely be outweighed by freelance workers on production sets, which the MPAA did not count in its tally.

We rate the group’s claim Mostly True.