Jeff Stepakoff, the executive director of the Georgia Film Academy, spoke at the Buckhead Business Association’s luncheon on June 15 at the JW Marriott hotel.

The Buckhead Business Association at its a luncheon on June 15 honored community members and public safety organizations for their community service. The keynote speaker, Jeff Stepakoff, the executive director of the Georgia Film Academy, spoke about Georgia’s growing role in the film and television industry at the annual summer luncheon held at the JW Marriott hotel on Lenox Road in Buckhead.

The “Buckhead Public Safety Awards” were given to members of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.

The BBA honored Lt. Owen Jones of the Fire Rescue Department for his quick response and leadership during the March 30 I-85 fire and collapse. Jones’ team was the first to respond to the bridge fire and he quickly closed the bridge. The fire caused no injuries or fatalities.

Officer Leon Kipard of the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 2, which covers Buckhead, was honored for his arrests of criminals using fraudulent or stolen credit cards. Kipard chased a suspect, arrested him and later used documents found in his car to gather information and make further arrests. 

Capt. Daniel Cochran, the commander of community outreach at the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, was honored for leading programs geared toward youth to keep them from committing crimes. Cochran also began programs to teach safe bicycling and to teach safety skills to residents at senior living facilities.

Necia Kelleher, a real estate agent at Harry Norman Realtors, was given the Karl A. Bevins Service Award, an award named for a longtime BBA member and an Atlanta traffic engineer. Kelleher was given the award for her community service work, including work with the Atlanta Track Club and jogging around her neighborhood to raise money for various causes.

Stepakoff spoke on the growing television and film industries in Georgia and how the state needs to become a place where a movie can be produced from start to finish, not just filmed. Stepakoff credits Georgia’s varying environments, access to an international airport and, of course, the state tax credits for making the state desirable to the industry. 

“We need to take advantage of what’s happening now to build a legacy for our state,” Stepakoff said.

The Georgia Film Academy began in January 2015 with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s announcement of a film industry training program to ensure the state has the workforce to support the industry. Since that announcement, over 75 students have successfully gotten jobs in the Georgia film industry, Stepakoff said. 

Over 100,000 people are working in the industry in Georgia, Stepakoff said, and they make an average salary of $84,000.