The Springer Opera House is setting its sights on Hollywood.
The venerated local institution, known for its lush productions and popular theater academy, will now also serve as an "incubator" and educational hub to train the next generation of filmmakers in the Chattahoochee Valley, producing artistic director Paul Pierce announced Wednesday.
"Georgia's film industry is now a $9.5 billion business. That is wonderful because it means jobs for many thousands of Georgians. But Columbus is in a perfect position to seize some of that business," Pierce said.
"Already, Columbus has begun to catch this wave and new film industry enterprises are taking root as we speak. It all starts with storytelling - something that Southerners do well."
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Pierce said the nearly 150-year-old building would house a new film division dubbed the Springer Film Institute, which will launch in the spring with courses that "teach the fundamentals of creating original works of art in film."
The initiative, led by director Sara Lynn Herman and producer Jef Holbrook, will hold a series of six-week and four-week workshops covering topics like screenwriting, indy film-making, editing, screen acting, voice acting and cinematography.
One of the Springer's studios is even being converted into a sound stage, which Pierce said should be ready for classes and productions by late March.
"As with all Springer arts education, we firmly believe in teaching life skills through stage skills - or in this case, screen skills. Woven into the fabric of these film workshops is a culture of communication, collaboration and servant leadership," Pierce said.
"These may not be values that immediately come to mind when one thinks of the film industry, but we are, after all, Columbus, Georgia and that's just the way we do things here."
Pierce introduced the plan alongside a cast of local film professionals who are already involved in the industry, including three executives from Fun Academy Motion Pictures, an animation studio headquartered in Columbus which will release its first feature production in 2018.
Other guests included:
- Filmmaker Ty Manns,
- Artists Bo Bartlett and Betsy Eby
- Larry Dooly, acting dean of CSU's College of the Arts, which operates the Georgia Film Academy under the university's communication department.
- Jacy Jenkins, Stacy Cunningham and Cora King, founders of the Waydown Film Festival
- Peter Bowden, president of Visit Columbus Ga.
- Topher Payne, actor and Hollywood screenwriter
- Richard Baxter, with the Office of University Advancement at CSU
"As exciting as this is for all of us here at the Springer, I am confident that much bigger news is in store for Columbus in the near future," Pierce said. "You can just feel it. It's time for Columbus to tell its stories to the world."