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NEW FILM FESTIVAL THIS WEEK: Hell or High Water to Premiere at Big River Film Festival July 7 to 10 in Savannah

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

July 5, 2016 - The Big River Film Festival is set for this week in Savannah, and will feature the premiere of the action thriller “Hell or High Water” starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster.  The screening will be held on Friday, July 8, at 7 p.m. at the Carmike 10 Savannah Theatre. The movie, directed by David Mackenzie, premiered to universal acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and will open in theaters everywhere in August.

The Big River Film Festival is a new, international film festival that will offer access to creative voices through film programming, master classes, live performances and conversations with the most compelling film artists working today.   The festival is a chance to discover new films and new voices as well as experience the art of film making and explore TV, Web series and alternative media.

This is the first year of the festival, and features a distinguished Jury and Advisory Board of movie and television leaders.

Samone Norsworthy is the CEO and Co-Founder of the Big River Film Festival with Matt Norsworthy COO & Co-Founder.

The festival will offer a number of classes and presentations to learn more about the industry, and meet local industry leaders, as well as a long list of films being shown at venues around the city.

The complete schedule is available at the website:  www.bigriverfilmfestival.com.

 

About “Hell or High Water”

 

“Hell or High Water” is about two brothers finding their way in a collision of the Old and New West. Toby, played by Chris Pine, is a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son. Tanner, played by Ben Foster, is a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger.

They come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land as part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from beneath their feet.

The plan is working until they find themselves in the cross hairs of a relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement. As the brothers get ready for a final robbery, a showdown looms between the “last honest law man” and a pair of brothers with nothing to live for except family. It is a CBS Films production. More information is available on the film, including when it will play in local theaters, at http://www.hellorhighwater.movie.  Tickets are available at the Savannah Civic Center and via the Internet at http://savannahcivic.com/events/category/series/bigriver-film-festival/

 

The Jury

 

This year’s Jury President and Jury members include Dr. Nathaniel Kohn, Jury President, with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA. He is the Associate Director of the George Foster Peabody Awards, festival director of Roger Ebert's Film Festival, and director of the University of Georgia MFA program in screenwriting.  Dr. Kohn produced Zulu Dawn starring Burt Lancaster and Peter O’Toole; the independent feature Somebodies, which premiered at Sundance (2006); Rain, the Bahamas’ first indigenous feature which premiered at Toronto (2007) and on Showtime (2010); the feature film Bottleworld (2010); he was Executive Producer on the BET television series Somebodies (2008); he was Producer on the feature length documentary Bayou Maharajah that premiered at the SXSW Festival (2013); he produced the Emmy Award-winning short documentary Ebertfest 2012; and he was Executive Producer on The 73rd and 74th Annual Peabody Awards Specials for PivotTV/Participant Media (2014 and 2015).

Also on the committee are:

 

  • Rich Henrich, Producer, Director, Screenwriter, an Emmy Award-winning Producer, Director and Screenwriter. He is the founder and director of the Albuquerque Film Festival, which he launched with the late Dennis Hopper in 2009. For the past eight years, Rich has founded and programmed AMFM Fest in Flagstaff, AMFM Fest in Palm Springs, and serves as moderator and head of panels and workshops for the Durango Film Festival in Colorado.  He has served as an advisor/ consultant for the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, Santa Fe Film Festival, Prescott Film Festival, Ecuador International Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, San Diego Film Festival and the Anaheim Film Festival.  He is currently in post-production on the feature, Serpent in the Bottle, a psychological thriller, starring Michael Madsen and John Diehl. He is in pre-production on the indie horror film, Death In The Canyon, to be filmed August 2016. Henrich is a Contributing Faculty at The Film School at Santa Fe University of Art and Design where he teaches Screenwriting, Directing and Production. He has also lectured at several universities in the U.S., Ecuador and Norway. Mr. Henrich is also on the board of New Mexico Lawyers for the Arts and a past member of Coachella Valley Economic Partnership’s committee on Arts, Media and Entertainment in CA. In addition, he is a feature writer for the Coachella Valley Weekly where he covers music, art and politics. 

 

  • Alexis Nelson, Producer, the Emmy-nominated Executive Producer and founder of the award-winning digital production and management studio, HOAX Films. She partnered with William Mark McCullough to establish development and production company, Fort Argyle Films, with offices in Los Angeles and Savannah.  She was nominated for her first EMMY in 2014 for her work in Art Direction and Graphic Design on the History Channel’s Ultimate Guide to the Presidents.  She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Design Media Arts and a minor in Film and Television, and has been recognized industry-wide as an emerging and innovative leader, beginning her career at Motion Theory and Warner Bros. where she was involved in projects for Buick, Heineken, and Tanqueray.

