by Mollee D. Harper, Senior Editor
In this two part interview, we talk with Savannah’s 2015 “Business Advocate of the Year” and business attorney Charles “Bo” J. Bowen. We go behind the scenes with Bowen for an in-depth look at Savannah’s booming entertainment industry. In part one, Bowen shares his background, how The Bowen Law Group is meeting the legal needs of Savannah’s entertainment industry, and his founding of the dynamic year-old Savannah Film Alliance.
Inspired by his great grandfather who built one of the most reputable law firms in Louisiana and took his oath of office in 1895, Bowen was sworn into office in 1995 after graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, exactly 100 years later. Bowen established his successful corporate law practice in Savannah, with a second office in Atlanta. The Bowen Law group provides legal services in commercial, banking, entertainment and manufacturing law. The firm represents both large corporations and small businesses in a wide variety of legal matters and handles all aspects of corporate representation from initial establishment to counseling and emergency litigation.
Bowen said, “I tried many areas of law including domestic, but they don’t always have happy endings, although some are possible. I found my niche in corporate law. Because of the relationships I’ve made with the people of Savannah, I am fortunate to be able to represent a lot of different folks in a lot of different business transactions, almost all with happy endings. My personal philosophy is this. Focus on getting better at what you do – Excellence. And second, use your skills to help others – Service. People are drawn to service oriented people.”
Bowen continued, “Savannah’s entertainment industry has had its moments in the spotlight, especially in the ‘90s with movies like ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ and’ Forest Gump’, but it wasn’t until last year that Savannah’s film industry really exploded. My practice is doing a lot more in the area of entertainment law as a result. Let me just clarify that point. I’m not an agent. When local production companies have needs in the area, they come to me and my firm. We help negotiate and finalize contracts between parties, coordinate financial transactions and keep the momentum going. I genuinely want to see Savannah make its own name in Georgia Film News and succeed in this industry. I believe Georgia is on its way to surpass New York in the near future. What we’re doing and how we’re supporting it locally is unique, and powerful.”
Georgia’s film industry tax credit program is one of the strongest in the U.S. According to Georgia’s Department of Economic Development, the production of several hundred feature films, commercials, and television shows were reported to have had an overall economic impact of $6 billion to the state in 2015. Billions in annual entertainment revenues translate to thousands of new jobs, the establishment of hundreds of new businesses, as well as the revitalization of communities statewide including Fayetteville, Crawfordville, Savannah, Rome, Albany, Valdosta and Eatonton.
Bowen added, “Georgia’s film industry tax credits are one of the best tax credit programs in place in the country today. While many other Southern states repealed their film tax credits, Georgia made ours even more attractive with up to 30% in tax deductions. Film has been exploding in Georgia ever since, but only one percent of that was coming to Savannah. Savannah upped the stakes and offers an additional 10% rebate on all monies spent in Chatham County now. The tax credits at the state and local level are a major part of our growth.”
The Savannah Film Alliance (SFA) was founded by Bowen in 2015 as a grass roots organization to promote the film community of Savannah, Ga. and the greater Coastal Empire. The Alliance’s charter is one of advocacy and action through education, outreach and collaboration efforts, bringing the local creative talent, schools and businesses together to give the entertainment industry in Savannah a stronger foothold.
Bo added, “I had been meeting with different sectors in the industry as well as local production companies and even outside production companies when they came in to film. I realized there was no real venue to bring everyone together in one room. Far more showed up to the first meeting than I invited.
“As an alliance, we made a list of our impediments and we starting working together to tackle one at a time. I just helped organize our efforts and gave us a name, and a logo. The Savannah Film Alliance is a community program. Our role is to communicate, coordinate and cooperate and help the entertainment industry and businesses grow and be successful in Savannah.”
Bowen is in the process of releasing a new e-book for the Savannah Film Alliance, a first electronic entertainment resource guide of its kind. The e-book will showcase the city of Savannah itself, and feature comprehensive information about the Georgia film industry tax credit incentives, and the many resources and local organizations and professionals that are proactive in the local entertainment industry.