Savannah Film Commission – The Gateway to Filmmaking in Georgia


During the colonial period, a gentleman by the name of James Oglethorpe came to the United States with a small group of settlers and developed a colony near present-day Savannah, Georgia; thus beginning the history and heritage of this great state.  He is often referred to as the founder of Georgia and his work in this state revolved around providing settlers from Britain a place to rebuild and re-establish themselves after being devastated financially by Britain’s harsh rules surrounding debt and taxes, especially before the Declaration of Independence was signed and officiated in 1776.  He was a social reformer who grew Georgia from the shores of Savannah and became an emblem of growth and development in this state.

Aside from Oglethorpe’s legacy which can be seen across the state through architectural edifices, statues, and other things remaining in his namesake, there is another legacy that is being created as we speak that represents potential for growth and development in Georgia.  It is a film legacy that has been laid by the Savannah Film Commission, which I believe, will play an integral role in film production in this state.  Savannah has been a key player in the film industry here in Georgia for many years, dating as far back as 1962.

Key films that we have seen played out on Hollywood’s big screen that have been filmed on location in Savannah are as follows:

The SpongeBob Movie 2
Paramount Pictures

Cap Fear (The Original – 1962)

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies
The Asylum

American Idol
FOX/Fremantle Media

The Fugitive
Warner Bros. Television

The Legend of Bagger Vance

Forest Gump
Paramount Pictures

Tri-Star Pictures

In order to tell us more about this film commission and its important role it will play in the future of film here in Georgia, I have teamed up with William Hammargren, Film Services Director at the Savannah Film Commission.

William, I really appreciate this opportunity to showcase you and the Savannah Film Commission in this blog.  Many great things are unfolding in the world of film in this state and this is great news for us who are developing careers in this industry.  First, tell us what the Savannah Film Commission is and its purpose.

The Savannah Film Commission is a 19 member board charged with advising and assisting the Savannah Film Office and Savannah City Council on media production related issues and activities. Most people are referring to the Film Office when the reference the Commission and they can be used somewhat interchangeably but it is good to note that they are technically two separate things. The Savannah Film Office is a department of the Savannah City Government and its mission is to weave the film and television industry into the fabric of Savannah’s social, economic and professional profile. This involves a number of activities, including marketing, and outreach, production recruitment, permitting, project management, and connecting producers with local resources and locations. Thus we serve both Savannah’s citizens and media production clients.

As film continues to grow around the state, do you anticipate that Savannah’s Film Commission will be the leading commission for any film making within the state?

The Savannah Film Commission and Film Office serve (and are funded by) the citizens of the City of Savannah and thus this is our primary area of focus; however, we work to promote and enable media production throughout southeast Georgia. We also work very closely with the Georgia State Film Office and Department of Economic Development whom I would consider to be the leaders in this area. We obviously have a keen interest in the statewide health of this industry and any policies or developments pertaining to it. Members of the Savannah Film Commission and a number of other local Savannahians have been critical in establishing the states successful programs to date and continue their involvement at many levels, locally, throughout the state, and beyond.

As you may know, the South is rising in importance in film production with Louisiana being the top location for film making, outranking California and our neighboring state of Florida.  What do you think it will take for us to get to the number one spot that Louisiana now holds?

Our current rate of growth is aggressive. In selecting where to film, producers look for a number of things. Key among these is a strong, stable and accessible incentive program, and the availability of skilled local crew, diverse locations, and infrastructure such as stages and equipment. We have all of these things and are continuing to develop them. Taking the top spot will require and ongoing commitment to all of those things and the support of a broad range of Georgia citizens and stakeholders.

There are criticisms about how film tax incentives are only disrupting economies by simply taking from them and not helping in the development of the local economies of places outside of California and New York.  Do you think that Georgia will be a victim of this trend of new “robber barons” who simply profit from this industry without developing it; or is this an important economic development within the state that is here to stay?

