Savannah Loses Out on ABC Series; Film Incentive Changes Coming - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/07/07

Savannah Loses Out on ABC Series; Film Incentive Changes Coming

Alyssa Milano on location in Savannah. Alyssa Milano on location in Savannah.
Unfortunately for Savannah, this is just a one-day location shoot for a new series. Unfortunately for Savannah, this is just a one-day location shoot for a new series.

Ten years ago, and even earlier, Savannah was a hotbed for Hollywood films. Forrest Gump, Something to Talk About, Gator, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The list goes on.

Times have changed. Part of the reason: the incentives to film here. Savannah has started losing projects to other cities. States like South Carolina are offering better incentives than Georgia. So, Savannah has taken the hit.

To film in say, Charleston, film companies save more than $400 thousand versus filming in Savannah. The local film commission wants to see changes.

Tuesday morning, downtown Savannah, Monterey Square. A production crew is ready to film a new series for ABC television. It stars Alyssa Milano, and screen veterans Mary Steenburgen and James Brolin.

And, it was supposed to feature Savannah.

"I have an emotional tie to Savannah," producer Tom Luse told WTOC.

Luse shot his first major film in Savannah back in 1988. The movie was Glory.

"Look around," Luse said. "It's a fantastic city to shoot in visually."

Nineteen years later, Luse is back in Savannah. However, plans changed. Savannah is a one-day location shoot. "We couldn't find anything close to the home we are shooting in right now," Luse said of the home off Monterey Square.

But, they leave for Charleston that night. The rest of the series will be shot there. And, the setting of the series in the storyline will also officially be Charleston, South Carolina.

"Financially the budget didn't work as well for us as Charleston," Luse said. "Frankly because Charleston has more incentives. The money simply works out better in Charleston."

"It's very disappointing," City of Savannah Tourism and Film Services director Jay Self told WTOC.

Self and his office worked hand in hand with the production company to find the right location to shoot this television series. Then, he says, Georgia's lack of incentives came back to haunt Savannah.

"South Carolina's incentive is more than double Georgia's incentive," he said. "If they save an extra ten percent, what are you going to do?"

Self says increase Georgia's incentive. Right now, a bill is on the table in the House of Representatives to do just that.

"If it is going to be effective for Savannah, it will need to be increased," Self said. "The Savannah incentive is nine percent. Charleston is about 20 percent. This would bring us up to 15 percent. It's not covering the gap, but it will close it, which would be positive."

"Emotionally, I love Savannah," Luse said.

He thinks incentives will improve, so he can film in Savannah again.

"I'm hopeful in the very near future I can shoot something here," Luse said.

Last year, feature films, TV, commercials and still photography brought in close to $5 million to Savannah's economy. Over the last 10 years, it has had a $100 million impact.

This House bill is on the table now. It could be some time before any decision is made on Georgia's film incentives.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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