by Mollee D. Harper, Senior Editor
Georgia Film News spoke with business attorney Charles “Bo” J. Bowen, founder of the Savannah Film Alliance and recipient of the 2016 Helen V. Head Small Business Advocate Award from the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. In part two of this special two-part series, Bowen shares more about the Savannah Film Alliance and how its preparing to support Savannah’s rise to fame in the entertainment industry, as well as his insights about the unions, and future.
The Bowen Law Group has 21 years of service in corporate law in Savannah and Atlanta. The Bowen Law Group has a unique appeal offering skills and services comparable to a large metropolitan firm while maintaining strong connections and responsiveness to the local community. Bowen was selected by members of the State Bar of Georgia as one of Georgia Trend’s 12th Annual Legal Elite in Business Law and Corporate Law.
Bowen said, “My practice does a lot more in the entertainment industry now. We draft contracts to document and protect actors and industry professionals that are coming to the area to work. Because of relationships I made within the entertainment industry, I sometimes even get called to represent them in transactions in California when they are working out of state.”
Bowen founded the Savannah Film Alliance (SFA) in 2015 to promote the film community of Savannah, Ga. and the greater Coastal Empire. The Alliance and its many members, representing many facets of the entertainment industry, bring local talent and businesses together to organize and support its growth in the city and state.
“In just one year’s time, the Savannah Film Alliance has gained solid momentum, and 2016 is already on pace to surpass 2015. We have a new Creative Director, and are in the process of building a website. We have a communication forum to connect talent and industry professionals through a weekly email distribution. The Georgia film tax credits are the best incentives in the country at 30%, combined with 10% incentives for business conducted in Chatham County, production companies have significant tax incentives up to 40% to do business here. The next issue we are tackling as a community is space. Vacant warehouses are the ideal space for sound stages and studios. Right now in Savannah, we have 1% vacancy for warehouses in the area.”
One of the entertainment business nuances is its labor unions. As Savannah hosts more industry professionals and production companies, it must also adapt to changes in business practices and work with the unions. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is an American labor union representing over 100,000 film and television principal and background performers worldwide. In 2012, SAG merged with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to create SAG-AFTRA. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE is a labor union representing over 130,000 technicians, artisans, craftpersons and crew for the entertainment industry. The purpose of these two labor unions is to negotiate and enforce equitable compensation, benefits and working conditions for its members.
Bowen shared, “Unions are one of the most misunderstood aspects of the entertainment industry. In fact, I dedicated a large section of the new e-book to this very subject. You will find people that love unions and people that hate them. Georgia is a right to work state. There is nothing that requires any production that comes to town to unionize. And, union members can work on non-union productions. For the most part, smaller independent film productions of $1 million or less aren’t an issue. For larger productions of a $1 million or more, you are always going union. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you can actually negotiate with the unions, something you should do right from the start. If you are straight with them, they will work with you.”
“Bowen continued, “From my experience, unions tend to get involved when people are being treated badly. And, that’s actually a good thing. There was a recent film made in Savannah where the production company lied about their budget. The union came down pretty hard on them. As it turns out, a lot of folks that worked on the project were never paid. I was actually hired to administer a fund to pay people back for the work they performed for the production company’s current project as well as their last project. Overall, my experience with the unions has been positive.”
See Part 1