The Duct Tape Degree—Free and Affordable Film Education in Atlanta
By: Anna Vecellio, Assistant Programmer
Not everyone can afford to spend the time and money necessary to get a degree - Bachelors, Masters, or otherwise. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the quest to hone your talents or even learn a new skill. More importantly, you don’t really need a fancy degree to learn everything you need to know about the film biz. There are countless resources your Atlanta Community has to offer. With a little elbow grease, some creativity, and bone-breaking dedication, you can wring a truly educational experience out of a hodge-podge of local events and programs without breaking the bank.
City of Atlanta Entertainment Training Partnership Program
First up on the list is one of Atlanta’s premiere programs. Arguably one of the most ambitious government programs aiming to beef up the film industry (after that miracle tax credit of course), the Mayor’s Office and WorkSource Atlanta have partnered with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local (IATSE) 479 to get metro-Atlantans working in the movies.
Let me start off by telling you what you want to know - THE PROGRAM IS FREE! Hoorah! It’s designed to help you and other applicants get experience working below-the-line so you can join the local talent pool that makes huge blockbusters like Marvel or the Hunger Games come back to Atlanta time and time again.
Anyone living in the city of Atlanta, who is over 18 and has a Georgia driver’s license is eligible to apply for the training program. If chosen, WorkSource Atlanta will pay the wages of the trainees during the 17-week program.
For more information on the program and how to apply check out the Mayor’s Office page!
For the aspiring writers in Atlanta, the absolute, hands down, no questions asked, best FREE resource is the mythical and infamous Screenwriting Group. Not only do they help you network with the writing community, but they also provide a place to learn about writing and get invaluable feedback on your own projects.
(Just know, they will tear your scripts apart. It’s their job, be happy. Enjoy the pain and grow better because of it.)
I’ve highlighted some of the local groups below, but with a little Google magic I’m sure you can find a group close to home.
Atlanta Screenwriters Group (Downtown)
Based in downtown, the group has been in existence since 1998. They meet the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month on the tenth floor of 25 Park Place, Atlanta.
- Southern Screenwriter’s Guild (Roswell)
This Facebook group runs workshops the first and fourth Tuesday of every month in a local pub.
- Atlanta Screenwriters Anonymous (Poncey Highlands)
A participatory, hands-on forum for screenwriters at all levels, from beginners to pros, to learn, network and support each other.
Shop around, attend multiple meetings, and find the group that works best for you. Or go to all of them, everyday, whatever floats your boat.
The Atlanta Film Society
**Forgive us the obvious self-plug, we do offer some pretty cool programs if we say so ourselves
(we do, they’re awesome, come to them, be our friends)
By far the best part is that our 3 monthly programs Eat Drink and B-Indie, CURRENTS, and New Mavericks are educational and FREE.
Eat Drink and B-Indie focuses on independent filmmaking in Atlanta through panels, workshops, and other networking/discussion based events. Previous topics include:
Development and the Writer's Room
Distribution Options for Indies
Roll the Tax Credits
Film Green, Save Green
Local Resource Round-up
Check out EDBI every 3rd Tuesday at Manuel’s Tavern*
CURRENTS is an event catering to high school students interested in filmmaking. This free monthly event is put on in partnership with re:imagine/ATL (more on them below). They cover a huge range of introductory topics all over the metro-atlanta area. Previous topics include:
Video Game Panel
Cameras 101 w/ Paras Chaudhari
Monster Makeup FX w/ Shane Morton
Beltline Lantern Parade Prop Creation
Scoring & Sound Design
Just remember: this is for children! CHILDREN! (and chaperones, I guess). Keep your grubby middle aged hands away from the youth programs, alright? We got so much other stuff for y’all.
Check out Currents every 1st Tuesday* (locations vary) and visit re:imagine/ATL for more teen/youth film programs around Atlanta,
New Mavericks is a monthly event dedicated to the women working in Atlanta’s filmmaking Industry. Topics vary, but overall the events focus on education, screenings, and mixers for local industry members. Some previous educational topics include:
Filmmaker Labs & Fellowships
Assess to Impress (Constructive Feedback Panel)
Splice Girls (Editing Panel)
What’s your brand?
Check out New Mavericks every month (days and locations vary)*
Workshops and Classes:
ATLFS also offers a variety of workshops and classes throughout the year. Unfortunately… they are not free (people gotta eat man), but we promise the best bang for your buck in town.
Current Classes and Workshops you can still attend include:
The Producer Series (Producing Track)
3 classes dedicated to all producers do, from development to distribution.
The Producer Series (Budgeting Track)
3 classes dedicated to the monetary side of being a producer.
Post Production Workflow: "The Secret to an Outstanding Edit” Master Class
Intro to Film Business
How to be a Film Friendly Vendor
Subscribe to our newsletter for email updates on all our offerings here!
The PA Academy
Presented in partnership with GPP and ATLFS, The PA Academy is one of the most popular, most well reviewed jump-start programs around. If you want to get started in Atlanta, this is one of the best places to do it.