 

  • Susie Hohenstein, Actress, a Savannah native who is a professional actress of the stage and screen. She recently finished filming a recurring role on HBO's new show Vice Principals as Mrs. Kingsbury.  Susie fosters talent through collaborative projects and is a member of the Savannah Actor's Guild.

 

  • Victor Pisano, Writer, Director, Producer, Writer, Producer and Director.  After graduate work in Rome, Italy, Victor started his career under contract at 20th Century Fox Studios in Beverly Hills, CA., as a screenwriter where he wrote the original screenplay, "VOICE OF THE NORTH END” for famed Director, Martin Ritt. “Hundreds” of Film and Television projects then followed as Writer, Producer and Director.  In 1990, Victor met and married Judy Belushi, widow of John Belushi. They, together with actor Dan Aykroyd, were involved in the formation and development of an entertainment restaurant/venue called, The House of Blues.  

 

  • William Mark McCullough, Actor, Producer, who currently lives in Savannah, where he relocated from Los Angeles. He holds a bachelors degree in political theory and theatre from Mercer University as well as a law degree from American University in Washington, DC. Mark has brought his brand of intense, violent and unpredictable characters to numerous films and TV shows. He will appear in a supporting role opposite Tom Cruise in the upcoming drug smuggling thriller, Mena. Mark just wrapped a supporting lead role opposite Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Adrian Grenier in the crime thriller, Southern Fury. He appears in The Birth Of A Nation, which won top honors at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Mark will be seen in the upcoming Matthew McConaughey Civil War epic, ‘Free State Of Jones.’ He acts opposite John Schneider and Joe Anderson in My Father Die, which premiered at the 2016 South By Southwest Film Festival. Mark stars opposite Michael Ironside in the horror film, Patient Seven coming to theaters in late 2016. Mark has a recurring role in the new series Underground on WGN America and he is currently working on the second season of PBS's Mercy Street.  In addition to acting, Mark is also a filmmaker. He has written, directed and produced several projects through his production company, Fort Argyle Films.

 

  • Shayna Weber, a Screenwriter and Producer focusing on female-driven projects and plans to start her own production company in the future.    She is part of TwinBridges Screenwriting Salon.   Shayna has also been a producer of reality programming for the past 15 years for both network and cable including the hit shows "So You Think You Can Dance," "Brew Dogs," and RuPaul's Drag Race."  She resides in Los Angeles. 

The Advisory Board of Big River Film Festival

The Advisory Board of Big River International Film Festival consists of individuals who have a significant interest in advancement of the filmmaking industry including Charles Bowen, Esq. of The Bowen Law Group, based out of Savannah.  Atty. Bowen is a business attorney who focuses on commercial, banking, entertainment and manufacturing law. He founded the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015 in an effort to grow the local film and television industry. 

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June 15 – SEDA responds to questions on its proposal to take over City’s Film Office

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

June 15, 2016 – City Manager Stephanie Cutter has recommended that the Savannah Film Office move to the responsibility of the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), with the city employees becoming SEDA employees.

The City would commit at least $205,000 per year, starting with next year’s budget.

Mayor DeLoach and the City Council held a workshop last week, at which a number of questions were raised by Aldermen and by representatives of the Savannah Film Commission, the body appointed by the City Council to insure public, neighborhood and industry input into decisions the City makes in permitting the filming of movies, TV shows and commercials within the city limits.

SEDA President Trip Tollison has now released a Q&A on some of the issues that were raised, as the Council, the Film Commission and the public lead up to a June 23 vote by the Council on the proposal.  

Why is it necessary to repeal the City Ordinance creating the Film Commission and establishing a Film Services Director?
This question is best answered by the City as to how the staff and Council believe it is best to move forward legally. Clearly, as evidenced by the MOU drafted by the City, the City staff believe repeal of the ordinance is the best way to advance.

We would only point out that the existing ordinance creates a Film Commission, and outlines its role as an advisory body to the City and to the Film Services Director.

The existing ordinance does not provide guidelines for productions in Savannah nor for permitting specifically. At the request of productions and City staff alike, Interim Director of the Savannah Film Office Beth Nelson consulted with other cities and using the knowledge and experience of City of Savannah staff relative to the issues as well as her years of experience as a location manager, she has developed production guidelines. Should the office expand to represent all of Chatham as proposed, the guidelines will expand as well.
 
