Boycotts and Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill
By Charles Bowen
As every parent knows, children’s fairy tales and fables are often founts of considerable insight and wisdom.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” sheds considerable light on politicians who vainly strut on the state and national stage. “Cinderella” contains valuable lessons regarding the mistreatment of the poor. It is one of Aesop’s Fables that is most directly relevant to today’s headlines, however: “The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.”
The story recounts the tale of a farmer who owned a goose that laid a solid gold egg every morning. While these eggs made the farmer a wealthy man, he still wanted more. “Then one day the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the goose and cutting it open. But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find and his precious goose was dead.”
The state of Georgia has its own such rare and valuable goose. It is our film and television industry, and we have fed and cared for it well. Due to a combination of economic incentives, workforce development, and commitment to infrastructure, Georgia has become one of the most preferred destinations in the world for film and television productions.
Over the past several years, these productions have had an economic impact in our state of roughly $10 billion annually. Locally, we hosted approximately 200 professional film and television productions in 2018 that accounted for $250 million in direct spending in Chatham County alone.
The question our state faces now, however, is whether the passage of Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” may result in a costly boycott by the film and television industry. Such a boycott has been threatened by several actors and professional organizations.
For those unfamiliar, the proposed law would ban abortion as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which typically happens around six weeks into a pregnancy. This law would be one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country, particularly considering that most women do not even realize they are pregnant at six weeks. As of this writing, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has not yet signed the Georgia legislation, but there is little doubt that he will do so.
There is almost unanimous agreement, even among its proponents, that the law is patently unconstitutional. It is specifically designed to attempt to get the question of abortion rights back before a U.S. Supreme Court that is now stacked with conservatives. The real goal is to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1974 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. But it is a long way to the Supreme Court, and every effort to pass a similar bill in other states (18 at last count) has been struck down before it has reached that level.
It is this legal layer of protection that I believe is likely to temper any threatened boycott from the entertainment industry. While there will certainly be action and anger from some, it is unlikely to result in an industry-wide consensus to boycott the state of Georgia unless and until a fetal heartbeat bill were to survive the inevitable court challenge and actually go into effect.
By way of analogy, imagine if the Savannah City Council enacted a local ordinance stating that no one over six feet tall was allowed to own a local business. While such an action would obviously inspire immediate anger, most reasonable people would understand that due to our system of legal checks and balances, there would no need for panic because of the certainty that such an unenforceable ordinance would be immediately struck down by the courts.
As far as the heartbeat bill, the vast majority of the entertainment industry will likely wait and see what ultimately happens. But they will absolutely be taking notes.
Inaugural Savannah Film Alliance Honors Gala to Recognize Film and Television Professionals
(SAVANNAH, GA) Savannah’s calendar of social events gets a glamorous new entry this year with the launch of the Savannah Film Alliance Honors Gala. The Gala will recognize and honor several key professionals for their invaluable contributions to the local film and television industry. The theme of the event will be “Old Hollywood” and will be held Saturday, September 28, at the new event venue, Victory North, located at 2603 Whitaker Street.
Entertainment will be the focal point of this red carpet event. The Savannah Film Alliance (SFA) will invite its membership of filmmakers, musicians, and actors to show off their talents throughout the night.
There is also an immersive theater experience planned for the event, whereby guests will interact and engage with live entertainers at an old Hollywood “High Society” gathering. “The immersive experience is designed to transport event attendees back in time into a glamorous alternate reality,” said Charles Bowen, founder of the SFA. “This is the cutting edge of live theater and I think people will remember this night for a long time.”
The entertainment industry is a force to be reckoned with in Georgia as it has grown in the last decade from $240 million in 2007 to almost $10 billion in 2018 with 30 to 40 productions underway in the state at any given time. In Savannah alone, the economic impact from motion picture and television productions has risen from $26 million in 2012 to $254.6 million in 2018.
While threats of a Georgia boycott have dominated the news recently, the SFA Honors Gala aims to shift the focus instead to all of the positive aspects of the local entertainment industry. “I am especially excited for the opportunity to recognize and reward all of the hard-working professionals that have transformed Savannah into one of the most sought-after filming destinations in the world,” said Bowen. “The Gala will not only be wildly entertaining, but it will shine the spotlight directly on many of the industry members who are quickly becoming shining stars – not to mention economic drivers – in our community.”
VIP tickets to the Gala are $150 and will include valet parking, early entry at 6:30 p.m., private performances and meet and greets, a professional photo on the red carpet, a special award, and a VIP swag bag.
