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Aug. 25 - Locally Owned, Silver Line Films announces “Take 2 For Faith,” written and produced by Savannahians

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

August 25, 2016 - Savannah company, Silver Line Films, has announced it is set to begin production of a new independent feature film, “Take 2 For Faith,” an inspirational drama.

The film stars Patrick Muldoon, Deana Carter, Nia Sioux, Dallas Lovato, Aaron O’Connell and Joel Rush; and will be directed by Nancy Criss.

Janelle Arthur, Top 5 finalist on American Idol and 16-time Grand Ole Opry performer, will be portraying the lead role of Faith Winters in the film.

Written by Jason Usry and Kenneth Lemm and produced by Savannahian Chris Helton with Gabrielle Evans Fields, “Take 2 For Faith” is the inspiring story of a Nashville country music legend who seeks refuge in her rural Texas hometown following a public fall from grace.

But the homecoming is bittersweet; she must balance the career she left in Nashville and the disruption her presence brings to her small town with unexpected emotions as she rediscovers her high school sweetheart and turns to a local pastor for insight.

Casting for additional roles, coordinated by Gabrielle Evans Casting, will get underway on Tuesday, Aug. 15, in Austin, Texas. Production is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Aug. 25, in Smithville, Texas.

Patrick Muldoon, who originated the role of Austin Reed on the daytime drama, “Days of Our Lives,” will portray Seth Ingram in the film while multiple Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Deana Carter has been cast in the role of Liz Winters. Carter is perhaps best known for her hit songs “Did I Shave My Legs For This?” and “Strawberry Wine.”

Nia Sioux, who has just completed a six-week run in the Off-Broadway musical “Trip Of Love” and who has delighted television audiences for six seasons on the popular series, “Dance Moms,” will portray Zoe Whitfield. This is the first feature-length film for the 15-year-old dance sensation who has attracted 3.6 million followers to her @niasioux Instagram page and twitter feed. Nia’s role will be an opportunity as well to show off her singing ability, according to the producers.

Dallas Lovato, who appeared in “The Helpers” (2013) and provided the voice of Wendy in the 2011 animated film “Snowflake, the White Gorilla,” will play Jennie Sharp. Lovato is the older sister of star actress and singer Demi Lovato.

Aaron O’Connell, who starred in the 2015 movie, “12 Gifts of Christmas,” will portray Gavin Whitfield. O’Connell is best known for his role in Tyler Perry’s “Haves and Have Nots.” Joel Rush, who appeared in “If Loving You Is Wrong” (2014) and “Love or Whatever” (2012), will play Cameron.

The film’s director, Nancy Criss, has produced and directed numerous award winning films including, “A Horse for Summer,” “Deadly Sanctuary” and “The Sparrows Nesting.”

The film’s scheduled release date is on or about March 1, 2017.

Silver Line Films is a Georgia-based film production company. Their focus is on low to medium budget films with varying genres including family and faith-based films, drama action and suspense.

For more information on Silver Line Films, visit http://silverlinetv.com

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Aug. 24 - Details on TV series "Underground" and moving Season 2 to Savannah

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

August 24, 2016 – The television series “Underground,” a period drama created by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski about the Underground Railroad in Georgia before the Civil War began, has moved its production to Savannah. The executive producer is music legend John Legend.

The series is the big news that the Savannah Economic Development Authority's (SEDA) Film Savannah office team has been hoping to announce for almost a week - delayed as a decision of the producers.  SEDA is anticipating a $45 million spending level, locally, over a 14 week period.

NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks has praised the series, saying it “excites and ignites the imagination and the creativity of our young people…and we, as a country, need to draw upon our history that we might find the sole sustenance for the facing of this hour.”

The residents and businesses around Chippewa Square received a flyer last Friday from Laura Bryant, Location Manager for the show, explaining that they will be shooting on that particular location on Tues., Aug. 30 and Tues., Sept. 6. Bryant, a resident of Savannah's downtown neighborhoods, is a freelance location expert, with more than 20 years in the business, hired by the production company to assist in location scouting and planning.