By what measures would SEDA determine that an advisory committee was unnecessary?
We didn’t. We haven’t. We won’t. In the document SEDA prepared for City Council titled “A Case for a Countywide Alliance,” a proposal for a Savannah Area Film Office, we specifically address the need for a future advisory board and that it will be appointed by each investing entity in proportion to that body’s level of investment. The MOU has since been revised to reflect that position clearly.
 
If SEDA chooses to have an advisory committee, by what manner would SEDA determine composition? Does SEDA already have a short list of members? What would be the responsibilities, length of services, qualifications for appointment?
The Film Commission as currently appointed and structured would be welcome to contribute to the details of the role and appointment guidelines for a future advisory board through the remainder of the calendar year, when the new body would be formed by appointments of SEDA, the City Council and possibly others who commit to the partnership. Current members could be appointed to the new board per the discretion of the appointing body. SEDA does not have any recommendations at this time.
 
How seriously would SEDA take the recommendations of such a committee, given that most technical advisory committees have little influence over the decisions of a larger organization? 
We envision the future advisory board to function in much the same way as the current Film Commission, only appointed differently. We expect it will have at least the same influence, if not more, based on the way our other boards operate.
 
How would SEDA ensure that it:  remains a good steward of the people’s money;  does everything within its power to prevent conflicts of interest;  that the City of Savannah, who will be allocating public funds in excess of $200,000 per year, will have inspection rights upon request; that SEDA will report on its progress on a consistent, perhaps quarterly, basis; that SEDA will not engage in favoritism;  that SEDA will continue to have open meetings and be receptive to public concerns;  that actions taken by SEDA will be measured and transparent;  that goals and outcomes will be clearly defined and clearly stated?
 
SEDA is an extension of the State as mandated in the Georgia Constitution. Our meetings are subject to Open Meetings law. They are public, posted and everyone is welcome to attend. The same will be true of a Savannah Area Film Advisory Board. In addition, SEDA has a finance committee and audit committee.  The Authority is subject to an independent audit annually and it is presented annually to the finance committee and to the full SEDA board in a public meeting. The audit is a public document and available upon request. In addition, we produce an annual report every year with a condensed version of the audit and a report of our activities and metrics that is distributed widely via our email distribution list and posted online.

Though critical data has been collected and maintained, the last Savannah Film Office annual report was published in 2012.

SEDA produces a business plan every year with clearly established goals. It is presented every year to the board for approval in a public meeting. We maintain metrics through a platform called Salesforce that we review at least monthly. We report our metrics to the SEDA board quarterly. The same is true for World Trade Center Savannah which operates under SEDA and would be true for the Savannah Area Film Office. Mayor and Council are invited to every SEDA board meeting already.

While total spend and economic impact have been reported in the news, we are not aware of any official presentation or report made by the Savannah Film Office to City Council regarding the performance of the office or the state of the industry in recent years. We are not aware of an existing business plan or goals set for the Office.

Since we will have investing partners in a Savannah Area Film Office, we commit to making regular appearances at meetings of that entity to keep them informed and at least one formal report of performance annually.

With regard to business opportunities related to the growth in the entertainment production industry, and questions of favoritism, we expect the Savannah Area Film Office to operate in the same way the current Savannah Film Office operates relative to this issue. SEDA has been promoting the business potential in every way we can to every business we can in partnership with many others. We partnered with the Film Office to pay for and launch REELScout which allows every interested vendor or crew to list themselves as available. Contact information is on our website and is also provided on request. We partnered with Visit Savannah to promote the opportunity to area hotels. We have been working with the real estate community in much the same way and will advance the issue as broadly and as frequently as possible.

Finally, all board members are required to sign a Conflict of Interest Agreement annually. The same would be required of the newly formed advisory board members.

A presentation that SEDA made at the June 9 Workshop can be seen at www.seda.org

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June 8 – Film Commission votes unanimously to reject MOU giving City’s Film Office over to SEDA

 

PHOTO: The Savannah Film Commission spends their Friday evening meeting to address surprise move by City Manager Stephanie Cutter to move City's Film Office to SEDA, and end their City Council appointed body. 

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

June 8, 2016 – The Savannah Film Commission held a Special Called Meeting Friday evening, June 3, at the Savannah Film Office.  The majority of the members were in attendance.

