Last week, the Savannah Area Film Office announced that in 2018, the entertainment production industry generated $120.1 million in direct spend leading to a staggering $253.6 million economic impact for the region. In 2017, the direct economic spend was $65 million with an economic impact of $137.9 million.
“We set out five years ago to grow the film and television production industry and further diversify the regional economy. With the support of the SEDA board and engagement of so many key community partners pulling in the same direction, we have seen incredible growth,” said Trip Tollison, President and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority. “The numbers we report today are not an accident but the result of a well-executed strategy. I am very proud of the team at SEDA who have been involved since day one, Brynn Grant and Ralph Singleton in particular, as well as the film office executive director Beth Nelson and her team Katie Schuck, Catalina Alcaraz-Guzman and Andy Young who are the best in the business. We still have ground to cover, but this kind of progress is worth celebrating.”
Executive Director of the Savannah Area Film Office Beth Nelson said, “Over the past several years through marketing and direct day to day contact with the industry we have been able to increase the awareness of all Savannah has to offer for TV series, feature films, commercials and more.”
“This would not be possible without the quality product we have in the region from the historic district to Tybee Island to the other smaller towns and neighborhoods, along with the invaluable cooperation we receive from residents who recognize that these productions mean good jobs and a better economy for all,” Nelson added. “We would be remiss if we didn’t thank our partners including the City of Savannah and Chatham County for helping provide a nearly seamless experience when productions are here on location. Those professionals are always doing their best to make sure they protect the interests of citizens while working to make every production successful. None of this progress would be possible without them.”
From 2010-2014 the entertainment production direct spend was a combined $58 million, 2015 - $59 million, 2016 - $61 million and in $2017 - $65 million.
In 2018, 208 professional productions and 147 student productions were filmed with one of the biggest productions to date being “Gemini Man,” directed by Academy Award winner Ang Lee and starring Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong.
Savannah also landed Disney’s “Lady and The Tramp;” the Hulu anthology, “The Act” starring Patricia Arquette, Chloë Sevigny and Joey King as well as Pop TV’s new comedy series “Florida Girls.”
In September, the SEDA Board of Directors voted unanimously to extend the Savannah Entertainment Production Incentives for three more years. These incentives are in addition to the tax credit the state of Georgia offers.
“The Savannah Entertainment Production Incentives combined with the state of Georgia’s tax credit program, have significantly raised Savannah’s profile as a desired location for entertainment production,” said Tollison. “The renewal of the incentives for the next three years helps solidify the industry for our region.”
Nelson said, “The incentives, our diversity of locations, the efficiency of the film office and our partners are keys to this success, but we still have work to do. In 2019, we still need adequate sound stage space for productions and we are actively looking to secure a direct flight from Los Angeles to Savannah.”
The Savannah Area Film Office also announced that their name would be changing January 1, 2019 to the Savannah Regional Film Commission. The name change is in line with the national industry standard as outlined by the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI).
“Film Commission is an internationally recognized known and standardized name for film offices,” said Nelson. “It is the term producers, studio executives, location managers and other industry professionals use when referring to a local film office. Changing the name to the Savannah Regional Film Commission is much more effective for industry communication.”