General admission tickets are $75 and will allow entry when the doors open at 7:30 p.m.
All attendees will enjoy live entertainment, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and an open bar. The honors ceremony will begin at 8:30 p.m. and an onsite after party will last from 9:30 until 11 p.m.
Sponsorship opportunities, including the title sponsorship, are available at several levels.
For more information on tickets and sponsorships, visit www.SavannahFilmAlliance.org.
Savannah Attorney Charles Bowen to Discuss Film Industry at Buy Local Savannah May Meeting
(SAVANNAH, GA.) Charles “Bo” Bowen of the Bowen Law Group will discuss the Savannah area’s burgeoning film industry when Buy Local Savannah gathers for its May meeting Thursday, May 23, at Cohen’s Retreat, 5715 Skidaway Road.
Bowen will discuss film and television production in the area, including existing barriers to its continued expansion and the risks presented by potential boycotts. Bowen’s law firm specializes in commercial and entertainment law, and he has expanded his involvement to larger interests in the film industry.
He is a frequent commentator and writer on entertainment industry topics in local media. In 2015, Bowen founded the Savannah Film Alliance to promote the film community within Savannah and the greater Coastal Empire through advocacy and action via education, outreach and collaboration.
He also founded Southern Gateway Production Services to ensure a seamless experience for out-of-town producers coming to Savannah to film their projects.
Bowen attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, where he graduated with honors in psychology and political science. Upon graduating from Georgetown University Law Center in 1995, he moved to Savannah and established a corporate law practice. He has developed a reputation as one of Savannah’s most experienced attorneys in entertainment law.
The Buy Local meeting will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and lunch will be served. Reservations are required.
The local trade association boasts about 150 member businesses in varied fields. Buy Local Savannah’s mission is to support locally owned and operated, independent businesses in the greater Savannah area, to maintain the area’s unique community character, provide continuing opportunities for entrepreneurs, build community economic strength and prevent the displacement of community-based businesses by national and global entities.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BOWEN LAW GROUP
Based out of Savannah, Charles Bowen is a business attorney who focuses on commercial and entertainment law and also offers comprehensive mediation services. Bowen attended Mercer University in Macon, Ga., where he graduated summa cum laude with honors in both psychology and political science. Upon graduating from Georgetown University Law Center in 1995, he moved to Savannah and established a corporate law practice. Bowen was named “Business Advocate of the Year” in 2015 by the Savannah Morning News. He won the “2016 Helen V. Head Business Leader of the Year Award” presented by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. He also chaired the 24th Annual Kiss-a-Pig campaign on behalf of the American Diabetes Association. Bowen has received the Martindale-Hubbell® AV® Preeminent™ rating, the highest rating based upon confidential surveys sent to other attorneys. He also has been selected by the members of the State Bar of Georgia as one of Georgia Trend’s 12th Annual Legal Elite in two categories: Business Law and Corporate Law. He is the author of three eBooks. With panoramic views of the city and the Savannah River, The Bowen Law Group is located on the top floor of the Manger Building at 7 East Congress Street. For more information, call 912.544.2050 or visit thebowenlawgroup.com. Follow The Bowen Law Group on Twitter at @bowenlawgroup.
How to Get into the Film Industry
By Charles “Bo” Bowen
So you want to be in pictures? Considering that Savannah is transforming into a thriving entry point for film and television careers, you are definitely in the right place.
Until fairly recently, almost all roads leading to the film and television screen started in Los Angeles or New York City. Over the past decade, however, advances in technology and financial incentives like those the state of Georgia adopted in 2008 have expanded the industry far beyond California and New York. Georgia has been the primary beneficiary of this expansion with Atlanta topping the list of current filming locations and significantly-smaller Savannah coming in second.
If you are interested in becoming a part of Georgia’s film industry, you should know one thing up front: no one starts at the top. The movie and television industry rewards experience and is merit-based. Anyone willing to work hard and maintain a positive attitude in the high-paced and stressful world of film production, however, will likely find themselves progressing quickly.
Granted, experience is crucial to success in almost all professions, but it is especially true in the entertainment industry. When a production begins filming, hundreds of strangers come together to work intensely on a single project — often for months at a time — and then immediately move on to the next opportunity. There may be a few stories of overnight success, but for the most part, those individuals worked hard for 20 years to earn that “overnight” success.