This is an extremely complicated issue but if you look at how much this industry has grown in Georgia since the incentive was enacted I think it is clear development is happening at that it has a positive economic impact. There have been multiple independent studies of the state’s entertainment tax incentive program and at worst they found the program to be revenue neutral, however the large majority of them found it to be revenue positive. This means that for every dollar of tax money spent funding the states entertainment tax credit, the state is making that dollar back plus some, in tax revenue.

So I would ask: what do we lose by continuing this successful program? All industries receive sizable tax incentives from states in order to attract their business. There are any number of recent stories of states offering generous incentives to attract major manufactures and the jobs they bring to their area. The film incentive in Georgia is no different. Many naysayers make the argument that manufactures provide long-term employment opportunities and that movie production companies come and go quickly. It’s true, an individual production only spends a limited amount of time in the state but that doesn’t mean the film incentive isn’t creating long-term employment. Productions are coming in record numbers and bringing more and more jobs with them. They are also supporting thousands of businesses which cater to not just the movies themselves but their employees as well. One of the biggest names in movie studios, Pinewood, is building its first studio in the US here in Georgia. Many major production studios already have facilities here.

The development is happening. The incentive is important and we are benefiting from it. Georgia has shown a strong commitment to the incentive and that is a big part of its success. In fact Georgia is even looking at ways to expand it now. Going back to the previous question, the reason Louisiana currently has the number one spot is because they were among the first to implement an incentive program and they have stuck with it through the years. Other states, such as South Carolina, which have reduced or eliminated their film incentives, have seen the industry there suffer because of it. If Georgia continues its commitment to the tax credit the film business will continue to grow here and become more and more instrumental to our economy. I believe that we are on track to do that and that the entertainment industry will be one of Georgia’s largest and most important sectors in the years to come.

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Celebrating 75 Years of Gone With The Wind in Marietta’s Iconic Museum

GWTW Photo

Any conversation about film in Georgia has to begin with Margaret Mitchell. Before there were tax incentives and before there were all the great films and television shows being shot on location here in Georgia, there was one very powerful and riveting film that took the world by storm: Gone With The Wind. Just as the book had a profound effect in the world of novels, the film had just as a profound effect. From Atlanta to Hollywood, this story emanates power from a small town lady in the South at a time when very few women had the opportunity to dominate Hollywood, let alone any other industry. In this blog, I have teamed up with the local director of the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum – Connie Sutherland – to talk about why this movie and this museum still draws many crowds to Atlanta, even in its 75th year since the book’s inception.

Hi, Connie. I’m glad that you could work with me on this project. I am humbled by the things that I have learned about Margaret Mitchell in my research. Who would have thought that she would have had such a phenomenal effect on the world of film, especially at a time when women were expected to be taking care of home, rather than pursuing careers? This blog pays homage to one of the great, fascinating women of Atlanta but specifically, for this blog, I want us to focus on the great things about this museum.
First question: What made you want be the director of this museum of all the museums on earth that you could direct?

For the long answer, I am one of the rare individuals in Atlanta known as a “native.” Born and raised in Atlanta, I grew up hearing about Gone With The Wind and Margaret Mitchell. As a child, while my friends were outdoors playing, I was indoors writing. I wrote my first poem at age 10 and began writing short stories and songs as well. When I was a teenager I saw the movie for the first time in Atlanta at the Loew’s Grand Theatre (home of the 1939 premiere) on Thanksgiving night. As soon as the giant letters spelling Gone With The Wind swept across the screen and the haunting melody of Tara’s Theme began to play, I knew something special was about to happen. Just under four hours later I knew it had.

The wonderful movie prompted me to read Margaret Mitchell’s book. I fell in love with her, the story, the characters; all of it. The love affair continued as I began to collect memorabilia, watch the film when it aired on Turner Classic Movies and read the book – just to feel close to my friends the O’Hara’s.

