Brynn Grant, Savannah Economic Development Authority CEO, and Beth Nelson, Savannah Area Film Office executive director, put stars in the eyes of chamber members during a Progress Through People luncheon Thursday.
“We’ve had movies filming in Savannah since the beginning of movies,” Nelson said. She described how silent film heart-throb Rudolph Valentino filmed a movie in Savannah in the 1920s. Other more recent movies, such as “Forrest Gump,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and “Cape Fear,” helped put Georgia’s oldest city in the spotlight.
Grant and Nelson spoke about how Savannah – and the surrounding area including Liberty and Bryan counties – are now a draw for the entertainment industry, bringing millions of dollars into Georgia. Savannah and communities within a 60-mile radius of the south’s “hostess city” are marketed as prime filming locations, they said. The Savannah Area Film Office can also provide the film industry local skilled workers for production crews and connect filmmakers to area businesses that will support them during a project, according to Grant.
“It’s also creating tax revenue year-round,” she said. Grant added that local people can be trained to work for film production crews. These jobs often require an apprenticeship, not a college education, she said, describing the production jobs as “low barrier entry” for high wages.
These jobs usually pay from $27-$60 an hour, with benefits, Grant said.
According to Grant, direct revenue from the film industry, which includes major motion pictures, scripted and reality television shows, independent and student films, commercials, music videos, animation and game development, generated $12 million of revenue in 2012. Revenue rose to $13.7 million in 2013, and increased to $18.1 in 2014. It shot up to $59.8 million in 2015 and brought in $65 million in 2016, she said. By July of this year, the local direct spend from film companies brought $109 million to the Chatham County area, and $232 million in economic impact, Grant said.
Grant credits this windfall to a statewide tax incentive offered to entertainment production companies.
“The Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office offers Georgia production incentives up to 30 percent of Georgia production expenditures in transferable tax credits,” states savannahfilm.org.
Grant and Nelson also mentioned local incentives offered to production companies that film in the Savannah area. These include cash rebates for qualified production and relocation expenses reimbursement of up to $2,000 per household for qualified moving expenses for qualified applicants, according to the Savannah Area Film Office’s website.
Nelson said SAFO offers production companies a film location database. The office also supports local residents and assists area businesses that might be impacted during a project. They also offer businesses workshops, should they consider becoming vendors for the entertainment production industry, she said.
For more information, visit savannahfilm.org.