Entertainment Production

The Best Small Cities and Towns to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2019: Small Cities and Towns

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1. Savannah, Georgia

Savannah Historic District, with its oak-shaded parks and Spanish moss looming over cobblestone streets, is like stepping into the past even before a film crew has performed their wizardry. It’s no wonder the upcoming Civil War-themed drama Emperor settled there after scouting all over the South. In search of a period fort in good condition, co-writer and director Mark Amin says Savannah didn’t disappoint: “We found Fort Jackson in Savannah, which we could cheat as Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia, so we thought we’d found the perfect location. We also found a period plantation with slave shacks, which is really hard to find.”

“The shoot was 28 days long, with at least 10 filming locations; one Savannah location that was particularly memorable was a road next to a lake, where the road was separated from the lake by a few trees and you could see the lake through the trees—all very beautiful,” Amin recalls. “There was also the road leading up to Wormsloe plantation, which is now a state historic site, where trees arch over the road to create a tunnel effect.” Amin also praises the GA tax credit, Savannah’s individual tax credit on top of it, as well as local crews: “Our first A.D. was especially good—I started calling him ‘Jedi’ by the end of the shoot.”

Given that it’s reportedly set around the turn of the century, it’s not surprising that Disney chose Savannah to film its upcoming live-action Lady and the Tramp. (The film is rumored to be the first that will debut on Disney’s yet-to-be-unveiled streaming site in 2019.) The upcoming Will Smith vs. Will Smith sci-fi film Gemini Man also filmed in Savannah’s Wright Square over the summer, while the Sylvester Stallone-starring action film Backtrace filmed on Hutchinson Island earlier in the year. Having served as 2nd Assistant Director on Lady and the Tramp and the Liam Hemsworth thriller Killerman, Witt Lacy has kind words for Savannah as a place to work and live. “The town is inviting and the locations are gorgeous, and it wasn’t long until I was met with Southern warmth both in weather and heart” he says. “After working a few gigs, I realized there was lots of potential in Savannah.” As for constructive criticism, Lacy says Savannah needs “more film infrastructure, crew, and stage space to accommodate needs of larger projects, or multiple projects; the city is working to rectify those problems with additional incentives and rebates. Savannah has been growing into a viable, beautiful filming location, but she still has growing to do.”