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Behind the Scenes: Printed Graphics Create Movie Magic

Universal Production Services’ Sign & Fabrication Shop

Cereal boxes from the 1980s, newspapers from the 1910s, and a wooden saloon sign from the 1800s — each of these period pieces can instantly transport viewers to a specific time and place with just a glance.

Like costumes on actors in a production, printed materials play a crucial role in establishing the authenticity of the world being filmed. 

“About seven years ago, we started to field calls from equipment manufacturers that there was a growing interest in large format printers from Georgia’s growing film industry,” says Tom Grizzle, Wide Format Equipment Specialist at Mac Papers & Packaging, located in Douglas County. "This has been an exciting new sector for us, evolving into a significant portion of our business. Although things slowed down during COVID-19 and the actor strikes, the industry here in Georgia is now roaring back to life."

Mac Papers & Packaging

Mac Papers & Packaging is among the tens of thousands of businesses across the state that have discovered a new market in the film industry. A recent study by Olsberg•SPI, a 30-year-old London-based firm that has documented the film industry’s impact around the world, found that 67% of a production’s spending goes to a wide range of businesses beyond production-specific sectors.

In 2022 alone, productions spent $4.4 billion on goods and services throughout Georgia.

In film and TV production, time is money. Set designers often don’t have the luxury to hunt for original items. Instead, they use a clever shortcut to create movie magic: printed graphics that can transform anything from a box to a sign to a car.

Kurt Geoppinger oversees Universal Production Services’ Sign & Fabrication Shop, bringing decades of experience as a graphic designer in traditional printing to his role at Assembly Studios in Doraville. Now, he specializes in creating custom signs, props, and set dressings.

“We usually have just a few hours to turn something around, and we’re always up to the challenge,” says Kurt. “We’ll meet our customer’s deadline and we know we can depend on our local network of vendors to get the materials we need quickly.”

Sign supply materials can be delivered to Universal Production Services’ Sign & Fabrication Shop within a day, or even within hours from vendors such as Reece Supply, a family-owned business located nearby, and Mac Papers & Packaging, which operates a regional distribution center in Atlanta.

Universal Production Services’ Sign & Fabrication Shop

Back at Assembly Studios, once the materials are delivered, it’s the job of the Sign & Fabrication Shop’s team to turn a blank page into movie magic. Sean Norris often runs the CNC router, shaping wood into authentic signs from the past. Quaves McClenton uses his years of experience in printing and information technology to run the printers, tackling complex challenges to produce stunning results.

The partnership between local businesses and production companies fuels Georgia’s thriving film industry ecosystem.

“We understand this industry and we understand the pressure to meet production timelines,” says Dave Grabske, account manager at Mac Papers & Packaging. “Our account managers have a laser focus on getting their clients what they need and finding the right material for any application our clients throw their way.”

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