Georgia rose in 2016 to the No. 1 location in the nation for the production of feature films, in addition to being the home of dozens of TV series.
Amid all that entertainment activity, I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Rosenfelt, who heads the new Third Rail Studio in Doraville. Third Rail, on the site of the former General Motors plant, offers 60,000 square feet of purpose-built sound stages and 27,500 square feet of production offices.
Before Rosenfelt moved to Atlanta, he ran a studio in Los Angeles and produced films for such companies as Smokehouse Pictures, owned by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, and producer Akiva Goldsman’s Warner Bros.-based company. Now he’s the president of operations at Third Rail, a full-service production facility.
Rosenfelt’s job is mainly business development, which means speaking to studios about their projects in film and television to figure out what could come to Atlanta. He often travels to meet with officials at the likes of Marvel, Disney, Warner Bros., Netflix, Amazon and Sony to discuss what Third Rail can offer.
Rosenfelt also meets with legislators to talk about how Georgia’s tax incentives, which draw the TV and film productions, are working for the state, and he ensures that production clients are happy and that Third Rail exceeds their expectations.
A big part of life at the studio for Rosenfelt is community outreach. Third Rail aims to be a socially responsible company that connects with community organizations such as re:imagine/ATL, which helps high-schoolers become the next generation of storytellers, and I Care Atlanta, which provides groceries and equipment to families in need.
“Personally, to do any sort of service for the community is very important to me, and it’s important that the studio be connected to local communities in Doraville and Chamblee,” Rosenfelt said. “It’s a great opportunity to be part of this city, and we want to be part of the community, not just an anonymous place tucked away making movies and TV. Third Rail wants to connect and have a positive impact.”
Like most people in the entertainment industry, Rosenfelt fell in love with movies as a kid, then studied film and TV in college at Penn State.
“Stephen Spielberg’s ‘E.T.’ and being wrapped up in the fantastical world, coupled with the emotional story he told,” began Rosenfelt’s Hollywood inspiration. His other favorite directors include George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and John Hughes.
In addition to his desire to get a change of pace from the L.A. lifestyle and to be closer to his extended family along the East Coast, Rosenfelt said he was drawn to Doraville because “production in Atlanta has been booming, and I knew there would be an opportunity to work in a studio space that would be something vibrant.”
Rosenfelt said his Jewish heritage “plays a big role in how I grew up and the foundation of who I am.”
He was raised in Reform Judaism, went to a Jewish summer camp and was the BBYO president in Philadelphia. His family has enrolled with Jewish Kids Groups and joined the Marcus Jewish Community Center.
For fun, he enjoys reading, running and playing the original Pokémon card game with his kids.
His favorite snack when he goes to the movies is Buncha Crunch, but while he said nothing beats going to the theater for the experience, he acknowledged that it’s not the only way to see movies. He said the proliferating streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, are amazing, and any way people can and want to watch is great.
As for social media, Rosenfelt said they are great marketing tools, but in general they mystify him as places to watch or learn things.
When I asked about the review site Rotten Tomatoes, he said he takes the same approach as I do: “If I like who made a movie, the genre or who’s starring in it, it doesn’t affect me.”
People enter the film industry for many reasons, but Rosenfelt said he finds fulfillment in helping “push these massive art projects to the finish line.”
“Movies since their inception have been a part of our lives around the world,” he said. “Some see frivolous entertainment, but I think life isn’t easy, and movies can provide something great.”