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
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
Everything You Need to Know about the GDPR
by Charles Bowen
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recently went into effect across the European Union (EU). The GDPR is a data privacy law that gives citizens of the EU far more control over their personal data and requires businesses to keep all such data private, safe and protected.
This law was passed in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the private personal data of millions of people was sold to England’s “Leave the EU” campaign and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
Any company that collects data on people who live in the EU must follow the new regulations, no matter where the company is based. That means that if you own a company in Savannah but sell to a European customer, you are subject to the new GDPR privacy rules.
To better ensure privacy and protection, companies must now procure their customer’s actual consent in order to store their personal information. This request for consent must be clear and written in plain language (rather than buried in 50 pages of terms and conditions).
Any company that does not obtain this explicit consent may only store a customer’s personal data if they can prove they have a “lawful basis” for doing so such as a contract or other legal obligation.
What this means in practical terms is businesses will have to pay a lot more attention to the security of their customers’ personal data and they will not be allowed to hold onto it for any longer than necessary. Also, anyone can ask for their personal information to be deleted from a company’s servers at any time.
Any company found to be in violation of these new rules will face huge financial penalties. Large companies can be fined up to 4 percent of their annual global sales, which can run into billions of dollars. Even small companies can be fined up to $23.5 million.
The GDPR was designed to protect consumers due to the large number of cyber attacks and data leaks over the past few years. And despite the fact it is a European law, given the global reach of the internet, it has been estimated that 92 percent of American businesses will be affected.
There currently are no plans to expand the provisions of GDPR to the United States, but many experts believe that given the almost daily occurrence of large scale data hacks, it’s only a matter of time until such protections are extended worldwide. It will be interesting to see how effective the EU’s monitoring of the GDPR is over the next several months and how aggressively violators are prosecuted.
It seems clear, however, that data breaches and mishandling of personal customer information will be a lot costlier.
Despite the effort it will take to understand, implement and enforce the GDPR, it is hard to deny some type of action must be taken. Anyone who has ever shopped for a product on Amazon and then immediately seen an ad for the same product on Facebook knows how creepy and invasive the internet’s targeted advertising technology can be.
The National Security Agency can use that same system to seamlessly track almost anyone in the United States, and political firms such as Cambridge Analytica can use it to secretly single out political subgroups and sell that data.
Hopefully, the GDPR is a good start in restoring a bit of privacy to the worldwide web, but it’s just the first step of a long process.
Charles Bowenis a business attorney who focuses on commercial, banking and manufacturing law and also offers comprehensive mediation services. He may be contacted at 912.544.2050 or email@example.com
10 Legal Questions Small Businesses Don’t Always Know to Ask
By Charles Bowen
Owning a small business is an exciting endeavor, particularly when it means turning your passion into an income-generating career. But as almost every entrepreneur learns somewhere along the way (often painfully), being a business owner, unfortunately, does not make you a legal expert.
I’ve worked with small business owners for well over twenty years now and helped them manage corporate compliance issues, intellectual property laws, contract disputes, state and federal regulations, litigation, and countless other unexpected legal hurdles. As a result, I wanted to share the answers to ten questions that small business owners often don’t know to ask until it’s too late:
1. Do all of my agreements need to be in writing?
Keeping track of every transaction and conversation may be tedious, but it is crucial to your company’s success in the event of a dispute. Whether it’s contracts with your customers or just a receipt for merchandise, written records greatly reduce your liability and can serve as winning evidence if a disagreement arises. Even a simple email memorializing a conversation can make the difference between legal victory and a costly defeat.
2. How can I avoid getting sued?
Knowing and addressing the most common risks of your industry can greatly reduce your risk of getting sued. Lawsuits can arise in many areas, such as employee complaints, accidentally infringing on someone else’s intellectual property, and failing to meet all state and federal regulations for operation. The first step is to recognize where your company is most at risk and then taking steps to minimize that risk as much as possible.
