Atlanta’s Incentive is Cultural Capital

By Christopher M. Cox, Jayson Quearry, and Ethan Tussey

When Georgia residents sit down to watch a television program or film shot in the state, they will likely recognize a familiar street corner or a local landmark.  As taxpayers, these residents have contributed not only to the state’s television and film tax incentive, creating a competitive advantage for productions to film in their community, but also in hopes of seeing that community displayed prominently.  Frequently, however, Georgia’s nuances get painted over so the state can stand-in for another setting.

Often, that erasure begins before the final product is ever released.  The trade coverage for two recent Georgia-based productions, FX’s Atlanta and Marvel Studios’ Captain America:  Civil War, exemplify the difference in how Georgia is represented to the public.

Drawing on 40 articles related to Atlanta and 131 articles related to Civil War, coverage discussing Atlanta or Georgia skews heavily towards Atlanta over Civil War.  Where Atlanta is said to present its titular city as a microcosm for the United States, a showcase for black life in the country, a mythical landscape, and a growing haven for creatives, Civil War was associated with franchise concerns, like inclusionary diversity, celebrity bodies, and interconnected narratives.

High-budget productions, like Civil War, are who the tax incentive intends to lure to Georgia’s borders, but those productions rarely create a connection between the location and the final product.  Locally nourished, regionally specific content, like Atlanta, prove to be the true fruit of the tax incentive, due to the focus projects of the sort place on the culture of the region.

The trade coverage infographic below is only the first stage in the Atlanta Media Project’s analysis of how Georgia’s tax incentive allows Atlanta’s cultural value to flourish versus mainstream projects.  Further information regarding labor, discourse, and the prestige of Atlanta will follow.