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WHAT MAKES ATLANTA A GOOD FIT FOR FILM? There’s infrastructure here. Now we have studio space. We have rental equipment. We have amazing Southern hospitality when it comes to shooting on location. It’s really easy to get almost anything you need location-wise. And there are a lot of strong actors here now, too. There are acting schools and casting directors. Anything you need is available, and it wasn’t like that 10 years ago. But it is now, so no matter what happens in terms of politics, the infrastructure’s here, money talks, and I think there’s always going to be work.

STORY: Michael Jacobs
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna

Jason Lockhart tasted success as an actor, from a childhood playing the Tin Man in his Ohio hometown to roles in TV series and films in Los Angeles. He dabbled in writing and directing. And he came to a shocking realization. “I was terrible,” says Lockhart. “So I said, OK, what can I do where I’m not going to suck?” He became an agent. “I’d worn all these other hats,” he says. “I lost my ego, and when I was 28, I just started to help other people.” Now 39, the UNLV graduate moved from L.A. to Buckhead in 2017 to lead the film and television department at the 60-year-old agency Atlanta Models & Talent. Owner Sarah Carpenter says Lockhart has quadrupled the agency’s film and TV bookings even while paring the acting roster by 40%.

What about the film industry has kept you hooked since childhood?

I think everybody has something that they gravitate toward. When I was 4, instead of watching cartoons, I was watching Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller to hear John Landis interviews and see how they put that music video together. I was just really intrigued by cinema, and I always wanted to be on camera. My parents were really supportive of everything my sister and I wanted to do. Now my little nephew, who just turned 7, he’s got a great role opposite Tom Hanks in the new Mr. Rogers movie because his Uncle Jason got him the audition.

How did you become an agent?

There was an agency looking to hire an assistant. I was like, “Look, I’m a straight-A student. I was president of my fraternity in college. I know nothing about this, but I’ll bring a pizza to the job interview.” I show up with a thin-crust veggie from Domino’s. I guess it worked.

What do you do as an agent?

I hustle 24/7 for an existing roster of upwards of 500 clients to secure them opportunities to get paid to act on film and on television. I never just submit the actor; I pitch the actor: “This person is perfect because they’ve worked with this producer, they’ve been on this network, they’ve got three credits playing a similar role.” I’m throwing darts, and I’m aiming for the bull’s-eye every time.

What kind of productions are you booking?

My goal is the biggest-paying jobs and the recurring roles that generally have residual income. There are a lot of good agencies in town, a lot of good actors in town that we don’t rep, but it’s not as competitive as it was in L.A. It’s very supportive.

Is that because there’s a better balance between opportunities and actors?

That’s part of it. I think there’s also a better quality of life here, so people are genuinely happier. I’m genuinely a happy guy. I think that positivity has an effect on everyone around us, and it’s felt by many, whereas in L.A., there’s kind of a 1% who are successful and a 99% who are struggling.

How often do your actors decide they’re ready for Los Angeles?

I’ve seen some actors do that and then come back with their tail between their legs. They were having so much success here, but then they go out there and they’re suddenly faced with 95% more competition. Here, they’re getting 10 auditions a week. There, they get one a month. If you’re chasing fame, go to L.A. If you’re making money here, why leave?

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