A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to have a conversation with DiAndria Green, esq. of Bennett Thrasher. DiAndria “Dee” Green, esq. is a Senior Manager in Bennett Thrasher’s State and Local (SALT) consulting practice, where she focuses on providing state income/franchise tax consulting, sales/use tax consulting and other state tax services to clients of varying sizes and legal entity types. In this role, she assists clients in reducing their tax liability and effective state tax rates. Additionally, Dee leads the SMART Compliance practice, which assists clients with meeting state sales tax software solutions.
While at Bennett Thrasher, DiAndria has also advised motion picture studios, television networks, independent film producers, and digital entertainment companies across the country, on how to pursue, utilize and monetize movie production incentives and film tax credits. Her work primarily consists of educating clients on the law surrounding available state film tax credits and the qualifications required in pursuing those credits. While assisting clients with claiming film tax credits, DiAndria has analyzed production expenses to determine qualifying expenditures, conducted due diligence reviews, and drafted due diligence reports that indicated relevant procedures and findings.
Atlanta Film and TV: We mentioned a little bit about who you were in your introduction, could you share more about who Diandria Green is?
DiAndria Green, esq.: “I’m an Army Brat, and that’s important and relevant because we moved here from Germany in 92. My dad’s last duty station was at Fort McPherson, now Tyler Perry Studios. That’s great history for me. And the connection of being an Army Brat and why we moved to Atlanta. My love for the Entertainment Business grew from attending Tri-Cities High School, a performing arts high school, in Atlanta, Georgia. Tri-Cities has produced the likes of Big Boi, Andre 3000, Kandi Burrus, Myesha McQueen - so many great, talented artists. My love for entertainment grew when I was in the singing and performing arts program. Initially, I wanted to be an Entertainment Attorney, but now I am an Entertainment Tax Lawyer. My love grew from the rich history in Atlanta. I am proud to be an Atlantan, and I have been here since 92. Atlanta is home, and I love the scene we have here.
I went to undergrad at the best HBCU, with the baddest band in the land, on the highest of the seven hills in Tallahassee, FL - Florida A&M. I got my law degree from Thurgood Marshall - another great HBCU. I received my second law degree, specializing in tax, from Boston University.”
Atlanta Film and TV: You are a Senior Manager in Bennett Thrasher’s State and Local consulting practice. Talk to us about how you began advising motion picture studios, television networks, independent film producers and digital entertainment companies.
DiAndria Green, esq.: “One of my leading partners, Peter Stathopolous, built this Entertainment Practice when film in Atlanta was taking off. And when nobody thought it would be a booming film economy and a film tax credit. Peter was a Real Estate Lawyer doing other things. I had a sorority sister, who knew I had moved back home to Atlanta from DC, and I was doing Mergers and Acquisitions. She said I know you want to come home. I’m moving on to (at the time) Viacom. And, she asked if ‘I would like to try for her job?’ And, I said, ‘Uh – Sure! I don’t know much about Film Tax Credit. But why not?’ I jumped in there with Peter and started learning everything there is to know about Film Tax Credit. I started seeing all the motion pictures filmed. I went to the Capitol and read the legislation. I got involved in all of the organizations, and that’s where I started from where Peter left off. I was exposed to the clientele he had. Being in the right rooms and meeting the right people. That’s how I started advising studios. At Bennett Thrasher, we work with most, if not all Motion Picture Studios across the country.”
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you talk to us about what you do when you advise motion picture studios, television networks, independent film producers, and digital entertainment companies?
DiAndria Green, esq.: “What Bennett Thrasher does is audit the expenditures for Motion Picture Studios and Productions to make sure they can get the state tax credit. Bennett Thrasher is one of six authorized firms to audit those expenditures. What that means is, we look at the expenses to make sure they meet the qualifications to get the credit. Just because someone spends five-hundred thousand dollars and feels like they should get the credit, they need someone to analyze to make sure that for one, it stimulates Georgia’s economy. And that they are Georgia's approved expenses. For instance, if you’re filming in Georgia, Hawaii, and New York, and someone submits a plane ticket from that whole trip, the expenses related to the flight from Hawaii and New York, are not going to count. The Georgia flight will only count. We analyze things like that to make sure those expenses are accurate and that you have reached the five-hundred-dollar threshold, and all your expenses will qualify.”
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you talk to us about the new requirements regarding Georgia film tax credits, mandatory audits?
DiAndria Green, esq.: "The threshold of things of that nature has stayed the same. Georgia has recently made it mandatory that you have to be audited either by the state of Georgia or by one of six qualifying accounting firms who are auditors. Bennett Thrasher is one of those six firms, and there are only two Georgia-based firms - and we’re one of those two firms.”
Atlanta Film and TV: How and when will the mandatory audits affect independent film and TV producers?