3. What impact will investors have on my business?
Investors can be a great source of the capital, knowledge, and connections necessary to grow your business. However, it is important to remember that every investment also brings added duties to the investor and reduces your autonomy as the owner. Be sure to that your investment agreement is clear and comprehensive, and that you are not ultimately giving up more than you are receiving.
4. Can I use my personal assets to operate my business?
One of the most common and devastating mistakes made by small business owners is blurring the line between personal and business assets. It is crucial to keep them separated. When you are transferring assets, pay yourself with the same company checks you use to pay your employees. Remember: if you treat your personal and business assets as one and the same, then creditors and courts can do so, too.
5. What can I do to protect my brand?
Regardless of industry, the most important assets of any business are its name and reputation. That’s why making certain your brand is protected is an extremely important part of any business plan. Be sure to register trademarks for your brand name, logo, and other important identifiers of your company. Registering can also help you put a stop to any competitors infringing on your intellectual property.
6. Should I incorporate or operate as a sole proprietor?
If you do not form a formal business entity, you are placing all of your personal assets at risk. To prevent this scenario and limit your personal exposure, you can form a corporation, limited liability company, limited liability partnership, or a limited partnership. Review each structure and how each will affect the way your business is owned, managed, and taxed. Then choose the style that best suits your vision.
7. How can I foster a good work environment and limit my risks as an employer?
Rule one: don’t be a jerk. Now that we have that out of the way, another very effective way to ensure a good relationship with your employees is to create a comprehensive company policy and procedure manual. Knowing the rules (and knowing they will be followed) allows all employees to feel valued, protected, and secure. In addition, stay informed on all federal and state employment laws that affect your business, including anti-discrimination laws, health and safety regulations, wage and hour laws, and licensing requirements.
8. What should I do if I get sued?
The unfortunate reality is that the more successful you are, the more likely you are to get sued at some point. More success means more employees, more customers, more transactions, and inevitably more complaints. If you do get sued, follow three simple rules: (1) remain calm and do not respond in anger; (2) gather together all of the documents and other evidence in your possession related to the lawsuit; and (3) contact your insurance company and/or attorney immediately. If you follow these simple steps, most lawsuits can be resolved quickly and easily.
9. What contracts does my business need?
Well-written contracts protect your company by clearly defining the responsibilities of both parties. They help avoid disputes, make sure you get paid, and provide a clear remedy if one side fails to fulfill their obligations. For most small businesses, I suggest preparing a form agreement that you can use repeatedly and that includes all of the important protections that your company needs. If you operate online, it is also important to make certain that your website includes written disclaimers, terms of service, and privacy policies.
10. Do you have all necessary licenses and permits?
Be certain to annually monitor all federal, state, and local licensing and permitting requirements related to your industry. One very easy way to determine your requirements is to simply visit sba.gov. This website allows you to simply enter your zip code and business type, and it will generate a list of required licenses and permits.
Following these rules can go a long way towards protecting your small business from legal snafus and lawsuits. There are many online and community resources for small business owners that can be of great assistance.
Charles Bowen to Present “The Economic Impact of the Entertainment Industry on Savannah” to Hinesville Rotary Club
(HINESVILLE, GA) Charles Bowen, founder of the Savannah Film Alliance and owner of Southern Gateway Production Services, will be the featured speaker at the Hinesville Rotary Club meeting Tuesday, July 11.
Bowen will present “The Economic Impact of the Entertainment Industry on Savannah” during the weekly luncheon at the La Quinta Inn and Suites on Highway 84.
Bowen is recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015. The organization promotes the film community within Savannah and the greater Coastal Empire through advocacy and action via education, outreach and collaboration.
Most recently, Bowen founded Southern Gateway Production Services, a gateway for producers and movie executives to navigate finding the best crew, talent and location services available in Savannah.