If you believe a career in movies might be a good fit, it is always a good idea to give your interests a thorough test drive. A great place to start is to work as an extra on one of the numerous productions in and around Savannah.
Working as an extra largely consists of waiting around for hours for a few minutes of work as a background player with no lines and minimal pay. But it is a prime opportunity to watch what film professionals are doing. Does it look interesting? Can you cope with the rigid top-down management and stressful environment? Does the reality look as appealing in person as it did in your imagination?
Casting calls are typically well covered in local media, thus finding an opportunity to work as an extra can be as simple as searching “casting in Savannah GA” on the internet. Casting calls are also often listed on the Savannah Regional Film Commission’s website, savannahfilm.org, or you can send a request to join www.facebook.com/groups/savannahextras.
If you still feel drawn to invest in a film-related future after being on a set, Savannah has you covered. Thanks to Savannah Technical College, our city hosts one of the 12 campuses of the Georgia Film Academy. This unique partnership of the University System of Georgiaand the Technical College System of Georgiaprovides a certification program of 18 credit hours, complete with internship opportunities.
Georgia Film Academystudents study a curriculum of on-set production, set construction and scenic painting, lighting and electric, grip and rigging, introduction to special makeup effects, post-production effects and, in the future, production accounting.
At $89.00 per credit hour (plus fees) at the technical college level, you can complete the entire course of study in just two semesters for a very affordable price. This can be a worthy investment to help break into a field where the Georgia Film Academyestimates an average salary is $84,000.00 a year (not to mention retirement benefits and health insurance coverage).
The required introductory course is currently on the schedule for Savannah Tech’s summer semester.
These types of jobs are on the production crew. There is a tremendous need for local crew in Savannah and once you receive the requisite training and experience, work should be easy to find. If you are more interested in the creative side of the process (directors, screenwriters, actors, etc.), there is still far more than just luck involved.
Savannah has a number of successful theater groups where you can audition for local productions to help you explore whether acting may be for you. There are also quite a few acting classes and workshops taught locally to help you hone your skills. Savannah offers college and university resources for those careers, as well. You can pursue theatrical performance degree programs at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong and Statesboro campuses as well as Savannah State University. Savannah College of Art and Designoffers programs in almost every spectrum of the creative side of the entertainment industry from highly-skilled and respected professionals.
Most importantly, do not give up.
Almost everyone enters the film industry slowly for little pay to learn firsthand what the entertainment world is all about while gaining practical skills and making all-important contacts prior to finding success. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, Savannah’s film production boom ensures the opportunity is there for the taking.
Business and entertainment attorney Charles “Bo” Bowen is the founder of Southern Gateway Production Services. He started the production services company with the mission to ensure a seamless experience for out-of-town producers by providing them connections with local crew, vendors and service providers. Bowen is also recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliancein 2015. As the founder of The Bowen Law Group, he has also developed a reputation as one of Georgia’s most experienced attorneys in entertainment law. http://www.thebowenlawgroup.com
Attorney Charles Bowen Honored by Georgia Senate Resolution and Outstanding Georgia Citizen Award
(ATLANTA, GA) A resolution passed by the Georgia State Senate has recognized Savannah attorney Charles “Bo” Bowen for his services to both the state’s entertainment industry and to its legal profession.
The Senate resolution was sponsored by State Sens. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) and Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and praises Bowen’s role in promoting Savannah’s growing movie and television industry. The resolution cites, in part, the reasons for the recognition: “Bo founded the Savannah Film Alliancein 2015 to foster cooperation and collaboration within the local entertainment industry; he is also the founder and president of Southern Gateway Production Services, which provides support to all out-of-town productions coming to the region; and he is the co-founder of Aeroscope Studios, the author of three eBooks on business and entertainment law, and currently serves on numerous corporate boards and councils.”
The resolution also recaps business honors Bowen has received. They include being named “Business Advocate of the Year” by the Savannah Morning News, winning the “Helen V. Head Business Leader of the Year Award” from the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerceand receiving additional accolades from the legal profession.
The full text of the resolution can be found here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20192020/183638.pdf.
Bowenfirst met with Governor Brian Kemp before heading to the Senate floor. Sen. Jackson then read the resolution aloud and invited Bowento address the Senate. He was then named an Outstanding Georgia Citizen by the Georgia Secretary of State.
The recognition from the Secretary of Statereads: “May this Outstanding Citizen be afforded every courtesy as a Goodwill Ambassador from Georgia in his travels to other states, to nations beyond the borders of the United States of America, or wherever he may hereafter travel or reside. Thank you for your service to our State.”