One day I read in the newspaper that a group had formed to try and save the house where Margaret Mitchell had written my favorite book. Next thing I knew, I was a volunteer helping with the effort. By the time the house opened in 1997, I had been hired as group sales manager. I was there for three years and loved every minute of it, but did not love the commute. I was working for a local CPA firm when I read about a museum opening on the Marietta square (I read a lot) and I lived only two miles away from the museum. I had a full-time obligation at the time but fate was on my side when my boss decided to sell his CPA practice which coincided with the City of Marietta’s need for a director. So, in 2004 I was hired and ten years later, here I am still in love.

What can a visitor expect from visiting this museum?

I like to say that you don’t have to be a die-hard fan of Gone With The Wind to appreciate the history in our museum; but, it is a Gone With The Wind fan’s dream. The collection belongs to a retired doctor in Ohio, Chris Sullivan, who read the book, fell in love as I did and began collecting memorabilia. His first purchase was a first edition copy of the book signed by Margaret Mitchell. The collection now has hundreds of artifacts and all of them original to the book or movie.

Visitors may expect to be surprised by items in the museum that they would never have expected to see. One of my favorite pieces is a copy of GWTW that belonged to actress Lana Turner. It was gifted to her by Louis B. Mayer when she was under contract with his studio. She was going to test for the role of Scarlett and Mr. Mayor gave her the book to read. She had it rebound in black leather and her name imprinted on the front in gold. It’s also signed by her.

The most anticipated item in the museum is the bengaline honeymoon gown. It’s the original dress worn by Vivien Leigh in her role as Scarlett during the scene in New Orleans when she marries Rhett Butler. Turner Classic Movies borrowed the gown in 2005 for their Lights, Camera, Classics Exhibition and it became the focal point of the exhibit. They even had a special crate built so the costume would not have to be taken off the form causing additional stress to the fabric. It was gone three months and I can tell you it was truly missed. I told Chris Sullivan that it could never leave us again and he agreed.

Another wonderful feature about the museum is that the collection is housed in a building erected in 1875. It was at one time a cotton warehouse and a carriage house and still has the original hewn beams and weathered brick from that time. It’s so conducive to a collection such as this one and it’s as though the visitors step back in time when they view the memorabilia. There is truly something in this museum that captures the interest of everyone.

Why was Marietta chosen as the place for this museum, considering that the museum for the book itself is down on Peachtree Street?

I get this question a lot. I can be technical about it and answer that Marietta is mentioned in the book several times and that Margaret Mitchell visited friends in a home in Marietta with some history that may be part of her story. But, it isn’t really about the connection between Atlanta and Gone With The Wind because it is loved worldwide. The City of Marietta believed a museum of this type would attract visitors.

The museum actually opened with a different collection in 2002. That one did not work out but the museum still had an existing lease. So, when Chris contacted them to let them know about his collection, they were thrilled to invite him in. It was a smart decision on the city’s part as the museum is thriving and has been here for eleven years.

What do you think is the lure of this museum? What keeps people coming back?

To answer question number one I would say the subject matter. People love Gone With The Wind. The book has touched so many people’s lives in its 75+ years. I don’t believe another novel has impacted and influenced its readers the way that Margaret Mitchell’s book has done. Even in 1936 with the original release the book sold a million copies within six months at $3 per copy. That was a great deal of money at the time to spend on reading material. The movie was also one of the most anticipated films in history. In fact, it’s still the number one box office film of all time when allowing for inflation. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

The museum offers the daily visitor an opportunity to connect with the exciting romance between Rhett and Scarlett. It allows them to stand before the bengaline gown and imagine Vivien Leigh wearing it or to picture Olivia de Havilland being fitted with the mourning bonnet that’s on display. Reading about history is exciting and seeing it on the big screen is fun. But, there’s nothing like viewing history up close and personal and that is what these artifacts do for visitors. We have several wonderful museums on the historic Marietta square. But, someone once called us the “hook” that brings the cars off the interstate and they’re right. People have traveled to our museum from all 50 states and more than 80 countries. Gone With The Wind is universally known and loved. There are so many stories I could provide as testimony to my statement. But, that would be a book itself.

