To make a living as a filmmaker, the conventional wisdom has always been to relocate to Los Angeles or New York City. But economics—including the high cost of living in such locales, the increasingly freelance nature of film and television work and the volume of productions coming to the Southeast—are leading movie-making professionals to choose low-key lifestyles outside the blinding glare of Hollywood’s klieg lights. Meet a few of the local crew who’ve made Savannah their home base.
Position: Location Manager
Films: CBGB, The Last Song
Television: The Start-up
Neighborhood: Elyod Heights
What is the role of the location manager?
We read the script and then speak with the director and production designer to find out what they’re going for. The production designer will be the one to come up with the character sketch and say, “Show me a beach house from the 1960s.” We take pictures, share them, and try to build up enough places to look at. When filming starts, we’re responsible for the set, getting it open and secure, handling parking, portable air conditioning—logistics.
In smaller markets like Savannah, producers think you have to start over with each production. But when you have a collection of talented people who know what to do like we have now, it’s easy to pop in a production office and get started. It’s an ideal situation.
Position: Production Assistant
Films: CBGB, Savannah, Alex Cross, Knight and Day, The Number 23
Neighborhood: Ardsley Park
What does a production assistant do?
Anything anyone needs you to do: handling travel for actors flying in and out for shooting, reserving cars and housing for cast and crew, helping to set up the production office by finding space, setting up telecommunications, coordinating among different offices, distributing scripts and schedules.
I wanted a life.
Position: First Assistant Camera
Films: Enchanted Amore, CBGB, Savannah, X-Men First Class, The Ten, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
Neighborhood: Downtown, Drayton Towers
What does a first assistant camera do?
The first AC is in charge of running the cameras, making sure they are functioning, that the image is recording and pristine. It’s a big job. There’s no autofocus in filmmaking; you’re focusing by hand. If a shot is out of focus for one second, it could be lost. You have to be cool. Everybody is waiting on the camera. All of this money is running through your camera. You could ruin the movie. You have to be relaxed and confident during 14-hour days with no sleep.
I think it was really positive for Savannah to have CBGB filmed here to build this crew base. We need to keep these good movies coming. Producers need to feel like they can crew up in Savannah.
Joseph Harold Page
Films: The Sacrament, CBGB, The Hunger Games, Savannah, Leatherheads
Television: Homeland, Army Wives
What is a gaffer?
The gaffer deals with the lights and the positions of the lights. The cinematographer is working with the director on blocking and movement, and I have to be one step ahead, anticipating what they want. I have to learn the cinematographer’s style and try to be an appendage of him. I have to know how to technically make a shot happen and what equipment I need to do my job.
One thing Atlanta doesn’t have is the coast. We’ve got swamp, and the big thing is the historic downtown. It seems to be everyone’s opinion that Savannah’s awesome.
If we had a television series here, that would plant such great roots. You’re talking an eight-month shoot for a season and the show goes on for five seasons. At that point, you’re manufacturing; it’s a movie plant. Local crews grow, they learn more and it just really seeds the area.
Position: Set Dresser
Films: CBGB, X-Men First Class, Spider-Man 2, The Notebook, The Legend of Bagger Vance
Television: Lackawana Blues, Entourage (pilot)
Neighborhood: Isle of Hope
What does the set dresser do?
Construction does the four walls. Then the paint department comes in. The production designer controls the look of the film. I interpret the life of the characters. I find out what makes you “you.” That’s what I’m adept at doing—interpreting and executing environments. We look at all the layers—upholstery, drapery. It’s voyeuristic, immersive. The job varies, but you are in control of how a show looks to the camera.
The magic of moviemaking.
After 25 years in the business, I’m still moved to tears by good films.