To make the area look appropriate for the period, they will be putting down a “dirt/mulch composite on some of the asphalt roads around the square. We have permission from the city to remove some of the Spanish moss from the trees in the square and trees on Hull Street,” the flyer states. Bryant explains that it is primarily sheets of felt matting, painted to look like dirt, with only a small amount of actual dirt used.

The removing of the moss has been questioned by both local residents, and some in the tourism industry, but SEDA states that the City of Savannah's arborist has assured that removing the moss will not damage the tree or the moss growth. They have also consulted with the County Extension Service about the moss and the holly trees in the area.

The flyer states that “our crew will consist of about 150 people. Our working trucks will be staged nearby. Our crew cars and base camp will be on private property,” it also explains.

The flyer also tells residents that “when we begin prepping, we will have to restrict parking near the square. Another letter with more detail will be delivered soon.”

For the August 30 shoot, they will prep and shoot on the same day.  They will then prep on Sept. 5, shoot on Sept. 6 and 7, and remove everything on Sept. 8, according to Bryant.

Locations around the region will be used, including in Richmond Hill and Bloomingdale in Bryant and Effingham counties.

The show stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge. Jessica De Gouw. Alano Miller and Christopher Meloni.  There is an original music score by Composers Laura Karpman and Raphael Saadiq.

In the U.S., the first 10 episodes aired on WGN America from March through May, and on the Bravo network in Canada. A deal for another 10 episodes was signed April 25, 2016.  

The first season was shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with some work here in Savannah, but the second season will be shot in Savannah, with the production company moving its operations here. 

A press conference to make the announcement was set for last Friday, but was cancelled at the last minute.  Beth Nelson, Executive Director of Film Savannah, said on Tuesday at the SEDA annual Board of Directors Retreat, that she is anticipating the formal press conference this Thursday.

The Production companies are Afemme, Get Lifted Film Company, Weed Road Pictures, Safehouse Pictures, Wandering Rocks, Tribune Studios and Sony Pictures Television and the show is distributed by Sony Pictures Television.  

More about the TV Series

Jurnee Smollett-Bell stars as Rosalee, a young, shy and sheltered mulatto house slave on the Macon plantation. She is one of the Macon 7.

Aldis Hodge plays Noah, a driven, perceptive and restless slave on the Macon plantation, also one of the Macon 7.

Jessica De Gouw is character Elizabeth Hawkes, a socialite with abolitionist ideals, and Alano Miller plays Cato, a cunning and charismatic slave. He is one of the Macon 7.

Christopher Meloni is August Pullman, a secretive bounty hunter who walks a tightrope between morality and survival.

Also in recurring roles is Christopher Backus as Jeremiah Johnson, an ex con and slave catcher; Marc Blucas as John Hawkes, an abolitionist lawyer; Reed Diamond as Tom Macon (né Hawkes), John Hawkes' brother and the owner of the Macon plantation; James Lafferty as Kyle Risdin, a US Marshall and Elizabeth's ex-fiancé; Amirah Vann as Ernestine, the head house slave of the Macon plantation who is fiercely protective of her children. She is also Tom Macon's lover, and they bore two children, Rosalee and James, in the story.

On February 27, 2015, WGN America gave a 10-episode straight-to-series order for the series.

In early August, the Georgia Film Office began running the series in its tally of active productions.

The State of Louisiana capped its tax credits and the number of productions there has now plummeted, according to industry blogs and press coverage by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Nelson said they first received an inquiry about the television series considering Savannah back in April. 

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July 25 – Savannah Film Alliance next meeting is Aug. 3 at Savannah Tech

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

July 25, 2016 – The Savannah Film Alliance will hold its next meeting on August 3 at Savannah Tech from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. in Room 7126 in the Academic Commons building (the main building at the entrance to the campus.)  Special visitor parking has been reserved for those attending.