After a long discussion, members voted unanimously to urge the City Council to reject the Memo of Understanding (MOU) that City Manager Stephanie Cutter negotiated with the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), without the knowledge of the Mayor, City Council or Film Commission.

The Film Commission, which is appointed by the City Council, represents residents, businesses that serve the film industry, and industry professionals. It was created by an official Ordinance of the City after issues surrounding films being shot in Savannah that were affecting neighborhoods, traffic and the flow of business.  But, its core mission was and is to build the film industry in the city; assist the Savannah Film Office and its employees; insure that Savannah is working cooperatively with the Atlanta Film Office which is the starting point for many film and television companies that are considering a production in Georgia; to provide coordination between the production companies and various city departments from which permits are required; provide an avenue for the public to express their opinions about the use of city streets and neighborhoods for TV, movies, commercials and SCAD productions; and to insure that all vendors serving the industry receive equal treatment through a public and transparent process.

In the City’s organization chart, the Film Office and its employees comes under the Park & Leisure Services Dept, led by Joe Shearouse.  Shearouse appeared to have been aware of the MOU strategy to give one of his departments over to SEDA, based on his comments at the meeting.

A number of Commissioners expressed that the City has not invested sufficiently in the film industry, based on current business and the potential for growth. 

Also in attendance was SEDA Vice President Brynn Grant, who acknowledged that there was a need to revisit some aspects of the MOU, based on questions being raised by the Commissioners. 

Cutter negotiated a plan to move the Film Office and its employees under the control of the SEDA without meeting with, or seeking input from the Film Commission. 

“I’m concerned that she and the City Council do not really understand what the Film Office and the Film Commission do on a day-to-day basis,” said a Commissioner after the meeting who asked not to be identified, as they work in the industry.

The Film Office’s four employees would interview with SEDA for their jobs, and Cutter committed $205,000 a year to SEDA to run the Film Office.  

The Commission had no idea that the change was underway until it appeared on the City Council’s regular agenda for a vote on the MOU at the May 26 meeting.  The Council voted to delay any decision, and directed Cutter to hold a Workshop on June 9, and then not vote on the concept until June 23 to give them time to study the idea, and give the public time to comment.

The topic is on tomorrow’s Council Workshop Agenda at 10 a.m.

At Friday’s meeting, member Atty. Dana Braun raised many issues, including that a City Ordinance cannot just be done away with – it must be voted out in addition to any vote on an MOU.  He was just one voice. 

Here is a summary of the consensus concerns discussed at the meeting by Film Commissioners, and in interviews following the meeting:

- The MOU ties the hands of Council, forcing them to repeal the existing ordinance.

- Why is it necessary to repeal the entire ordinance, Article F, Savannah Film Commission?  Why not revisit and revise various sections, as appropriate, with input from the Commission?

- Which “parties” have agreed to the MOU?  Why was the Film Commission neither consulted nor advised during the creation of the MOU, especially since the action to repeal the ordinance and disband the commission directly affects the commission, itself?

- By what measures would SEDA determine that an advisory committee was unnecessary? Why would they feel that an advisory committee is no longer necessary?  And, if SEDA is appointing its own ‘Advisory Committee’ the City Council and County Commissioners would have no say – no ability to reflect the opinion of their constituents if growth of the film/TV industry is impacting their area. 

- Should an advisory committee no longer be necessary, what steps would be taken by SEDA to ensure that SEDA would remain good stewards of the people’s money; That SEDA would do everything within its power to prevent conflicts of interest (such as when SEDA board member, David Paddison, received a producer’s credit on the controversial film, CBGB);  That the City of Savannah, who will be allocating public funds in excess of $200,000 per year, will have inspection rights upon request;  That SEDA will report on its progress on a consistent, perhaps quarterly, basis; That SEDA will not engage in favoritism; That SEDA will continue to have open meetings and be receptive to public concerns regarding the film industry;  That actions taken by SEDA will be measured and transparent; That goals and outcomes will be clearly defined and clearly stated? 

And, how can any measurement devices be formulated, as it is the State of Georgia’s film credits policies that are causing the uptick in activity across the State, including in the Savannah area.

