(13th October, 2010)
In 2009 the Alabama Legislature passed “Entertainment Industry Incentive Act of 2009.” This piece of legislation opened the doors of Alabama to film and television productions by offering them tax rebates on payroll and other production expenditures in an attempt to lure more productions to the state.
And while the tax incentives are right in line with what other states offer, Alabama was so far behind the 8-ball in film recruiting and production that we lacked one of the biggest resources needed to make a production work and that was a crew base.
This is where AIDT’s involvement begins. As Alabama’s Number One Incentive, AIDT was tasked with determining the feasibility of developing a crew base in Alabama. In May 2010, AIDT Executive Director Ed Castile put together an internal team to develop and implement a production crew-training program. What evolved from that team was EMP&CT or Entertainment Media Production and Crew Training.
The EMPACT program consists of two stages. The first is a 12-hour overview class that takes students through the basics of set construction, lighting and then production to give them an overview of some of the things they will be required to do if hired by a production. The goal of the classes, as with most AIDT training, is to provide students with as much simulated real-world experience as possible.
The first 12-hour overview class was held the week of September 20th at the Hyundai Training Center in Montgomery. With 15 students, some from as far as Huntsville in attendance, the class built “flats” or walls, constructed the “set.” Hung and focused the lighting and then finally were put through their paces on camera. At the conclusion of the classes, most if not all, really appreciated the hands-on aspect of the program and several asked to sign up for the longer classes.
The longer classes are the second stage of training that features more in-depth classes that focus entirely on set construction, lighting and production. These classes will begin to be offered to the public in January and will run about 7-weeks each. We’re currently working with Trenholm State Technical College in Montgomery to offer the long-form classes as certificate programs under their Radio TV Program which incidentally has been renamed the Entertainment Media Production program at the suggestion of Chancellor Hill.
Of course, the staple of AIDT training is to be able to go to an area, offer training on relatively short notice, to give a company a qualified pool of applicants from which to hire from. That’s the nice thing about the EMPACT program. It has been designed to be mobile and available for rapid deployment should a project announce in a certain area. “Within a matter of two or three days we can be set up and ready to train local people to give them the basic skills needed to work successfully on a film or television production.” says EMPACT team member Chris Roquemore. “In this industry, probably more so than others, timing is of the utmost importance.”
The question “Why are we doing this?” is one that is asked most frequently. AIDT Executive Director Ed Castile explains “The entertainment industry, just like any industry we have the opportunity to work with, will have a huge economic impact on Alabama and provide exceptional job opportunities for our citizens,” said Castile. “Our job is to provide an exceptional workforce training incentive program to help recruit them to Alabama and then deliver that program as we provide the trained workforce they need to succeed.”
So while there may not be a tangible product at the end of the day, work in the entertainment industry can be quite rewarding. From an estimated return on investment of up to $2.50 for every one dollar in tax incentives to hourly wages approaching $18 to $35 per hour, the entertainment production industry has the potential to make a serious “EMPACT” on Alabama’s economy.
For more information on EMPACT please visit our website empactalabama.org