SM: What might be an example of a takeaway for a local businesses looking to benefit from film productions?
Charles Bowen: When productions come to town they really need every service.
Beth Nelson: The Savannah Film Office workshops occurring in February are modeled after those done in Atlanta and Athens.
BN: The need to be available 24/7 sometimes, and they need to invoice quickly, much faster than Savannahians might be used to.
CB: And the invoices are extremely important because productions have to be able to prove that they’ve spent money here in order to be paid back that incentive.
Chad Darnell: Slowvannah can be charming but not when it comes to production timelines.
BN: And that’s a major part of the film office’s day-to-day … getting the productions here but also supporting them when they’re here. We want them to be successful for the community as well as for the production.
SM: So there are the business and community building aspects, and Chad, you’ve been beefing up the local talent offerings, but do you ever worry about a perceived conflict of interest in your teaching workshops?
CD: When I was coming out of college, actors were having to send out headshots and mail postcards and take a workshop. Everyday. There’s this slight fear that since I’m a casting director people are having to pay to play, which is not the case at all. We’re in a market where there are less than a half dozen teachers and now hundreds of people interested in acting. How are actors going to get educated otherwise? Plus, just because you take a class doesn’t mean that you’re ready for camera. And if you’ve never taken a class, it doesn’t mean you aren’t ready for camera. I’m not just teaching acting, but professionalism and how to create your own content. In fact, the people who won this past year’s Savannah 24-hour Film Festival had taken my workshop. I competed against them and they beat me! I couldn’t have been happier.
“Let’s have writers living here so we have our own production center, producing our own content.”
SM: What might the general Savannah public still not know about film production positives, and how are you making these unknowns known?
BN: We’re working on a video now to show how productions benefit Savannah in total. It’s the business part, it’s the crew, but it’s also the charities. The Do Over (starring Adam Sandler) donated over 1,000 meals to Saint Thomas’s Church ministry, where they prepare food to take to AIDS patients and shut-ins with health issues. Underground donated $3,000 worth of mulch to put in the beds for Chippewa Square, where an issue concerning moss came up during filming. I have at least ten more examples regarding the charitable aspect of productions.
CD: Of course, there’s the story of Kevin Spacey donating a large amount of money toward the restoration of the Lucas Theatre back in the day. And regarding “Mossgate,” our Film Office always has Savannahians best interest in mind. With the moss issue, we knew the city was never going to let the production do something that was disrespectful.
BN: Exactly. We consulted the city arborists and other experts … and we’d have told Underground no, if removing the moss had been deemed unreasonable or potentially damaging. Sometimes we have to say, “No, you can’t shut Bay Street down all day long,” for example. Again, we want to support the productions but not at a detriment to the city.
CB: It’s about changing the entire perception to see a production as a benefit rather than a nuisance.
BN: And to know Savannah’s citizens that are working and benefiting. Plus, the film industry pays the crew well, and the crew members spend their earnings here.
SM: Dream big. In 5 years, all the stars have aligned and your wish is the city’s command, where will we be?
BN: A true production center that is on the map and people know about us. That we have world-class actors here and the production and post-production facilities. That people want to make movies and television series here. The whole wide world of it.
CB: TV series are key. Akin to me as an attorney, if I had a divorce client … yeah, that may be lucrative in the short-term, whereas if you have a loyal corporate client, then they’re going to keep you busy for years and years. Same thing with TV series verses a movie.
SM: How important is having a movies/series actually be set here in Savannah?
CD: I’m writing a pilot that I would love to have set here. I honestly don’t see myself casting in a year from now. I have a lot of hats, and casting pays the bills, but my passions lie elsewhere…
BN: That’s the thing. Let’s have writers living here. So we have our own production center. Producing our own content.
CD: I agree. A movie of mine should be shooting soon, and I hope a year from now to be wrapping on that project. I can’t imagine what this conversation is going to be in a year, when we have six stages or more.
BN: I don’t care what you do here [in Savannah]. You’re going to be impacted positively by film production.
Meet Our Guests
Beth Nelson’s years of location scouting and film production experience have made her a smart fit as executive director of the newly revitalized Savannah Area Film Office. She is a founding member of Savannah Women in Film and Television.
Chad Darnell was born and bred in Atlanta before moving to Los Angeles as a young casting director and filmmaker. His Boot Camp workshops have shaped many a local actor into screen-ready desirables.
Charles “Bo” Bowen is a lawyer, providing service in a diverse range of practices through The Bowen Law Group. This Renaissance man serves on countless local business and law boards, and leads the Savannah Film Alliance, which he started in 2015.