Movie filmed in Savannah breaks Sundance sale record

Movie filmed in Savannah breaks Sundance sale record

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A movie that was filmed entirely in our area is making history this week.

"Birth of a Nation" debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, and the next morning, Fox Searchlight Pictures bought the rights to the movie for $17.5 million. The biggest sale in the history of the festival.

This news is big for Savannah, both economically and in terms of building the city's reputation, especially among independent film producers like Nate Parker, who wrote directed and stars in "Birth of a Nation."

And since this film was produced entirely in our area, its influence on the community was that much greater.

"They spent well over $3 million directly invested into our community. They used hundreds of extras and employed many, many people for construction, to work on the film, to do all different sorts of things," said William Hammargren, Savannah Film Office.

Among them, a SCAD student, who told WTOC she wouldn't have gotten the job if she wasn't living in Savannah at the time.

"You're always proud of films that you work on, but when you see it doing that well, you just get an extra little pep in your step. Everybody just put their heart and soul into it, and it shows when you work really hard and you really are passionate about a film," said Laura Minto, production assistant.

The bio-pic tells the story of African-American slave Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in 1831.

The majority of the film was shot on a plantation in Richmond Hill, but they did use a portion of Downtown Savannah for one major scene. That scene was filmed on the Lincoln Street ramp, between Bay Street and River Street.

But fun facts aside, this is about more than just another movie being filmed in Savannah.

"This film brings out perspective that is important, that many people are not aware of," said Dr. Jamal Toure, cultural historian.

The movie's title calls back to the 1915 film of the same name that's often credited for kindling the "second era" of the KKK - not a coincidence. Dr. Toure says the film offers an opportunity for unifying the country - and even Savannah -- in a time when it could need it most.

"So often right now, we are so divided that we can look at a film like this and say, 'Wait a minute. That's a part of what went on back in the past.' Today, let's correct that. Let's not repeat, as I mentioned before, the errors of the past," said Dr. Toure.

The amount of film production being done in Savannah has been growing rapidly. The film industry's economic impact tripled in growth from 2014 to 2015, with $60 million invested into the community last year.

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