According to Atty. Charles Bowen, who founded the Alliance, it will be an important meeting, including marking the official one year anniversary of the Alliance.  The Alliance is open to all industry professionals.  There is no fee to be a member; it's purpose is to create an objective, open environment for those working locally in TV and movie production to get together to discuss issues and share ideas.

“Chef Jean has agreed to make us a cake to help celebrate!” according to Bowen.  The group has grown to over 100 local, industry professionals.  

There will be an update on the SEDA/Film Office consolidation into a regional film office by Beth Nelson, who has agreed to  address many members’ questions and concerns. 

And, there will be a recap on both the Big River Film Festival and the 48 Hour Film Festival, both of which were strong successes.

According to Bowen, Hugh Darley with IDEA, Inc. will be discussing a new project he is bringing to town, and Ray Jacobs will be unveiling the new Savannah Film Alliance logo.

And, there will possibly be an update on the Georgia Film Academy program that has started at Savannah Tech.

Also on the agenda will a discussion “to take stock of the current state of the local industry and set goals for our second year,” Bowen has told members. 

New members in the industry are welcome.

Charles J. Bowen can be reached at (912) 544-2052 and by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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EXCLUSIVE: One, possibly TWO TV` Series coming to Savannah … but there are issues. Lots of them.

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

August 23, 2016 – At the Savannah Economic Development Authority’s (SEDA) Annual Retreat Tuesday morning at the King & Prince Resort on Saint Simons Island, SEDA president Trip Tollison and the newly-named Executive Director of Film Savannah, Beth Nelson, outlined the status of the transition since July 1 of the City of Savannah’s Film Office to SEDA management.  Nelson had previously served as Interim Director of the City’s film office.

SEDA has been studying and promoting the entertainment business sector for the Greater Savannah area for the past two years under the brand ‘Film Savannah,’ based on research by an independent consulting firm that has outlined the potential for it to be the “sixth spoke of the wheel” of the local economy - augmenting the port, tourism, manufacturing, education and other top sources of jobs.

SEDA's financial support to build the TV and film business here has included the investment to hire LA-based marketing representative Ralph Singleton, a former Paramount executive, to build the brand of ‘Film Savannah' with the U.S's leading production companies.  Additionally, SEDA also announced a $1.5 million annual commitment from 2016 – 2018 to offer additional financial incentives to production companies coming to Savannah, incentives on top of the State of Georgia’s new entertainment industry tax credits and incentive packages. 

A number of SEDA credits have been awarded this year. The accounting firm of Hancock Askew has been retained to conduct independent audits of each production company to insure that they have reached the thresholds necessary to earn the SEDA financial awards, Tollison assure the Board members. 

Georgia recently reported $2 billion in direct spend in fiscal year 2016 ended June 30 by production companies, a dramatic increase over prior years since the new incentives were put in place by the Governor and Georgia General Assembly. 

On June 24, the Savannah City Council voted 9 – 0 to support the recommendation of City Manager Stephanie Cutter to move the city’s Film Office and staff under SEDA, making them SEDA employees.  At the Board meeting today, Tollison outlined that SEDA the City will continue to fund $205,000 a year, paid to SEDA, the current budget of the Film Office; that Chatham County will contribute $100,000; and that SEDA will put in an additional $300,000 a year to increase the operating budget to $600,000 annually, in addition to the $1.5 million in incentives available.

Georgia’s tax credits have been working.  The City of Savannah had a big year last year, with $59 million in direct spend here in 2015 thanks to multiple films produced in Savannah, and the Film office staff has been working since last April to bring the production of a TV show to town.  Based on spending levels to date, 2016 will outpace those figures, Beth said, based on productions recently completed or set to come to town. 

Attracting TV shows takes things “to a whole different level,” however, said Tollison, because of the shooting of multiple episodes, and even multiple-year investments in a city by television production companies, but there are also challenges and potential problems for Savannah. 

In Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, there are multiple large sound stages and location lots where movies can be created.  Savannah and Tybee are ‘living sound stages,’ for shooting, and Savannah has only one actually adequate sound stage for the needs of a typical TV show or movie, outside of the needs of smaller, independent projects.

“They love Savannah because you can dress it up, or dress it down,” explained SEDA Chairman Stephen Green, to the Board.

Last week, SEDA had to cancel a press conference to announce that an existing TV series has made the decision to move production of 10 episodes for its second season to Savannah. “The production company wanted to hold up the announcement,” explained Nelson, though she is tentatively hoping to make the announcement this week.  That TV series is projected to spend $4.5 - $5.0 million an episode, or total of at least a $45 million direct spend, locally.   

And, there is a second TV series also seeking to come here, said Nelson.  In fact, the Vice President of Production for that company will be spending this afternoon with her to see what can be offered in sound stage accommodations, or warehouses that might be converted.  “Frankly, I don’t have much to show him. It’s kind of sad,” she told the Board members today.   

Tollison asked the SEDA Board Members to spread the word – that they are looking for private investors to work cooperatively to build a new sound stage. He added that if the business ever moves somewhere else, the space could be converted to warehouse usage by the port, "which is not going away."

But, another idea is percolating as well, the possibility of converting the Savannah Civic Center into a sound stage.  SEDA representatives plan to talk with the Mayor on this, and soon.

But there are other issues with the soon to be announced TV series: District 2 Alderman Bill Durrence, who represents Savannah’s Historic District, was not informed in advance of the TV series to be shot using Chippewa Square. The production company wants to remove low-hanging moss, block streets and put dirt on the road. Since residents received flyers last Friday that he states “were sent out prematurely,” he has been assured by the City of Savannah’s staff that “at this point, no permits have been issued for Chippewa Square."

He said it is his expectation that the City Manager should have let him know about this all in advance, particularly in advance of a press conference being held last Thursday, cancelled at the request of the production company, not SEDA’s Film Savannah team.

“There may be a different protocol with the new City Manager, but the current City Manager requires that all communication go through her office,” said Durrence.  He’s not allowed to call any of the City’s department heads, even though a citizen can.  “That’s the City Manager’s policy. The idea is that she doesn’t want the Council will give them direction.  That kind of misses the point that an Alderman should be able to call and get information without giving them instruction,” he said.

He added, “We have staff in place that we have to trust to do their job.  I’d just like to be able to get information to answer the questions of my constituents.” 

“We can’t make every decision; everything can’t go to Council.  We have to trust. We have good people on the City Staff.  Susan Broker has been given the job of overseeing the permits (coordination) between City departments and SEDA).  Now the key is going to be when the City says ‘No.’  It’s going to be up to the City Council to back these people when somebody waves a few million dollars…”

“I can tell you that I will do that. I can’t tell you if anybody else will do that,” he added.  “Bottomline, that issue, is protecting our city …” and making decisions that benefit all the residents, he summarized.

Nelson said that they have learned that there are 30 TV shows that are looking at options to move production from their current cities – there is huge opportunity “in the pipeline,” if Savannah wants the business.  But, the sound stage issue must be resolved, Tollison explained.  

Atlanta’s current sound stages are booked up for two years in advance, she stated.

The Civic Center has the added benefit that it is the attached to the Johnny Mercer Theater, where the premier was held for the community for “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil,” in fact.  But, it would also mean a parking lot full of production trucks and cars on a permanent basis. 

The Transition from City Film Office to SEDA’s Film Savannah

“We’ve had a great transition, Nelson reported to the Board, though Tollison acknowledged that there’s been “some hit hard at SEDA,” and that there has been “misinformation and misguided comments. But at the end of the day, we all agree that it’s the right thing to do, to consolidate and put it into a regional effort. When we started this process, we simply wanted to make it greater and better.”  

Savannah is putting in the greatest effort in Georgia to build the entertainment industry here, though Macon has been working at it, as well, and Film Savannah has had some calls from Augusta leaders, asking questions, Beth said. “We can attract more work with soundstage development,” he continued to emphasize. 