Bowen’s two daughters accompanied him to the Georgia State Capitol. In his remarks before the Senate, Bowenstated: “I am deeply honored, and I am very grateful that my two teenage daughters could be here today to see firsthand that working hard in your profession and trying to help others succeed does not go unnoticed. I know that is a lesson they will carry with them into adulthood. I also want to thank all of you, the leaders of the State of Georgia, for the tremendous work you have done in promoting the entertainment industry and helping ensure every year that Georgia remains the greatest place in the world to conduct business.”
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BOWEN LAW GROUP
Based out of Savannah, Charles Bowenis a business attorney who focuses on commercial and entertainment law. Bowen attended Mercer Universityin Macon, Ga., where he graduated summa cum laude with honors in both psychology and political science. Upon graduating from Georgetown UniversityLaw Center in 1995, he moved to Savannah and established a corporate law practice. Bowenhas received the Martindale-Hubbell® AV® Preeminent™ rating, the highest rating based upon confidential surveys sent to other attorneys. He also has been selected by the members of the State Bar of Georgia as one of Georgia Trend’s Legal Elite in two categories: Business Law and Corporate Law. With panoramic views of the city and the Savannah River, The Bowen Law Groupis located on the top floor of the Manger Building at 7 East Congress Street. For more information, call 912.544.2050 or visit thebowenlawgroup.com. Follow The Bowen Law Groupon Twitter at @bowenlawgroup.
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SEDA Entertainment Incentives Extended for Three Years: How to Make it Work for You
By Charles Bowen
Savannah did not become a preferred filming destination based solely upon Mother Nature’s bounty. While warm weather, beaches, forests, creeks, and marshes (not to mention some of the most beautiful architecture on the planet) can offer up a feast to any camera’s lens, the truth is that the lifeblood of the film industry is illusion. One room with a simple green wall can be instantly transformed into any location in the universe. Thus, despite the breathtaking nature beauty of the Coastal Empire, continued success will not be assured by our looks alone.
Movies and television shows can be insightful, inspirational, and uplifting. They have the ability to mentally transport the viewer to another time and place and have motivated some of the greatest leaders of our generation. But first and foremost, they are also a business. That means that money counts. A lot.
The State of Georgiahas become one of the top filming locations in the world due to the generous film tax credits offered by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Those financial incentives are why the dead walk in Senoia, Georgia and the Black Panther’s homeland of Wakanda has an Atlanta ZIP code.
While that is great for the state as a whole, what about Savannah? That is where the Savannah Entertainment Production Incentive comes into play. The Savannah Economic Development Authority(SEDA) has just approved a three-year renewal of this unique set of financial incentives for movie and television productions.
Thanks to SEDA, Savannah became the first city in the state to add additional benefits on top of Georgia’s already generous incentives. These local incentives provide $4 million to qualifying film and television productions that shoot in Savannah. They have also earmarked $100,000.00 of that total for professional auditing to ensure that the guidelines are being followed by the recipients.
So how do these incentives benefit local businesses? In the broad economic picture, everyone in the region indirectly profits due to the boost that productions provide the local economy. Movie and television productions directly spent more than $120 million dollars in the Savannah area in 2018, which equates (according to the experts) to a total economic impact of over $250 million. Landlords, florists, security firms, antiques dealers, equipment rental firms, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and many other industries all shared in that windfall.
If you would like to apply for the incentive directly, however, you must be planning a feature film or television pilot with a budget of at least $2 million with at least $500,000.00 of that amount being spent on approved expenditures within Chatham County. Productions that meet those requirements can qualify for a 10 percent rebate on qualified local spending up to a cap of $100,000.00. Television series have higher budgetary requirements but the annual cap goes up to $250,000.00.
The precise guidelines may be found on the Savannah Regional Film Commission’s website, savannahfilm.org. The incentives previously applied only to Chatham County but now cover any filming within a 60-mile radius of Savannah City Hall.
It should also be noted that SEDAis providing economic incentives to help build the local crew base, as no production would be possible without the myriad of individuals working diligently behind the scenes. If you have five years of verifiable experience as a film or television technician and would like to relocate to Chatham County, the local incentive will reimburse up to $2,000.00 per household for qualified moving expenses. The current budget allocates up to $100,000.00 per year on these crew relocations. That is enough for fifty crew members per year to move to Savannah, helping ensure that producers can find the local crew they need. Even better, the production itself can qualify for a bonus incentive if 50 percent of its official crew is hired locally.
