New studio complex in Savannah hopes to boost local film industry


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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Plans are underway to build a new studio complex in Savannah.

KAT-5 Studios is poised to innovate at the western end of Savannah’s city limits. The permits were approved last week, and the developers hope to start work later this month, ending in December 2022.

The complex will house more than 130,000 square feet of production space and sound stages. Project managers estimate that it will contribute $ 265 million per year to the local economy.

Taylor Owenby of KAT-5 explained that crews filming in Savannah often don’t stay, because at the moment there are no soundstages for indoor scenes.

“They’ll come in and enjoy the beautiful architecture or maybe Tybee Beach and they’ll shoot two or three days on a 60-100 day production,” Owenby said. “In terms of percentages for these large-scale productions, instead of capturing one, two, or three percent of that revenue, we’re going to be able to capture 100 percent of that revenue.”

Owenby is in partnership with David Paterson, writer and producer for Arcady Bay Entertainment.

In 2005, Paterson’s first film was invited to participate in the SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Since then, he has come to the host city every year for the annual festival.

Paterson said the idea of ​​bringing a soundstage to Savannah came to him over a decade ago.

“There would always be movies being made and I’d be like, ‘Oh, where are the interiors shooting? And they were like, ‘Oh, they’re going back to Atlanta to do this.’ So every year when I come here, I wonder why no one has built a soundstage? “

The studio’s name is symbolic, as executives say it’s built to withstand a Category Five hurricane. Paterson, a former first responder and relief worker in the aftermath of 9/11, said it was important to give back to the community.

“Being prepared in any way, not just for the films, but for the communities is also important,” he said. “This is why we have a FEMA based element and we are already in discussion with FEMA for a mutual aid agreement allowing them to use our grounds to stage impending storms. “

KAT-5 is also planning to open its doors to Georgia Power to also store trucks during storms.

Savannah Regional Film Commission executives believe the new studio will be a game-changer for the local film industry.

“We have seen more productions in the past few years than ever before,” said executive director Beth Nelson. “Of course, this creates necessary jobs in our community and also an economic impact for our local businesses. We hope this will develop our industry which will employ more local crews and provide great economic benefit to our community. “

The complex will be completed in overtime in three phases, according to Owenby. The first phase will benefit from a direct investment of 40 million dollars.

Owenby and Paterson also plan to develop a workforce program with local unions, higher education institutions and the Savannah Regional Film Commission.

“It’s for show business, but it’s also to help the community and we think our success is the success of the community,” Paterson said. “Whether it’s making a movie, helping keep the community safe, or providing jobs for the local community. “

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Gladys T. Hensley