We see so many senior group tours which are one of our major sources of visitation. And, we rent the facility for receptions, parties, rehearsal dinners and that sort of thing. Because guests are seated throughout the museum itself, they might be enjoying a meal next to Vivien Leigh’s contract to play Scarlett or an award given to David O. Selznick. But, I would say our annual events are the number one attraction for the museum.

So, here we go on question number two: In 2005 we began hosting events whereby the cast members would attend and talk about their roles in the movie and sign autographs. The events grew larger every year and in 2009 for the 70th anniversary, we outdid ourselves. We had visitors attend from 26 different states and 2 countries (Germany and Poland). Warner Bros and TCM were both involved that year which enhanced the event greatly. I had long dreamed of re-creating the 1939 premiere and with the City of Marietta’s support we did just that. Ann Rutherford who played Carreen O’Hara in the film was again one of our special guests along with 3 of the 4 Beaus (all played the same character at different ages). In 1939, Ann was given the key to the City of Atlanta so our mayor [here in Marietta] gave her the key to our city.

We tried to do everything that took place in 1939. The stars arrived to a red carpet showing of the movie at the Loew’s Grand that year and arrived to a red carpet showing of the movie at our Strand Theatre in 2005. And, it was in the same style of the original premiere thanks to a wonderful car collector named Mike Coggins who recruited enough beautiful 1930’s vehicles in which to take all of the celebrities to the theater. A Belles and Beaus Ball was held and everyone dressed in period costumes. Miss Olivia de Havilland suggested in lieu of a visit (which was not possible at the time) that she make an audio recording introducing the movie. She did and it was a glorious night and event, one well-remembered by all who attended.

Now, five years later we are preparing to celebrate our 75th anniversary event the weekend of June 6-8. We have lost our Bonnie Blue and our Carreen and even some of the fans who attended religiously. But, as they would wish for us to do, we will continue carrying the torch for Gone With The Wind with some new faces and many familiar ones. We have some wonderful plans for the event including the following

• an 11 person author’s forum
• a re-creation of the Bazaar Ball
• Vivien, a one-woman play starring Judith Chapman of The Young and the Restless
• a parody of GWTW entitled “The Wind Has Left” in the form of an old-time radio program
• a guided tour of the Wilbur Kurtz Exhibit by his grandson
• the author of a book about Kurtz and the collector whose painting are in the exhibit
• experts who will discuss the fashions of GWTW
• and of course and autograph signing, auction and more

We are even holding out on what is tentatively going to be a surprise guest at the dinner. The particulars are on our website at and tickets are on sale now. A weekend ticket is $200 and includes everything. Single activity tickets are also available. There is less and less an opportunity to meet the wonderful individuals who had a part in the greatest movie of all time. I am so blessed to have known the ones who are now gone and to continue my friendship with those who remain.

To digress to my very first answer, you could say that the love affair with Gone With The Wind that began for me as a teenager was not just a passing thing. It was real and I know that I am destined to grow old with my devoted companions beside me. The fact that they happen to be in the form of a book and DVD is just fine with me. A word to future visitors to our museum—prepare for the Gone With The Wind arrow of Cupid too!


Interior photo from museum taken by Melisha Childs




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Film Production is Booming in Atlanta

Pinewood Studios

“Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic rules.” Goldeneye

“Well, you see, I uh, I sort of have a problem seeing through lead.” Superman

“. . . Bruce Wayne why are you dressed up like Batman. . .Because he is Batman you moron.” Batman Returns

See a common pattern yet? Well if the quotes aren’t ringing a bell and the large sign above isn’t stimulating your mental energy then I will tell you. These are quotes from some of our all-time favorite films and Pinewood Studios is the production company that brought them to us. So what’s the big deal about me blogging about them? I will tell you what the big deal is. . .they have a new location here in Fayetteville, Georgia! Can’t you feel the excitement pulsating from me to you through cyberspace?