Given the tremendous advantage that Atlanta has over Savannah in terms of both population and infrastructure, Atlanta will likely always remain the top filmmaking destination in Georgia. Indeed, Atlanta showed up No. 2 on MovieMaker Magazine’s January 2019 list of the best major cities for making movies. Savannah, however, claimed the No. 1 spot on that same magazine’s list of best small cities and towns for film and television production. This is a tremendous testament to the hard work of all the individuals in the Savannah Regional Film Commission, SEDA, and the countless other individuals and companies that have tirelessly and diligently labored to help build the Savannah film and television industry.
If your business has benefitted from the entertainment industry, or even if you just enjoy the thrill of wondering whether that person at the corner table in your favorite coffee shop is a movie star who has slipped away from the bright lights, a great deal of the credit goes to the Savannah Entertainment Production Incentive.
Charles Bowen is an entertainment attorney and founder of the Savannah Film Alliance. He may be contacted at 912.544.2050 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Greatest Year Ever for Savannah’s Film and Television Industry
By Charles J. Bowen
What do an aging assassin hunting his clone, a football-playing private investigator trying to exonerate his daughter, an escaped slave interacting with famous historical figures, and an upper-class cocker spaniel falling in love with a street smart mutt all have in common? They are all leading characters in movies filmed in Savannah in 2018.
These films do not even begin to demonstrate the breadth of last year’s film and television industry in Savannah. From film noir in John Travolta’s “The Poison Rose” to the science fiction action thriller “Gemini Man” starring Will Smith to Disney’s live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp,” Savannah has played host to almost every possible genre of production.
Over 200 professional film and television productions were filmed in the Savannah area in 2018 with another 147 student productions on top of that. Whether large or small, each and every production served as an economic engine pumping cash into every corner of the local economy.
According to the Savannah Regional Film Commission, these productions accounted for $120 million in direct spending locally and had a total economic impact of well over $250 million in 2018 alone. These figures shattered the record set in 2017 of $65 million in direct spending with $138 million in total local economic impact.
As founder of the Savannah Film Alliance, I see the tremendous financial impact these productions have daily on a diverse range of local businesses. In addition to food and lodging, film crews utilize dry cleaners, pet sitters, massage therapists, and countless other local professionals. Small businesses across the city are finding a windfall in income from these productions, and every month, more and more businesses that service the entertainment industry are moving to town.
One of the major reasons for this boom in the local film and television industry is the Savannah Entertainment Production Incentive offered by the Savannah Economic Development Authority. This program provides cash rebates to qualified film and television productions that schedule a majority of their shooting days within 60 miles of Savannah City Hall. Since this rebate applies to local spending only, it encourages productions to hire local crew and utilize local businesses and service providers.
The reason this incentive is so effective is that it is offered on top of the very generous production incentives offered statewide by the State of Georgia. But all this government support would mean nothing without the many local crew members, small business owners, industry leaders, and educators, such as the Georgia Film Academyat Savannah Tech, that have worked tirelessly to transform Savannah into one of the most popular filming destinations in the world.
While these statistics are certainly reasons to celebrate, it is crucial to remember that all of this progress can be instantly destroyed by one ill-informed swipe of our new governor’s pen. As North Carolina discovered after its infamous “bathroom bill,” any effort to roll back the civil rights gains of the last 60-plus years under the guise of “religious liberty” could decimate Georgia’s film and television industry. Just last year, a bill that would have allowed private adoption agencies to legally discriminate based on “sincerely-held religious beliefs” made it all the way through the Georgia Senate before failing. Thus, it is important to remain vigilant lest any such efforts resurface.
Looking forward to 2019, Savannah looks well-positioned to hold onto its status as the second most filmed city in Georgia behind Atlanta. Numerous productions have either committed to or expressed interest in filming in Savannah this year. Remember, there is a lot more at stake than simply the chance to spot a movie star at a local restaurant or to recognize a familiar site on the screen. Entire livelihoods and real money supporting real families are being built by the local film and television industry and you never know where the flow of that money will ultimately land.
While recently browsing a local antique mall, well-removed from the lights-camera-action world, a friend ran across a prop master buying rotary phones for the 2019 local filming of “The Glorias: A Life on the Road,” a Gloria Steinem biopic. The film dollar travels far and wide. The pocket in which it winds up may well be yours.