Athena Studios donates space to Grady College, partners with Talking Dog

Athena Studios, a new $60 million sound stage development in Athens, Georgia, is set to have a huge impact not only on film production in Georgia but also on Grady College.

Specifically, the developer of Athena Studios, Reynolds Development, enlisted the help of Talking Dog Agency, a student-run advertising and public relations agency, to oversee its ground-breaking announcement and marketing efforts. A student-team handled all the announcement materials, media relations, graphics and photography when the studio broke ground on Nov. 16, 2021.

When the studio opens in 2022, it will also donate one of its studios for exclusive use to Grady students in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies for five years. The studio space will be a custom-built, 14,600-square-foot sound stage for film and television production. Features include a 28-foot ceiling and double-truck doors allowing for a vehicle as large as a semi-truck to deliver sets and equipment to the studio.

“When you talk about experiential learning, rarely do you gain access to a site that replicates the working environment of film and television professionals,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College. “This opens enormous possibilities for the Entertainment & Media Studies department, and we are grateful for this special opportunity given to our students by Athena Studios.”

The Athena Studios space will be used by undergraduate students and will complement the recent renovation of studio space on the first floor of Grady College designed for graduate students in the MFA in Film, Television and Digital Media program. The MFA students move their studies to Fayetteville, Georgia, and to Trilith and Georgia Film Academy studios during their second year of studies.

Having the accessibility from campus to a studio of this size will be a huge benefit to undergraduate students, as well as Georgia Film Academy, which is expected to use the space in partnership with Grady College.

Athena Studios is a partnership between Athens-based commercial real estate development and brokerage firm Reynolds Capital and local developer Tim Burgess.

Athens Studios Groundbreaking
Those breaking ground on the new Athena Studios project included (from left): Charles Davis, dean of Grady College; Lee Thomas (ABJ ’87), deputy commissioner of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development; John Raulet, vice president of Raulet Property Partners; Joel Harber, president of Reynolds Capital and CEO of Athena Studios; and Jeff Stepakoff, executive director of the Georgia Film Academy.

Once completed, the 45-acre campus located in Clarke County will feature more than 350,000 square feet of purpose-built space for film and television production providing multiple sound stages, support buildings, production offices and a state-of-the-art educational facility.

“Making sure we plan and deliver a best-in-class project has been a priority from the very beginning, and we are excited to be able to offer one of the best purpose-built soundstage campuses in Georgia utilizing the latest construction methods and technology,” said Joel Harber, president of Reynolds Capital and CEO of Athena Studios.

As a native Athenian and UGA alumnus with a successful track record in commercial real estate development, Harber wanted to help bring this industry to Athens, not just for one feature film but indefinitely.

“Watching such tremendous growth in the film industry in Georgia over the last eight years has been great, but we haven’t really seen productions filming in Athens. Not having a proper sound stage space has really kept our area from realizing its full potential,” Harber said. “By developing a first-class soundstage campus and providing educational space for the University of Georgia and the Georgia Film Academy, Athena Studios will not only help put Athens on the map for film and television production, but also help grow the talent ecosystem in Georgia in a great city near its flagship university.”

Often content is developed in Hollywood, filmed in Georgia, then shipped back to California for post-production work. Having both creators and the labor force required to produce content are key pieces of the puzzle.

“Athena Studios will not only provide a purpose-built film campus for productions to bring exciting new content to life, but it will also provide space to help educate and train the next generation of film professionals. Hopefully over time more components of the industry like development and post-production will grow in Georgia and Athens specifically making it more than just a great location to film,” Harber said.

Construction on the project started earlier this month and the first phase is scheduled for completion in November 2022.