The Oscars, Georgia, And Shay… They’re On Our State of Mind

Despite the controversy that is going around the golden statue, The Oscars always have our attention. Agreed? This year, to add to the glamour, glitz and youtube or Facebook videos by actors of today and of past, Georgia is on everyone’s mind.  The $6 billion film industry in Georgia just got another big boost, recently named best place to work as a filmmaker by moviemaker.com. That is always welcomed news to the sole woman (along with four men) who got tax incentives passed in 2008, propelling Georgia among the top three states in the US in film production, alongside California and New York.

Shay Bentley-Griffin has been instrumental in revitalizing the economy of Georgia. She’s also been a powerful representation of the female gender in an industry dominated by men. A widely respected powerhouse in the film industry, Shay has been an Emmy-nominated casting director since 1988, long before Georgia became Y’allywood. In fact, LA was calling, trying to lure her out west where the biz was booming, and where Shay was born. But she stayed. She took the more challenging path ; one that has played out like a good Hollywood drama.

Shay has cast more than 250 television and film projects since the late 80’s. In 2015 alone, directors Clint Eastwood, Jamie Foxx and Ang Lee called upon Shay to fill their films with talented locals.

A champion for the Atlanta acting community, Shay has made a sizeable contribution toward the recognition of local actors, launching innumerable careers through her company, The Chez Group. From Walton Goggins to “Rectify’s” Ray McKinnon and “Cougar Town’s” Dan Byrd to “Friday Night Light’s” Kyle Chandler and “Army Wives” Skyler Day. She also brings to Atlanta regular workshops and programs through Chez Studios, offering industry experts and insider information to aspiring actors, agents and casting directors.

Helping to create talent is what inspires Shay. “There is great joy in seeing something in a budding actor, finding the right role for them and watching them flourish,” says Bentley-Griffin. It is Shay’s innate skill as a storyteller that has likely helped her become the notable casting director she is today. Her gift is bringing the character on paper to life.

Next Chapter
Having grown up on the family farm in west Georgia as the fourth generation of the Bentley clan, Shay will tell you her first love is the land and the people who work it. Farming in the 21st century still has its share of challenges – – many Shay and her family have experienced first-hand.

The Land, a television drama co-written by Shay and film and television actor, producer, screenwriter and director Steve Coulter, is Shay’s story and her next chapter in the film industry. “The time is right to get on the production side of the business. Not only does the industry need creative, intelligent content, it needs more women in key roles.”

According to Celluloid Ceiling 2012 Report, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. Forbes 2013 list of the top ten highest paid actresses made a collective $181 million versus $465 million made by their male counterparts.

Shay is on a mission to not only get her show produced, but also help springboard other women and their projects to the top of the “yes” pile. Her goal is for Georgia to be film-friendly to women, so she’s gathered a group of “leading ladies” in all aspects of the business to achieve that aspiration.

“I’m very content with what we’ve accomplished for the state of Georgia and our local film community,” says Bentley-Griffin, “now it’s time to do the same for women, and I believe I’ll start with me.”

Photo by Christian Joudrey

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