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Aug. 2 – It's Disney! Production Co. Revealed of Major Motion Picture Set to Film Sept. thru Nov in Historic District

Category: Entertainment Business

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

August 2, 2018 - The Savannah City Council received an update Thursday morning on the Film Office’s permits that have been granted to use various locales in the city’s historic district for the production of a major motion picture in September through December, that will affect City Market, Johnson Square, Wright Square and a number of other areas.  

The name of the production company was finally revealed, after months of secrecy, and it is the Walt Disney Company.  The film’s director will be Charlie Bean (pictured), who attended the Work Session, along with members of his production team, and spoke about why Disney choose Savannah. 

The shooting schedule for outdoor locales will be through Nov. 7, but they will be using sound stages here until Dec. 6, with a goal to wrap up local work by January. A tentative shooting schedule by location has been released this week (see link below.) 

The film is set in the 1920’s era, which means that significant changes will have to be made to various locales, such as modern light fixtures on Johnson Square that will have to be taken down and temporarily replaced (and then re-installed at Disney’s expense), tour companies will have to reroute on multiple days, as well as other impacts are anticipated.  The Film Office estimates that it will be a total of a $20 million local spend.

Director Bean was asked why Disney had chosen Savannah for the production. He responded that the move, “is a beautiful nostalgic romance, that takes place in ‘any town U.S.A.’ in 1920, and Savanah seems like an incredibly beautiful, perfect town to represent the U.S. in that time period.  When I first came here, I was struck by how beautiful this town was, the combination of the parks, and the squares and the live oaks. It feels like it’s sprinkled with magic dust.  We can’t talk about more specifics, but it’s a beautiful romance,” he added.  The name of the movie has still not been divulged.

But sources say the movie is “an action remake” of the Disney classic "Lady and the Tramp." The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Kiersey Clemons is in talks for one of the film’s live-action roles, Darling, the owner of Lady.

Justin Theroux will voice Tramp, the streetwise mutt who tries to win over the pampered Cocker Spaniel after she ends up on the street once her owners have a baby. Ashley Jensen has also been cast to voice Scottish Terrier Jackie,” according to a July 31 story in the Reporter.

The city has been working with the company for several years to get to this point, according to Susan Broker, Special Events, Film & Tourism for the City of Savannah, who provided the details of the timing of the areas. The entire film will be shot in Savannah.  Director is Charlie Bean.

“They’ve been here for awhile,” said Broker.  They will be here, at least some of them, for seven months,” said Broker.  Subject matter experts will be living and working here,  she added, and “getting their hair cut, and all those things that affect small businesses here.”

Filming starts Sept. 10.  The Film Office location staff has been working for several months on the contracts with the businesses involved, and, “barring the ‘H’ word (hurricanes), they should be wrapping in November,” said Broker.

The Film Office has been working with representatives of the Downtown Neighborhood Association on various impacts to the Historic District, and specific squares, as part of the planning process. Meeting with businesses that will be impacted began this week.  

“We’re requiring more of this production company. One month out, we’re requiring notification (of the impact to a resident or business),” said Broker.  “Two weeks out, we should have most of the concerns and solutions accounted for.” 

The entire Johnson Square area will be closed for five days, for example, affecting parking and access to City Hall, said Broker.

Marty Johnson, Asst. City Manager, oversees the city’s permitting process in cooperation with the Film Office.

Beth Nelson is the Executive Director for the Film Office, which is overseen by the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), and resides in the SEDA headquarters on Hutchinson Island.

Overview on film production planning and shooting schedule:

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