If SEDA chooses to create an advisory committee, by what manner would SEDA determine the composition of the advisory committee; What kind of professionals or members would SEDA envision being on the advisory committee; Does SEDA already have a short list for members to replace the existing commission; What criteria would determine appointment to the committee; Would current commissioners be eligible for service on the new committee; What would be the responsibilities of the advisory committee; How long would be the length of service on the committee; How seriously would SEDA take the recommendations of such a committee, given that most technical advisory committees have little influence over the decisions of a larger organization;  How would SEDA prevent and avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of favoritism when appointing committee members, especially those in trades that closely parallel SEDAs mission;  Would there be only one representative from industries such as banking or commercial real estate on the committee, or would there be a list of qualified professionals who would be available for pro bono consultation on technical and legal matters;  Would committee members agree to abstain from doing business with productions in need of similar services;   Would qualified professionals serving as pro bono consultants abstain from doing business with productions in need of similar services?

In short, the Commission members, many of whom have worked for years in building the film industry in the area, have a number of questions.

Film Commission members also seek to understand why Cutter choose to agree to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) versus entering into a Contractual Services Agreement with SEDA. The latter is preferred by a number of the Commissioners. 

According to David Rousseau, a former member of the Commission who has been asked by a number of concerned citizens, including those in the industry, to aid in communicating concerns about the MOU, they believe that if the Council agrees to turnover the work of Film Office to SEDA, that a Contractual Services Agreement should be used and such a document should include:

• Background;

• Considerations, including but not limited to:

• Services Provided;

• Term of the Agreement (recommend renewable Sunset, based on measured goals and outcomes);

• Compensation;

• Confidentiality (as appropriate, given that public monies are used);

• Capacity and Scope of Responsibilities;

• Indemnification;

• Dispute Resolution (mediation preferred over litigation);

• Modification of Agreement (terms of);

• Terms of dissolution (e.g.: neither party can terminate services while there is a production on the ground).

Though many of these items are mentioned in the current MOU, the terms are too open ended, in the opinion of Atty. Braun.

Above all, do right, is the Film Commission’s message. “Preserve the interests of the community and the industry by ensuring good stewardship of the people’s money by preserving public oversight and accountability, due diligence, and transparency. These are the overriding principles of the concerns expressed by many.

Draft a clear Contractual Services Agreement in lieu of the MOU. This would still allow SEDA to manage the affairs of the film office, assume and retain them as employees, and still receive public funds, while preserving stewardship, accountability, and transparency.

Use the Contractual Services Agreement to ensure that stated goals and outcomes are being met.

Revisit and revise the existing ordinance (Article F. Film Commission), and tailor it to meet the needs of the new relationship between the City, its citizens, and SEDA. The Film Commission’s role would change little, given that they are first and foremost an advisory committee to the Film Services Director, and to the Mayor and Aldermen. This would allow for public input, and contribute to accountability and transparency,” according to Rousseau.  

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Recent comments

  • Guest - Melissa Emery

    This is so typical of city government in Savannah -- change the rules without consulting with anyone. Going to move your department from one area to another? Why would you need to know about it? Why would you want any input into it? Just pathetic management on the city's part.
    Like 0
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June 15 - Movie filmed in Liberty County receives African Oscar; Will be part of Savannah's Big River Film Festival

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

June 15, 2016 - The film “Ben & Ara,” which was primarily filmed in Liberty County, and produced by Savannah native Samone Norsworthy, was nominated and received the African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) for Best Diaspora feature, held at the Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.

“Ben & Ara” follows the struggles of an Islamic woman who falls in love with an agnostic man. It highlights the religious and cultural differences between the two lovers and how the families and community react to their relationship.

“After reading the script for ‘Ben & Ara,’ I immediately fell in love with the story,” said Norsworthy, the movie’s executive producer/production manager. “It has been an honor to produce this film, and I’m excited that it has brought international attention to our local film industry.”

“Ben & Ara” has won more than ten major awards. The film features Savannah native William Mark Mccullough, actor, director and producer, as well as other local cast and crew members.

The AMAAs are considered to be Africa’s most important film event and the most prestigious film award in Africa. The Academy, founded on the historic film values, is geared towards research, training and promoting film making in Africa.

“Ben & Ara” will screen at the Big River Film Festival on Saturday, July 9, in the Johnny Mercer Theater at 5 p.m. The cast and crew will be in attendance and will hold a Q&A session after the show. Information about “Ben & Ara,” is available at http://www.benandara.com.

The Big River Film Festival will take place in Savannah, Ga., from Thurs., July 7, to Sun., July 10.

The international film festival will offer access to creative voices through film programming, master classes, live performances and conversations with successful film artists, according to organizers.

More than 120 films will be screened, and 41 countries will be represented. For more information, on the Big River Film Festival, visit www.bigriverfilmfestival.com. 

