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Savannah lawyer makes helping film productions a business

  • Charles Bowen
A local attorney has opened a new company aimed at making things easier for out-of-towners coming to Savannah to make movies.
 
Charles Bowen, who has experience in entertainment law, now operates Southern Gateway Production Services, which has become a signatory for national term agreements from the IATSE, a large union that typically represents members of a production’s crew.
 
Bowen says he hopes to smooth out the process by which visiting productions access local services and vice versa through a vetting process. In addition to securing people who can work on sets and have technical knowhow, film productions usually wind up needing amenities like catering and transportation to and from sets.
 
“It makes it much easier on productions when you come to town and don’t have to start flipping through the Internet to find drycleaners, etc.,” Bowen, who is known around town as Bo, said. “It makes it very simple for them, and that was the goal.”
 
Savannah’s relationship with movies has come a long way from the 1990s, when “Forrest Gump” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” were the city’s big claims to silver screen fame. The film scene here is burgeoning, and it has been for a few years.
 
Since 2010, major projects featuring Savannah as their backdrops have included “The Last Song,” “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” “Magic Mike XXL” and “Baywatch.”
 
Another major production the county last year was the second season of WGN series “Underground,” which provided a lengthy filming process and had the single biggest film-related impact on the local economy.
 
According to January report in the paper, television-based projects brought in roughly $33.4 million in 2016 – an increase of about $30.4 million from 2015. The same report says more than 280 projects total filmed here in 2016, including feature films, shows, commercials and student projects – that’s up about 2.5 percent from 2015. All the projects contributed $132 million last year, about $3.4 million more than in 2015.
 
Bowen isn’t the only local entrepreneur to take advantage of the market, either. Last year, another Savannah businessman opened a 150,000-square-foot studio on Gulfstream Road, River Oaks Film Studios.
 
Speaking to the paper January, Savannah Area Film Office officials attributed much of the increase in activity to economic incentives – both local and state. The Savannah Economic Development Authority manages the incentives, which include “cash rebates for feature films and TV series and reimbursement of location expense up to $2,000 per household for qualified applicants.”
 
The film office helps productions scout out locations in town, but executive director Beth Nelson says Bowen’s business is a boon, and said she views it as a way to enhance what the office does.
 
“Bo has been a strong ally and asset in working with the Savannah Area Film Office as the entertainment production industry becomes a sustainable industry in Chatham County,” Nelson said. “This new endeavor is another sign of the growth of the industry.”
 
The attorney’s Southern Gateway Production Services will also help work out production loans, broker state tax credits and offer legal services.
 
“I think everybody is excited about the proposition,” Bowen said. “(Productions) have the ability to come to Savannah, get the tax credit, get the local incentive through SEDA and now have the ability to get the national term agreement. It really makes Savannah an extremely attractive destination in terms of coming to film.”
 
To learn more about Southern Gateway Production Services, contact Charles Bowen at cbowen@thebowenlawgroup.com. To learn more about film opportunities in the area in general, go to savannahfilm.org.

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