DiAndria Green, esq.: "Mandatory audits for independent film and TV producers have already gone into effect before January 1st, 2021. If you had your application in before that then you are good. For companies that have a certain amount of money and a certain amount of credits that they’re trying to go after those audits were effective January 1st, 2021. But, with new legislation, it takes time to roll it out. And I imagine they give you grace periods for people to get caught up. While the production studios are trying to keep up with those requirements, the state is also. The state is saying ‘Okay. We wrote this legislation, but how does it work?’ It takes a while for people to understand the requirements. And how they are going into play by going from paper to how do we do this? So there is patience with the auditors and with the state too.”
Atlanta Film and TV: How has COVID impacted what you do as far as advising?
DiAndria Green, esq.: “At first, when it came to filming when everything was shut down it was a big scare for a lot of people. Fortunately, Georgia was one of the first states that successfully opened back up for COVID, which is why you’ve seen another big boom here in Georgia. Other states like New York still weren’t fully open because they had large cases of COVID. Georgia is a state that has safely opened its doors to allow filming. During COVID, we were still able to advise our clients via ZOOM. But, the filming decreased, so they had to get creative with how they filmed, but were still making some expenses. And, we can still advise people on that. It was alarming and scary for a lot of us. We thought, ‘is filming not going to happen anymore? How do they do filming?’ But we’re back in business with filming. And, I am happy that Georgia is one of the first states to fully open back up safely.”
Atlanta Film and TV: Talk to us about the music tax credits.
DiAndra Green, esq.: “I serve as a board member for The Georgia Music Partners, and we are losing a lot of our homegrown artists. Many of our homegrown artists are going to Nashville, New York, and California. But, Atlanta is the hub not just for film but for music. Trisha Yearwood, REM, Outkast, Goodie Mob. The list goes on and on about who is from Atlanta, and we want to keep those people. The music tax credit imitates the film tax credit, and we have been working hard in legislation to pass a credit, where if you are spending money here, we will give you a credit. This went into effect on January 1st, 2018, and it is a fifteen percent credit. Whereas, the film tax credit is up to thirty percent credit, and the music credit is up to twenty percent. Initially, it’s fifteen percent. But if you’re in an under-represented, underserved community, then you can get twenty percent. There are different thresholds. For a theatrical production, or a touring event, you have to spend two-hundred-fifty thousand dollars in the state, and that tour has to start here in Georgia. Let’s say TI is going on the road, and he’s going on tour. To get the credit for the tour he would have to have his first show here in Atlanta, and he’d have to have a certain number of development and rehearsals here. For other productions (if you write music for film or tv) you have to spend one-hundred thousand dollars.
Right now, the only downside to the music tax credit is it’s not transferable. However, the film tax credit is transferable. Let’s say I’m Disney, and I got a credit back of two-million dollars, and I only needed one million for my income tax liability. I can sell that other one million to another studio, a wealthy individual, or whoever wants to buy it. That’s the good thing about transferability. Not only do you get to use it on your income tax, but you also get to make money. The music tax credit (which we’re working diligently on making transferable) because someone with Georgia income tax, and Georgia withholdings, can take advantage of it. We’re trying to make the music tax credit as robust as the film tax credit. Let’s say I want Beyonce to take advantage of this. But, Beyonce, who doesn’t have Georgia income tax or withholdings, can’t."
"I am encouraging Georgia artists to take advantage of this credit. Some people don’t know about it, and we’re trying to get the word out about it so that people can take advantage of it. If we start with our Georgia folks, they’ll start spreading the word, and then you’ll start seeing the boom in the Georgia music industry.”
- Diandria "Dee" Green, esq.
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you discuss how the eSports industry growth is impacting Georgia’s entertainment landscape.
DiAndria Green, esq.: “Bennett Thrasher is looking to expand into eSports because it is a booming industry. For the first time, eSports was in the Virtual Olympics. Some colleges have majors and degrees in eSports and is heavily changing our landscape. Georgia has several professional gaming teams. Georgia State has a robust program, and there are tournaments everywhere! Kids are playing games all day and making tons of money. So, they need us to consult because young kids are making money. They have to pay taxes off that money! ESports is a billion-dollar industry that is going to keep growing. You have women getting involved. There is a young lady named Keisha Walker, who has an organization that is dedicated to HBCUs and people of color that are in gaming. ESports is booming all around, and Bennett Thrasher wants to be a part of that growth.”
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you share with us a piece of advice for someone wanting to pursue your same career path?
“Stay hungry, get knowledge. There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that says, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”
- Diandria "Dee" Green, esq.
DiAndria Green, esq.: "Always be eager to get knowledge and learn. Apply the knowledge you learn and be sure to network. I tell young people all the time that there’s a lost art in networking. But, how many doors have been opened for people not based on your smarts but what’s on your resume? But, because you spoke with someone who may mention your name to someone else. Get in front of people. Pick up the phone. Talk to people, shake hands, and attend conferences. Put yourself out there, and once you do that, have the knowledge to share why you have a seat at the table!”
Atlanta Film and TV: How can people connect with you?