I have been in Georgia for approximately 18 years now and I’ve seen trends ebb and flow but one thing that seems to be here to stay is the growth of film in this state. This is exciting news for those of us who are involved in the film industry because we are witnessing the birth of a new trend – very powerful, top-billing production studios springing up all over metro Atlanta. Pinewood Studios is indeed a sight to see; however, I could only capture this picture for your viewing while I was out on one of my urban escapades because it is a heavily secured area. Nonetheless, every time I look at this photo, I breathe a sigh of relief that after traveling 30 miles to my destination, I was at least able to capture this image for all to see.

What does this mean for Atlanta? Well it is hard to tell; but, it certainly seems to me that the tax incentives in this state seem to be increasing the interest of film producers across the nation and around the world. Please share with us your thoughts on this trend? Do you think that this trend will go boom or bust?

Campbell, M. (1995). Goldeneye [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: MGM/UA. Retrieved from on April 2, 2014.

Donner, R. (1978). Superman [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Warner Brothers. Retrieved from on April 2, 2014.

Burton, T. (1992). Batman Returns [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Warner Brothers. Retrieved from on April 2, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Melisha Childs


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Atlanta’s New Mavericks

New Mavericks march 27 2014


Atlanta is shaking things up in the world of film with two new executives on the block – Janlatae Mullins and Gabrielle Pickle. Janlatae is a director and Gabrielle is a producer at Brothers Young Production (BroYoPro) – a production company owned by Matthew and Jared Young located in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia. Along with their production company, these women have worked with quite a few stars: Mo’Nique, Burt Reynolds, and Tom Sizemore to name a few. At present, they are working rigorously on their first film together – Untapped – a moving story about overcoming inner demons through contemporary dance. These ladies are on the rise in the Atlanta film community and we are certainly looking forward to more from them.

MC: What motivated you to pursue a career in film?

Janlatae Mullins: Ever since I was a child, I can remember being inspired by images and interactions between people. I called it “moment watching”. A grandfather sitting on a bench holding his crying grandchild with a scraped knee; a husband and wife holding hands; a child and his pet running in a field as the sun shone on their backs, the wind rippling through their hair, and their laughter squealing in the air. Those are the moments that inspired me. I felt like people needed to see what I was seeing – they needed to feel this heightened sense of awareness.

I believe that film has the power to change lives. When I watched movies like The Color Purple, Boys in the Hood, Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story, I felt changed – I felt alive and well. Every sense in me stood at attention and wanted to live. I want people to feel the same thing when they watch movies I make.

I went to my parents when I was about 6 or 7 and I told them what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I either wanted to be a director or a maid. I realize now that my desire to be a maid was just my inner desire to take care of people; to make sure that they’re happy. Over the years, I’ve realized that my desire to serve others is one thing that has made me a good director. You can’t be a good leader without knowing how to serve first.

Gabrielle Pickle: I’ve always been a storyteller. As a child, I used to weave intricate stories together for my siblings and I made short films every Sunday afternoon on our huge VHS camcorder. Years later, while pursuing my Master’s degree, I spent time living in northern Indonesia helping to coordinate education, healthcare and co-op programs. I distinctly remember sitting in the dirt across from the pregnant wife of a former rebel soldier, hearing her explain the struggles of growing up during a war and of giving birth to her first born in the woods while hiding from approaching soldiers. Her story was unique, but her fears and joys were those that every woman shares. As I sat across from her, I was overwhelmed with the realization that stories have the power to unite us across backgrounds, races, nationalities, and income levels. I knew then that storytelling was my calling. Shortly thereafter, a job with a non-profit introduced me to film and a year after that I produced my first project. And that was all it took – I was hooked!

MC: What challenges have you faced as a “woman in film?”