Beth Nelson was officially named Executive Director of Film Savannah one week ago, on August 15.  “She was going to leave, for many reasons, but she is staying and is doing a great job,” Tollison told the board.  The $600,000 operating budget will allow additional staff. “We were very understaffed before,” she added.

Their new offices on Hutchinson Island are “very nice.  We’re planning an open house in September, for everyone to see. They are located on the 1st floor, Room 101, of SEDA’s headquarters building. We have our own suite, with offices and a conference room.”

Nelson has been a Savannah resident for many years, originally working as a teacher before getting into the film business on the ground floor, working her way up to being a location expert.

She said that the software systems the City invested in last January have made a significant difference, along with the State of Georgia’s ‘Camera Ready,’ location strategy program that makes it easy to send interested production companies a selection of sites that addresses their stated needs. She also explained the new software that allows vendors to register their services that is open to public access by production companies. Services can also be listed privately, as well, such as housing options.  

“There is a large amount of work – they need everything from doctors to dentists to personal trainers, plus caterers, furniture …. a long list,” and she encouraged businesses to register their available services at www.FilmSavannah.org.

Nelson also told the Board that Ralph Singleton “has been an enormous help to her; we talk almost everyday.”

In June, Sony – which is the company expected to be a part of this Thursday’s press conference – announced a move signaling an expansion of its output and increased year-round production across multiple platforms. Sony Pictures Animation announced its slate through 2018 which includes five theatrical features, three television series and one direct-to-video movie.

She also announced that three movies shot in Savannah won awards at the recent Sundance Film Festival, and that they are working on a possible screening in Savannah of ‘Birth of a Nation,’ that is rumored to be up for an Oscar. 

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It's a wrap for the Big River Film Festival, scoring BIG success in first year in Savannah

PHOTO:  Domenica Cameron-Scorsese Honored with 2016 Best First Time Director Feature for Almost Paris. (L to R) Lisa Black, Michael Scorvino, Abigail Hawk, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, Samone Norsworthy, and Wally Marzano-Lesnevich.   Photo by: Corey Brooks

Savannah Business Journal SPECIAL REPORT

July 17 – It was a wrap for The Big River Film Festival this week, closing a highly successful inaugural event with an announcement of all the winners, and a quick lookback at how the first annual went came off.

There was a Closing Awards Ceremony Saturday evening followed by a VIP & Filmmaker Party.

The festival hosted a bevy of special screenings and events over the course of its three-day run including a VIP & Filmmaker Hospitality Suite, Master Classes, and multiple Film Competitions.

The Big River Film Festival also featured a varied list of awards including film competition awards, film & screenwriter awards, and other special awards.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the talent represented in this year’s festival and are already making plans for next year,” said Samone Norsworthy, CEO & Founder of Big River Film Festival.

Here’s a list of the winners which highlight the diverse entries and worldwide appeal of this new film event in Savannah.  They are:

2016 Best Short Film International

WINNER: Shamas Nawab Siddiqui, Mister Come Tomorrow

 

2016 Best First Time Director - Short

WINNER: William Klayer, Under A Stone

 

2016 Best Short Film USA      

WINNER: Paolo Monico, The Mother

 

2016 Best Documentary Short - USA             

WINNER: Frederick Taylor, Counter Histories: Rock Hill      

 

2016 Best Documentary Feature - International

WINNER: Olivier Lambert, Chasing Bonnie & Clyde 

 

2016 Best Documentary Feature - USA         

WINNER: Nicholas Spark, Right Footed         

 

2016 Best Feature International                    

WINNER: Maria Abdel Karim, Void   

 

2016 Best Feature Film – USA           

WINNER: Marie Ulrich, The Alley Cat

 

2016 Animated Short             

WINNER: Ira Elshansky, Warm Snow

 

2016 New Media Web Series

WINNER: Kevin Broan, It Comes Around Again - The Blue Island Beer Co.  