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Lead actors and leadership of TV show “Underground” share Perspective on the Developing the Series, and the Experience of Shooting locally, at Savannah Film Festival

PHOTO by SCAD. Provided to Coastal Empire News

By Lou Phelps. Savannah Business Journal

October 23, 2016 – A standing-room only crowd of Savannah Film Festival attendees had an exclusive first look at Season Two of WGN America’s critically acclaimed hit series “Underground,” and a rare opportunity to hear from the cast and several in the production's leadership of the series that has moved all production to Savannah. 

The panel included a discussion and audience Q&A with cast members Aldis Hodge, Amirah Vann and Aisha Hinds, as well as executive producer and director Anthony Hemingway, production designer Meghan Rogers, costume designer Karyn Wagner and director of photography Kevin McKnight.

Produced by Sony Pictures Television, season two of “Underground” will premiere in March 2017.  The panel was held Sunday, October 23 at 2 pm in the Gutstein Gallery of SCAD, where the actors shared their thoughts on the character development of their roles, and the production company's leadership shared experiences in creating an original television series. 

Underground is an original screenplay, based on the American history of the  “Underground” railroad and slavery in the 1800’s, Season Two introduces Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglas, famous African American historical figures, into the story line. Executive Producer and music John Legend, has been cast as Douglas. 

Hemingway spoke about the series and story line as “a way to heal” and as “to help us learn,” about slavery. And, said that he took on the assignment because he felt the screenwriters were coming at the story of slavery in American in a new way – “not as victimization,” but about strength and ingenuity.”

“It touches who I am, every fiber of my being,” he added.

Known for his work on a number of leading movies, and the TV show ‘Empire,’ he shared, “I have been built and prepared for this moment in time.” And, said that.” It’s hard work – blood seat and tears on a daily basis.”  Last year, shooting in Louisiana, they had to contend with a tornado. Two weeks ago, shooting was halted in Savannah due to Hurricane Matthew. 

He personally directed three episodes in Season One, and this year won an Emmy for directly "The People vs. O.J. Simpson, a limited television production.   

Actor Aldis Hodge, who plays lead character Noah, talked to the SCAD acting students in attendance to hear the panel about his personal experience so far, that the role has added “worth and value” and elevated him in his personal life. “How I look at myself a a man in this country,” has been changed.

And, he added that the felt that the history of slavery “has been taught poorly,” in the U.S.

As an actor, he also had to think long and hard about getting in involved in a show that is anticipated to go on for five to six years.

“Our audience is very intelligent,” Hodge said, and he was very proud of being involved with a series that approached slavery, “from a different perspective.”

Hemingway also added that the positive relationships of the cast “is one of the strengths of the show.”

Actress Amirah Vann, who portrays ‘Ernestine,’ said that her character is “all about her kids,” and she acknowledged her “Auntie Mama” who was in the audience, and was an important influence in her life.

Also on the panel was Aisha Hinds, who will portray historical figure Harriet Tubman. 

Asked ‘what was informing the work?” she explained, “We know so little about her personal life,” but she has done extensive research.

Hinds added that their goal was “to pull the woman that we idolize out of the portrait and give her movement and voice for this generation.”  And, added, “Yes, I was afraid I would not have enough information.”

Hemingway explained that to aid in writing portions of Season Two, they have added a historian educated at Harvard, son of the show’s Director of Photography, Kevin McKnight.

McKnight said he was attracted to the project because it was “a chance to be bold, an opportunity to make a standout. We’ve used the word ‘BOLD’ from the beginning – to make statement stories.”

They discussed Episode 7 from Season One, entitled “Cradle,”    highlighted by the panel’s moderator.  “It was a side effort script, explained Hemingway, what he termed ‘a breakout script,” where they “stopped the story of the runners and focused on how the children were being affected,” both living in slavery and slaves seeking to escape.

Hemingway also explained that photography, and how each episode is shot, when done well delves into the psychology of the characters, and there is “an understanding of each character what the character needs.”

Both the Production Director and Costume Designer talked about the architecture of Savannah, which they said “is amazing,” and which broadened their opportunities. There are  “constantly great things to use,” in both costuming, settings and historic items to build authentic period sets of the 1800 period in Savannah, they stated.

Rogers added that, “The light is different here in Savannah from Louisiana," which has also been used by them and has influenced decisions. 

As to the script for Season Two, Hemingway acknowledged that they “are still writing by the way. We’re not done.”

Copyright 2016 SavannahBusinessJournal.com, a publication of Coastal Empire News, Savannah, GA. All Rights Reserved. www.CoastalEmpireNews.com

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