After going through a significant vetting process, Southern Gateway Production Services became a signatory to all IATSE National Term Agreements. IATSE is the union that represents most film and television crews. This allows Southern Gateway clients to gain access to the most favorable terms and conditions offered in the industry.
“From our work with Southern Gateway Production Services and the Savannah Film Alliance, I’m able to get a unique perspective into the inner workings of making films in our community,” said Bowen. “I hope to share this information with other area leaders to promote the growth of this promising industry.”
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOUTHERN GATEWAY PRODUCTION SERVICES
Entertainment attorney Charles Bowen founded Southern Gateway Production Services with the mission to ensure a seamless experience for out-of-town producers by providing connections with local crew, vendors and service providers. Southern Gateway Production Services is a signatory to all IATSE National Term Agreements. Bowen is recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015. As the founder of The Bowen Law Group, he has also developed a reputation as one of Savannah’s most experienced attorneys in entertainment law. Southern Gateway Production Services is located at 7 East Congress St, Suite 1001. For more information, contact Charles Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-544-2050.
On Friday, June 26, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that resulted in the immediate legalization of same-sex marriage across the country. While this was a cause for celebration for many couples, it should be noted the ruling also has important implications for small business owners.
Ensuring that your business is compliant with the current state of the law is crucial to avoid potential fines or lawsuits.
The most obvious change relates to the updating of your company’s benefit policies, particularly healthcare. If you offer a family medical plan to heterosexual couples, this must also be offered to same-sex married couples.
The same holds true for retirement plans and other similar programs that confer benefits upon married couples. Further, if the language contained in your company’s documents relating to these benefits is not gender neutral, it should be adjusted so it’s also applicable to same-sex couples.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another example.
The FMLA stipulates that employees are allowed to take up to a 12-week leave of absence to care for a sick family member if they have accrued 1,250 hours of work over the previous 12 months. While this extended leave is unpaid, the law ensures that their job remains available upon their return.
Some companies in Georgia previously took the position that a same-sex partner was not a spouse, thus the company did not have to offer FMLA to those employees. Now the law is clear that FMLA time must be offered to all married employees.
In a nutshell, offering the same benefits and perks to all married employees, regardless of sexual orientation, is the surest way to keep your business legally compliant.
It is imperative that your supervisors understand that discrimination of any kind cannot be tolerated because the failure to prevent discrimination will leave you open to significant legal liability. Every company policy that you have in place, from the interviewing process all the way to termination, needs to be reviewed to ensure full equality.
Finally, open communication with your employees will be especially important as the business world adjusts to these changes, and it’s vital that you make the information regarding these changes freely and readily available to all employees.
While this sudden change to the law may pose some initial challenges, the ultimate result is likely to be beneficial. Demonstrating equality to all employees will generate good will for your business and help ensure that you remain competitive in your industry by being able to attract the most qualified and talented employees.
Further, every business owner should consider whether the legalization of same-sex marriage may offer the potential for economic growth.
Many wedding-related industries such as planners, photographers, special event companies and others already have seen their customer base grow just in the short time since the ruling. One can only imagine that divorce attorneys are likely waiting patiently for the inevitable increase in their business, as well.
It is not just these industries, however, that stand to benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision. All companies that welcome LGBT couples and treat them with equality and respect are likely to experience economic growth.
A study conducted by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that over the next three years, the legalization of same-sex marriage will boost the economy by $166 million. This goes far beyond the provision of wedding and honeymoon services. There are also tax implications for local, state and federal governments, and many major purchases may be more attractive now that they can be made in a joint fashion.
With a greater number of people able to marry, small businesses must make certain they remain in compliance with all of the legal changes. However, these businesses can also capitalize on the opportunities to help more customers fulfill their dreams and enjoy their life with the people they love.
Charles Bowen is a business attorney who focuses on commercial, banking and manufacturing law and also offers comprehensive mediation services. He may be contacted at 912.544.2050 or email@example.com.