 

2016 Best First Time Director Feature

WINNER: Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, Almost Paris         

 

2016 Georgia Filmmaker of the Year

WINNER: Lily Keber, Bayou Maharajah

 

2016 Female Filmmaker of the Year

WINNER: Maria Finitzo - Writer, Director, Producer, Those Left Behind

 

2016 Young Filmmaker                      

WINNER: Azure Allen, One Day on Carver Street

 

2016 Spirit of Indie Filmmaking

WINNER: Heidi Marshall, Muscle

 

2016 Student Filmmaker       

WINNER: Kejd Kuqo, Bosniak

 

SPECIAL AWARDS

 

2016 Honorable Mention  

WINNER: Tsewang Rinzin, Sedhak The Golden Hill

 

2016 Big River Film in High Regard              

WINNER: James Fite, Project Mone't

 

Volunteer of the Year 2016   

WINNER: Bobbie Wilson

 

Special Thanks Award 2016   

WINNER: Christy Toribio, VP of Development

 

A feature of the festival was the offering of master classes for festival-goers including:

  • 5 Common VFX Myths that will Save you Money on your Next Production – This workshop covered VFX Myths as well as tips on how to save money on film production. Hosted by Alexis Nelson.

  • From Concept to Promotion: Bringing Your Film to Market – This panel focused on the steps of successful film marketing and promotion. Hosted by Patrick Ilabaca.

  • Leadership & Success: A New Understanding – This workshop featured a discussion where attendees were encouraged to question the currently-accepted standards of leadership incorporate the lessons of To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch in order to elevate both their professional careers and personal lives. Hosted by Charles Bowen.

  • How To Have Success in the Arts – This workshop focused on the relationship between intellectual property and the idea of “having your art support you rather than you supporting your art”. It also concentrated on the nuances that form both the “above the live” moniker in the budget and how it differentiates itself from “below the line” category. Hosted by Victor Pisano.

  • Film Sound: Listen & Learn – This workshop explored the delicacies of Film Production Sound with slides, audio clips, and demonstration of technique. Hosted by Kevin Strahm.

  • Set Safety! – This workshop centered on promoting awareness of current health and safety issues that can impact film and television production.

  • Panasonic Varicam Lt & Varicam 35 – This workshop featured Panasonic’s high-quality film equipment as well as live detailed demos with master cameramen. Sponsored by Panasonic.

  • How to be a Working Actor in the South – This workshop covered a wide range of topics including headshots, resumes, agents, self-taping, creating original content, marketing, scams, and what not to do. Hosted by Chad Darnell.

  • SONY Demonstration – This workshop featured Sony’s latest cameras and film equipment. Sponsored by Sony.

  • StoryBoarding – This workshop focused on the three essentials that every storyboard must have to effectively communicate a vision to cast and crew. Hosted by David Harland Rousseau & Benjamin Reid Phillips.

  • Branding & Marketing for Actors – This workshop focused on how to identify your brand as an actor and finding your market. Hosted by William Mark McCullough.

  • The Importance of Art in Film – This workshop focused on the importance of art selection and placement in film. Hosted by Bryan MacGregor.

  • Special Presentation – This workshop offered attendees advice on the proper use of film equipment. Hosted by Chapman Leonard.

 

The Big River Film Festival organizers have already launched their 2017 Membership Campaign for Big River Film Society, the supporting arm of Big River Institute.

And there is a Big River Institute that funds the Student Filmmaker Scholarship awarded to the Student Filmmaker of the Year and provides free Master Classes to attendees. 

In 2016, Big River Institute provided free education to over 300 individuals who were interested in learning about the many facets of the Film Industry. Many of these students were still in high school.

 

For more information on how to become a member of the Big River Film Society, please visit: http://www.bigriverfilmfestival.com/big-river-film-society.html

 

For those interested in being considered for inclusion in the 2017 Big River Film Festival, the call for new film submissions will open in September. Please visit the official site of the Big River Film Festival for updates: http://www.bigriverfilmfestival.com

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