JM: Thankfully, I’ve never really faced challenges as a woman in film. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that I won’t face any in the future. I just grew up with wonderful parents that fostered an environment in which the buck stopped with me. I was taught that any challenges that anyone faces – male, female, black, white – it’s their job to break them down. I’ve never let me being a woman or other people’s ideas of what a woman filmmaker should be define me. I just see myself as a person that has a unique voice – someone that has something to say.

GP: I’ve faced prejudice as a female in other job fields, but never in film. I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced, and still struggle with, is producing with excellence while not losing who I am as a woman. I am a workaholic, like most women I’ve met in this industry, and I absolutely love what I do. It’s a constant struggle to protect time for the things that make me who I am, like my faith, my family and friends, and my quirky hobbies.

What advice would you give to women who are pursuing careers in film?

JM: Make friends! Make tons of friends. Your success in this business is truly based on the circle you know. People want to be a part of a team that inspires them – that pushes them to do more. When you make your epic first romantic comedy, thriller, or heart wrenching drama, your “friends” will be the ones to support you. Friendship is however a give and take. Give your heart, time and creativity to other people’s projects and it will pay off in the long run.

GP: Find a people who believe in you and share your dream for film – then stick with them! Jan and I would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the team at Brothers Young Productions. Those guys have challenged us to grow, paid for us to get training, pushed us to excellence, and fought side by side every day to help us achieve our collective dream of making quality films with an important message.

Why did you choose Atlanta to pursue your career as opposed to other places more popular for film?

JM: I was born and raised here. I believe in the filmmaking culture that exists in Atlanta. There’s a real sense of “We’re just here for the art. If you have a dream, we’ll support it.” I’m not saying that this feeling doesn’t exist in other places, but I’ve seen it best here in the South. Southern hospitality is our birthright (along with sweet tea and family).
I’ve grown up alongside some really talented filmmakers and want to see them succeed. I want to be a part of their journey. Brothers Young Productions has been integral to my growth. They’ve challenged me in every way to be a better filmmaker, a better visionary and a better business woman. If I had not stayed in GA, I would not have had that amazing opportunity.

The Brothers Young team are the most talented people I’ve come across. With such great hearts, integrity, and character not just for the art, but for people, they’ve not only made their dreams come true, but helped others achieve their own. It’s hard to walk away from that. Their friendship and leadership is part of the reason I am sitting here today and I am so thankful for that. That love and sense of family is definitely a perk of being in Atlanta. It’s a southern thang.

GP: I didn’t move to Atlanta for the film scene. It’s more like the Atlanta film community found me and won me over! As soon as I uttered the words, “I’m interested in film,” local actors, screenwriters and directors invited me on set, gave me opportunities to learn the craft and offered me jobs. The past few years have been a wild and incredible ride into a full-time film career. The opportunities for a Producer in Atlanta are many and I simply can’t fathom being anywhere else!

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Pickle.



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Ladies Night – Women Directors Shine at the Atlanta Film Festival

Kacie's ATLFF photo


Written By Kacie Willis, Blog Contributor

On the third day of the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival, a selection of dynamic films by six charismatic, female directors was presented to an audience of excited movie fans. The New Mavericks: Female Directors short film showcase, held at the 7 Stages Theatre in Little Five Points, was preceded by a WIFTA sponsored reception that gave festival goers the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine and mingle with both filmmakers and film enthusiasts alike before welcoming the talents of some of the indie scenes up and coming stars.

The featured directors hailed from all over the globe and represented films from Greece, Denmark, Canada and the United States. The subject matter of their shorts ranged from adolescent angst and imaginary friends, to aspiring pop stars and harsh living on the Navajo plains. A brief Q&A followed the screening and gave the public the chance to hear insightful feedback from the directors and to also give much deserved praise for a job well done.

Many congratulations go out to all of the evening’s directors for bringing such diverse and beautiful female-centered films to the screen!


Photo courtesy of Kacie Willis

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