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Savannah’s Film Industry Gaining Momentum After COVID Shutdown
By Katie Nussbaum
Savannah Morning News
As Gov. Brian Kemp moved to lift state restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic over the past several weeks and declared Georgia open for business, several industries — including retail, gyms and restaurants — opened their doors. Now add the film and television industry to that list.
While things are still quieter than usual, the Savannah-area entertainment production industry is starting to gain momentum again, according to local officials.
“We’re getting a lot of inquires. In the last month it’s really picked up a lot, and we have had one actual in-person scout come in last week looking to shoot probably toward the end of the summer,” said Beth Nelson, executive director of the Savannah Regional Film Commission. “It was really fun to have somebody here on the ground, looking at our locations.”
The local film and production industry has grown into an important piece of Savannah’s economy in the past several years. In 2019, 129 professional projects — including eight feature films, 18 television projects and 12 commercials — filmed in the area, generating a record-breaking $125.6 million in direct spending and $266.3 million in economic impact for the region, according to the commission’s annual report.
While there are currently no active productions in the Savannah area, Nelson said a small independent feature should resume filming next month after shutting down in March, and many of the new inquires are still trying to figure out what they want to do in terms of production.
“I think a lot of productions want to come to Georgia and they’ve heard Savannah has less (COVID-19) cases than the Atlanta area, and that’s kind of opened us up to just productions that are looking for a safe place to shoot and asking the questions,” she said.
At the state level, Kemp announced earlier this month that production companies plan to bring back and hire an estimated 40,000 production workers, who will be employed on an expected 75 projects that will invest over $2 billion into the state’s economy during the next 18 months.
Statewide in 2019, the 391 film and television productions filmed in Georgia supported 3,040 motion picture and television industry businesses and contributed $2.9 billion in direct production spending, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) FY19 Year in Review report.
“The entertainment production industry is coming back and ready to jump-start the Georgia economy by creating jobs and generating greatly needed investment and spending in communities across the Peach State,” Kemp said in a release last week.
Kemp’s announcement follows the release of the “COVID-19: Georgia Best Practices for Film and Television” production guide for studios provided by the Georgia Film Office, which is a division of the GDEcD.
The guide outlines safety measures such as casting remotely, reducing the number of extras required, disinfecting facilities in accordance with the procedures advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and much more.
Nelson said her office is also taking precautions when it comes to the in-person scouting visits.
“We’re following all the protocols that are in place with masks and social distancing. It’s not a big group of people, so it was just our location specialist in the office and the location manager, so just two people out, so it was pretty easy,” she said. “The locations this particular show was looking at were some of our more rural areas and that made it easier, too.”
Nelson said future in-person visits continue to be a moving target at this point, but the office is working with a couple of shows on a daily basis. If they decide Savannah is the best fit for them, they should be visiting in the next couple of weeks.
“Things are quiet now, but they’re ramping up. Every day things change, and we just go with the flow,” she said, adding the along with the state’s Best Practices, unions, studios and guilds have also released their own safety protocols.
“All of those protocols are coming out and people are just figuring out how to make this work in this new world.”
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With new safety measures in place, Georgia’s film/tv production industry is ready to start what may be an unprecedented amount of work.
The proposed recommendations were developed by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force at the request of and in collaboration with the various unions of the motion picture and television industry and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which collectively exercised final control over their content, based on the input provided.
You can view these guidelines here: Health and Safety Guidelines for Motion Picture, TV, and Streaming during Covid-19
These recommendations set forth the consensus of the Task Force and outline guidance regarding protective measures to be used, including regular screening, diagnostic testing, use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting work sites, and appropriate response should an employee contract COVID-19 or be exposed to it.
The Georgia Film Office encourages film and television companies to develop strategies to support the health and safety of their cast and crew as production activity restarts. It is advised that before filming commences, all production personnel and suppliers become familiar with potential risks and strategic measures for filming. We encourage individuals to take personal responsibility as well as an active role in maintaining a clean and healthy set.
You can view these guidelines here: STATE OF GEORGIA FILM & TELEVISION PRODUCTION BEST PRACTICES TO REDUCE CONTAGION OF COVID-19
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Created to help independent filmmakers get their films started or completed, the 2nd Roy W. Dean Grant of 2020 is now open for applications. Grant winner will receive $3,500 cash as well as $20,000 more in film goods and production services.
Founded in 1993 by Carole Dean, President of top rated non-profit From the Heart Productions, the Roy W. Dean Grant is awarded to filmmakers with a unique film that makes a contribution to society. It is open to documentaries, features, short films and web series budgeted under $500K. Students are welcome to apply.
The $3,500 cash prize is supplemented by donations from companies and individuals that support independent filmmakers. This includes a $1,295.00 scholarship toWriters Boot Camp, a LaCie Rugged RAID Shuttle 8TB from Lacie, $600 in closed captioning from NetCaptioning, $500 in expendables from Filmtools, and much more from heartfelt donors.
You can apply for the grant at http://fromtheheartproductions.com/grant-application-form/.
The deadline for the Roy W. Dean Summer Grant is June 30, 2020.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805-984-0098