“This two day, bootcamp-style Production Assistant training workshop is perfect for those just starting their career as a PA as well as those looking to advance their knowledge of what it takes to succeed as an office or on-set production assistant working on commercials, industrials, music videos, independent films, television series and studio features.”
Let me tell you, Linda Burns (the host of the program) is a beast. She will break you down and mold you into an industry level PA. She may even make you cry. But if you can make it through the whole 2 days not only will you know what it’s like to work on REAL movie sets, but you’ll get access to one of the biggest networks of PAs in the city.
“Training includes but is not limited to:
Production terminology and paperwork
Film crew titles and job descriptions
Production Assistant duties and responsibilities
Set etiquette – Dos and Dont’s
How a typical day proceeds – from commercials and music videos to features and TV
Locking up the set, distribution, and petty cash
Walkie protocol, terminology and sign out
Setting up video village, extras holding, and supporting your AD team”
If you’re looking for a more in-depth dive into screenwriting (especially for beginners), Michael Lucker’s 2-day Screenwriter School is a GREAT option.
Full clarity, ATLFS works with Michael Lucker on a regular basis, but it’s that experience that makes us confident when we say that Screenwriter School is the perfect program for those looking for a crash course in how to write movies.
“A lot of screenwriting teachers claim to teach what you need to make it in the movie business – but how many of them have actually done it? Michael has penned more than thirty feature screenplays for studios such as Paramount, Disney, DreamWorks, Fox and Universal, including Vampire in Brooklyn, Home On the Range, Good Intentions, Mulan II and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which was nominated for an Academy Award as best animated feature. At Screenwriter School, Michael will teach you how to go from first idea to first sale – the way only an experienced screenwriter can do it.”
Women in Film & Television Atlanta (WIFTA)
Women In Film and Television Atlanta (WIFTA), a 501c-3 Georgia non-profit, is a member-based organization for creative media professionals. We are the second oldest Women In Film chapter worldwide. With a focus on driving the advancement of women in the TV / Film industry, WIFTA provides a dynamic network for facilitating the exchange of ideas, sharing opportunities and accelerating the professional development of our members.”
The group offers classes, screenings, and networking events that are open to the public (but reduced in price for members).
Some of their offerings have included:
Social Media and Branding Workshop
$75/year for membership + event costs
A local staple of the Atlanta Theater Community, The Alliance Theater offers a variety of film classes mostly focused on acting but with some additional writing courses as well.
If you want to get the commercial audition down pat so you can start making that green, this is a good place to start.
Colleges and educational institutions across the state offer education events, workshops, and classes. You may not be able to swing a full year’s tuition or commit to a whole degree, but don’t underestimate the value of interacting with these institutions as a non-student.
The Savannah College of Art and Design’s Atlanta Campus offers a variety of events throughout the year from screenings, to lectures, to workshops.
You can check out their website periodically to get to latest news on what they’re up to. And hey, if you’re thinking about the MFA future, hanging around SCAD might help you figure out exactly what you want from your future educational institution (or traumatize you with memories of all the times your dreamt of accidentally going to class naked, who knows).
Emory Continuing Education Program
It’s pretty pricy (like hella pricy, okay. It’s like a real private top-tier college what do you expect?), but the Emory Continuing Education Program is a great way to get experience working in a variety of film related fields like graphic design and Adobe Creative Cloud.
Not only will some of these programs help you make better movies (and I mean, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do here?), but they’ll also give you those 9-5 skills so you can make some money and be a slightly less hungry starving artist.
Other Online Resources:
GA Film Workshops and Classes The “Classes and Workshops” section of the Georgia State Website is a great resource for information on a variety of events. They had a stunt training course listed here once - STUNT TRAINING! Like who doesn’t want to one day be a stand in for Scarlett Johansson?
Eventbrite Similarly to georgia.org, Eventbrite has a page dedicated to film & media events in Atlanta. Check out this resource regularly for all the local events you could ask for (some free and others not)
Meetups Another great place to find local events, classes, and workshops is on meetup.com. This group based event hosting website will help you find a community you can grow and learn with.
Be warned, you are getting into the deep end of the internet here. Tread carefully and look out for trolls and scams. You will meet a lot of crazies, but that’s just part of our Atlanta charm y’all.
That’s all we’ve got on the education front for now. Check out our Facebook or newsletter to hear more about miscellaneous classes and workshops that pop up. Or if you know about any incredible programs, reach out and let us know.
In the meantime, stay safe kids! No running with scissors, wait 30 minutes to swim after eating. And don’t forget to get out there and start piecing together a film education for yourself. We’ll just be over here planning for the next Atlanta Film Festival and waiting for you to bring that fire film into the world so we can screen it!
Not every organization is education centric, but nearly every film entity in Georgia offers some kind of educational programming throughout the year. Check out the websites for the organizations below, even sign up for their mailing lists and social media to get keyed into the heart of independent film in Atlanta and make sure you catch the amazing events and workshops that might otherwise slip under your radar.
Other Film Festivals to check out in the area: