Savannah is no stranger to the big screen, but with some of the best state and local production incentives in the country, the film industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years and there’s no sign of its slowing down.
“Savannah has always attracted movies... Production has always loved our location and city,” Beth Nelson, interim Film Services director for the city of Savannah, said Wednesday during the Savannah Downtown Business Association’s monthly luncheon at the Charles H. Morris Center.
Nelson was on hand to share the benefits available to businesses and residents when they partner with production companies, which range from location fees to property upgrades such as painting or repairs.
“And sometimes just having your home, something you’re proud of, captured on film can just go a long way for your family,” she said.
A new website, filmSavannah.org, is also helping connect those with goods and services to Hollywood. The site allows residents and businesses to register their services or homes to let production companies know what resources are available.
“They can see your business before they ever get to town,” she said of the website’s listings. From a rundown shack to a grand mansion, Nelson said production companies need it all, and it’s Savannah’s diverse community and environment that keeps Hollywood calling.
“Savannah has everything you can think of. We can look like southeast Asia, Europe, the jungle anything they want except skyscrapers and mountains,” Nelson said.
Production companies also need smaller services from garbage removal to caterers and medical care, but the most sought after asset are parking lots.
“They all have trucks they need to park, and downtown it’s limited, so if you’ve got a parking lot it’s extremely valuable,” she said. “... It really expands the businesses. When they come here, they live here for three months, so they need everything.”
And while filming has numerous benefits, Nelson urged the businesses and residents to remain realistic with their expectations and take pride in knowing that they’re also supporting the local community.
“Productions pay a fair price, but they don’t have an unlimited supply of money, no matter what the budget is,” she said.
In 2015, major productions such as The Do Over and Magic Mike XXL helped contributed upwards of $59 million to the local economy, and statewide the impact was about $6 billion. To keep that local momentum going, Nelson said, she hopes to see a sound stage built to provide space for sets, one of the only things the area is lacking.
“This is something we need. We’ve got the great locations and they can go out and shoot on location, but they always want to build a set and to do that they need space,” she said.
Production companies have given back to the community in other ways, too, Nelson said. Over the years companies have donated to local charities, contributed to the Lucas Theater restoration project and built a deck for the local VFW post.
“There are so many more things that are done and often times behind the scenes,” she said.
“... They’ve done a lot over the last few years. There’s a huge, long list of what productions do for our community besides just employing people.”
ON the web
For more information on how you can get involved with the Savannah Film Office, go to www.filmsavannah.org.