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Through a partnership with the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Athena Studios will include students within film and television production. The soundstage also holds potential for creating new local job opportunities in the film industry.

Athena Studios, the first soundstage in Athens, will partner with the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication to incorporate students within each stage of film and television production.

A ‘synergistic environment’

Jay Hamilton, the head of UGA’s entertainment and media studies department, hopes to begin collaborating with the soundstage in fall 2023 after its construction. Students majoring in EMST can gain first-hand experience at a commercial studio.

Although details of the partnership are still preliminary, Hamilton aims to integrate time at Athena Studios into upper-level EMST classes, specifically in directing and the production capstone.

“It’ll allow more advanced students to really stretch their legs a little bit better than they have been able to do so far in terms of shooting within a studio,” Hamilton said.

Two other advantages of partnering with the studio Hamilton identified included the opportunity to push students’ work to the next level through greater knowledge of the various ways to shoot short films and the ability for students to witness the production of major Hollywood films.

Joel Harber, the CEO of Athena Studios, explained the soundstage would not only collaborate with UGA’s EMST program, but also the Georgia Film Academy.

The Georgia Film Academy partners with the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia to offer courses that address the education needs of high demand careers in the creative and film industries, according to the Georgia Film Academy website.

Currently, the Georgia Film Academy provides courses at more than 20 institutions, including UGA, which offers a Georgia Film Academy certification. Harber said having UGA programs involved as well as GFA will make the soundstage a “synergistic environment.”

Expanding the job market

Though junior EMST major Sarah Sharp was aware Athena Studios was being built, she was excited to learn of the potential for hands-on experience, especially because of its convenient location.

“Right now, a lot of EMST students have to go on location [to film] and it’s really difficult and a lot of extra time,” Sharp said.

Both Hamilton and Harber agreed the collaboration could improve retention of UGA graduates in Athens. Students involved in Athena Studios in college may be able to transition into a full-time role after graduating.

“For students who are interested in working in the second stage, working on set and helping actually shoot the footage, Athena Studios will constitute another potential place for employment after they graduate,” Hamilton said.

Sharp originally intended to leave Athens for Los Angeles after graduation, but is interested to see how Athena Studios could potentially alter her post-grad plans if new job opportunities in the film industry result from the space.

“It would definitely be more difficult to stay in Athens without this new studio,” Sharp said. “I don’t want to go to LA if I don’t have to. I’d rather just stay [in Athens] where it’s a little bit more lowkey. [Athena Studios] has definitely made my wheels turn more.”

Alaina Booth, a senior EMST major, is one student already tapping into the creative potential the soundstage promises to bring to Athens. As a producer and videographer, Booth hopes to continue building on the local connections she has formed by partnering with Athena Studios to make her films a reality.

“Our city is crawling with interesting people doing interesting things with interesting IP – intellectual property,” Booth said. “It’s a producer’s market.”

Like Sharp, Booth also planned to move to Los Angeles after graduation. However, she believes the new soundstage will create a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd in a city on the brink of a creative revolution.

“Not many people care about film in Athens,” Booth said. “[But], I feel like there is more talk in the film industry [now in Athens] than there ever has been. That already is a step in the right direction.”

Harber further underscored the ability for Athena Studios to revolutionize not only student careers, but the entire economy and job market of Athens.

“Once we start having productions come to town, it creates a whole new economy,” Harber said. “It’s like you turn on a light switch. Not only does [Athena Studios] create a direct opportunity for people who want to be in this industry to work, it also creates an economic impact that in itself will generate more opportunities for anybody who wants to live in Athens.”

Booth noted the importance of giving back to the university and local community as a future UGA alumna, which will play into her choice to stay in Athens after graduation.

“I am a super nostalgic person,” Booth said. “I feel like I’m going to look back and tell the story of my career and be like, there was this tiny window of creative opportunity in Athens and I just happened to be there at the right time.”