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McAullife pushes Virginia film industry jobs

New program will invest in film training, boost statewide employment

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently announced a new initiative to train workers for jobs in the film industry. The seminar will take place at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond.

With this new initiative, which will offer workers both training and job opportunities, people with an interest will be able to get involved on film and television sets more quickly, said Mary Nelson, deputy director of the Virginia Film Office.

“The specific initiative that came to us from the governor is an entry level class to train production assistants in film production” Nelson said.

The state has been seeing an increase in companies and films wanting to produce content in the Commonwealth, but companies have had trouble finding qualified workers. Since 2010, film industry employment grew by 15.7 percent, meaning more people need to be trained to fill opening positions.

The General Assembly has offered financial support to the film industry, increasing the desirability of filming in Virginia. The local history in the state has attracted companies, Nelson said. This historical relevance gives Virginia an advantage not easily undercut by other states.

“We are a state that has wonderful historical resources, we have the architecture and the history to back up productions,” Nelson said.

The series “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” a show from television network AMC about a group of revolutionary spies, films in Richmond in order to capitalize on some of the natural history.

The state is set to make a large return on their investment with the Film Industry Training. Currently, for every dollar invested, $11.80 is returned to the economy, Nelson said.

At the University, there is currently no similar program for students interested in the technical aspects of film production. Though the University has produced many graduates working in front of the camera, such as Tina Fey, Benjamin McKenzie from “The O.C.” and Sarah Drew of “Grey’s Anatomy,” there is limited exposure for those behind the scenes.

“To be very honest, we are behind in this,” Drama Prof. Richard Warner said. “I think there is a big interest in the film industry, [however] we have little track record in placing people behind the camera.”

Warner said the Drama Department lacks sufficient funding to create a feeder program for those working behind the scenes specifically. Currently, there are no teachers or training programs here, though some exist at VCU.

“It has been a big dream of mine that could happen in the future and I hope that we are moving in that direction,” Warner said. “Unfortunately right now there is really no funding and no inclination by the University.”