Strong case for film industry to stay in Georgia

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The local film industry has come a long way since one of the first movies to be filmed in Savannah, “The Young Don’t Cry,” was shot in 1957. Later, movies like “Forrest Gump” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” helped put the Hostess City on the map, but it’s only in recent years that the industry has been setting and breaking records.

Interest and activity in Savannah as a film location has slowed recently. While local leaders say it’s hard to pinpoint what’s contributing to the slowdown, the impact of Georgia House Bill 481 or Heartbeat Bill has been at least one factor with two productions announcing plans to film elsewhere.

“One of the things we measure is how many location packages we mail out: the production company says, ‘We’re interested in bringing a production to Savannah. Can you send us some information, a location package?’” said Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) President and CEO Trip Tollison. “We track those and mail them out. In 2018, in the month of June we had 15 (mailed out), which is great for a community this size. So far June of 2019 we’ve sent zero, so that’s cause for concern even though we’re active and got work going on.”

Production activity around town continues in the meantime. Disney recently conducted re-shoots for its live-action version of “Lady and the Tramp” while Netflix filmed episodes of the series “Ozark.” But local industry officials say things are different than they were a year ago, with the drop in inquiries and the announcements tied to the Heartbeat Bill.

In May, Emmy Award-winning director Reed Morano announced that her new Amazon Studios show titled “The Power” would no longer consider filming in Savannah due to the bill. Beth Nelson, the Savannah Regional Film Commission’s executive director, said the budget for the Georgia-filmed portion of the show was about $15 million. See more at Savannah Now.

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