Georgia-based filmmakers Vincent Vittorio and Nathaniel Thomas McGill run the production company Life Is My Movie Entertainment, which produces story-driven documentary films with a self-described mission to "connect people to the topics we bring to life through the stories we tell." Their 2011 documentary, An Inconvenient Tax, explored the history of income tax in America. Their new film American Made Movie examines the rise and fall of U.S. manufacturing, America's place in the global economy, and how some businesses are rekindling interest in domestic manufacturing by showing how to affordably and efficiently make products in the USA.
What drew you to the topic of manufacturing?
Vincent Vittorio: We both have family that worked in manufacturing. My grandfather, father, and uncles all worked for General Motors at the Lakewood and Doraville plants here in Georgia before they shut down. Our company brings important topics to life by covering political issues with a story driven focus. While researching a film about organic labeling, we were reminded of the "Made in The USA" labels, and we thought about changes in global manufacturing.
How do we avoid the pitfall of "Made in The USA" labels becoming the next "organic" — that is, something only the elite can truly afford?
Nathaniel Thomas McGill: People who care about what goes into their body pay more for the organic label. "Made In The USA" is different. Price is set by an item's market and quality. New Balance shoes don't cost more than a pair of Nikes. Consumers that care about supporting American workers are often willing to pay a little more for quality and the "Made In The USA" label. A few years ago, this was more of a concern than it is today. Shopping for our 1-year-old, we've learned that Babies "R" Us sells just as many American-made products and at the same cost.
VV: One big surprise is how competitively priced so many American manufactured goods are.
Your film celebrates Gwinnett County, which is actively recruiting international businesses to set up shop in the United States. Some fear a "race to the bottom" when it comes to tax incentives. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
VV: I think Kia coming into West Point, Georgia, offers the best example of the benefits of incentives. Are these manufacturing jobs the same as the union jobs my dad and grandfather had? No. We live in the world where a Korean manufacturer is making cars in Georgia. Times have changed. But look at West Point, Georgia before and after. There is no disputing that these jobs and the ancillary industries have improved the local economy.
"Life Is My Movie Entertainment" has offices in L.A. and Georgia. While documentaries are a far cry from the big budgets of Hollywood productions, has Georgia's tax incentive impacted your operations?
NM: Our company grew up in Georgia. Opening the L.A. office gets us closer to the heart of the industry. Hollywood is the culture creating capital of the world. The state's tax incentive is a great tool to bring filmmakers to our state for their productions whereas we are a production company who wants to deliver ideas to the world. Even though we are based in Georgia and do a lot of business here, when it comes to the tax incentive and our films' budgets, it's a non-issue. We are here because it's our home. That is enough for us, luckily there are many that also believe in our mission and more people are realizing its importance every day.
What are your thoughts on tax incentives like those that Georgia extends to productions to bring production to this state?
NM: Tax incentives certainly work for attracting productions into areas. Georgia has done a fantastic job in this area, and we only want to see more filmmaking in the region, because we want the state to be known as a culture creating capital, too. We also need to create a culture that finances and produces films out of this state.
What's the distribution plan for the film.
VV: We began with a 32-day, 32-city tour in towns with a direct connection to the film. We toured factories and met with local business leaders. The film is powerful, motivating, and inspires discussion — it really has to be seen in a community setting, with an audience. So far the response has been great and we have high hopes for movement toward a better America that will create sustainable manufacturing jobs.