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Chatham approves agreement with SEDA for Savannah Area Film Office

  • FILE - Movie gear is collected along the sidewalk at Forsyth Park for the filming of the movie "Baywatch."

After weeks of negotiations, officials with Chatham County and the Savannah Economic Development Authority have reached an agreement that outlines a $100,000 county payment to the Savannah Area Film office.

The county commission voted unanimously Friday to approve a memorandum of understanding with SEDA, with the understanding that the film office will report twice a year on the efforts it has made on the community’s behalf. Before Friday’s vote, the agreement was tabled twice by county officials while its details were further developed.

As part of the MOU, the Savannah Area Film Office will provide the county with data on the jobs, businesses and overall impact of the film industry in Chatham. In turn, the county’s payment of $25,000 each quarter will assist with the day-to-day function of the film office, which now employs five staffers.

The commission initially pledged its support for the film office in June, when it adopted its budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. With that vote, Chatham became the second local government to sign on to support the film office. Officials with the first, the city of Savannah, approved a $205,000 annual payment to the film office one day prior.

SEDA President Trip Tollison told the commission Friday it’s still his organization’s intent to approach other local governments — among them neighboring counties — about participating in the regional office, but he said that will likely happen over time. At the present, he said, SEDA’s focus is to woo film productions to Chatham. SEDA is fully funding a $1.5 million incentive program for qualified film and television production companies, he said, but only those that select Chatham County.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Brynn Grant, Chief Operating Officer at SEDA, said the Savannah Area Film Office is expected to function as the liaison between the productions and the governing authority over the area they want to use to film. Each government will maintain the permitting responsibility for their jurisdiction, she said, but the Film Office will take on the marketing of the region and supporting productions once they arrive.

“This is an effort to unite and increase those resources,” Grant said. “It is a partnership. ... What we’re excited about is Chatham, Savannah and SEDA have invested in supporting that (film) office — because the volume is so increased because of the activity of the last couple of years, and because we want to create a sustainable industry here.”

In other business, the commission on Friday:

• Voted to approve and execute a contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation to acquire right-of-way for the county’s portion of Phase II of the Truman Linear Trail project at an estimated cost of $25,000. The project includes construction of a 10-foot wide multi-use trail that extends from Lake Mayer to DeRenne Avenue. The remainder of the trail, from DeRenne Avenue to Bee Road, will be constructed by the city of Savannah.

• Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Chatham County Board of Health for distribution of $2 million in special purpose local option sales tax funds for renovation of the Midtown health clinic.


Film and television productions to shoot scenes in Chatham County so far in 2016:

• Coup D’Etat

• Daisy Winters

• Mara

• A Little Mermaid

• Baywatch

• Z: The Beginning of Everything

• Underground

— information courtesy the Savannah Economic Development Authority

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