Most are aware of the small town charm and historic significance that Savannah holds, but many may not realize that Georgia’s First City is also flourishing as one of the best cities for aspiring filmmakers.
At the start of 2017, MovieMaker Magazine named Savannah one of “The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker.” It not only garnered the number one spot for 2017, but in 2016 as well.
“It is an honor that, for the second year in a row, Savannah has been named, by MovieMaker Magazine, the number one best place to live and work for small cities and towns,” Executive Director Beth Nelson of the Savannah Area Film Office said. “It is an amazing testament to the growing entertainment production industry in our region.”
Considering the fact that Georgia has a 30 percent tax credit and filmmakers receive “an additional 10 percent local rebate for their projects, and even relocation incentives for crew,” according to Moviemaker.com, the sentiment is not all that surprising.
“Everyone I know from the film/TV business who first encounters Savannah—myself included—invariably utters the following words: ‘This place looks like a soundstage. This place looks like someone art-directed it! From the hanging moss to the squares to the cemeteries, to the historic buildings, it just screams SHOOT ME,’” Chair of the Savannah College of Art and Design Film and Television Program D.W. Moffett said. “Shoot in a good way, I mean! I am so excited to see what and who actually acts on these words because I guarantee one thing. They are coming.”
With over 40 films and a handful of TV series that have been shot in Savannah, the city is a hub for people try to break their way into the film industry. In 2015 alone the film industry in Georgia produced more than 250 films and television shows.
In 2016, The City of Savannah Film Office expanded and transformed into the Savannah Area Film Office equipped with a new website and a full staff to accommodate such growth. Even SCAD’s Film and Television program is expanding, with the recent addition of the Savannah Film Studios, a 22,000-square-foot facility with three sound stages, green rooms, lighting grids, postproduction suites, a multi-purpose recording booth that facilitates ADR and Foley recordings, screening rooms and production offices for SCAD’s film and television department.
And of course, the annual Savannah Film Festival, hosted by SCAD, brings big name actors, writers, directors and producers to Savannah every year and offers both students and local filmmakers alike a chance to connect with industry professionals, ask questions and be inspired by the artists’ award-winning work.
Past visitors and award winners at the Savannah Film Festival include Susanne De Passe, Malcolm McDowell, Hugh Dancy, Emmy Rossum, Liam Neeson, Sir Ian McKellen, James Marsden, Stan Lee, Abigail Breslin, Matt Bomer, Olivia Wilde and Meg Ryan. SCAD alumni have had their works featured in the film festival alongside international documentarians and big-budget, blockbuster films.
However, SCAD is not the only college educating individuals and growing the film industry. Through Savannah Technical College, the Georgia Film Academy recently established their fourth location in the state. In just two semesters students receive hands-on training and will learn on-set production skills so that they can navigate their way around a professional film set.
Equipment rental companies, such as Savannah Film Company and High Output, and studio spaces, such as the Savannah Film Factory and the recently opened River Oaks Film Studios, provide locations and resources for filmmakers, making their move-magic all the more possible.
Films that have been shot in the city include: “Last of the Belles” (1973), “The Longest Yard” (1973), “Gator” (1976), “The Lincoln Conspiracy” (1977), “The Double McGuffin” (1979), “Orphan Train” (1979), “City of the Living Dead” (1980), “East of Eden” (1980), “The Last Shark” (1981), “1969” (1988), “Glory” (1989), “Now and Then” (1994), “Forrest Gump” (1994), “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (1997), “Claudme’s Return” (1998), “The General’s Daughter” (1999), “Forces of Nature” (1999), “The Last Song” (2010), “The Conspirator” (2010) “CBGB” (2013), “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” (2015), “Magic Mike XXL” (2015), “Lizzie,” “The Divorce Party,” “In an LA Minute,” “Misfortune,” “Krystal” and “Mara” (2016), to name a few.