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Savannah art school plans huge new movie studio

Could play an integral role in Georgia’s growing film industry

The Savannah College of Art & Design is undertaking the construction of an ambitious new film studio connected to its Savannah, Georgia campus.

“The expansion of Savannah Film Studios, a landmark 10.9-acre project, will include a Hollywood-style film backlot, a next-generation XR stage for virtual productions, and new sound stages, among other features. The expanded Savannah Film Studios will be the largest and most comprehensive university film studio complex in the nation,” the school, popularly abbreviated as SCAD, said in a news release.

To put this future studio’s size in perspective, Paramount is a medium-sized American movie studio. It sits on a lot of about 48 acres, according to the Library of Congress. The SCAD lot would be not quite for-profit movie studio sized but still very large.

The economic impact of this studio on a city could be huge, in the film industry and in Georgia. Because of the state’s aggressive bid for movie business through tax credits, Atlanta is already informally known as the Hollywood of the South. A much bigger footprint could boost competition between Georgia’s first and fifth cities.

SCAD boasts that it currently generates $766.2 million annually in the state of Georgia on all of its campuses. The new studio should cause that number to rise.

New York comes to Georgia

A successful film school expansion could launch Savannah into a cherished place future of film production in the United States, placing it alongside cities with names synonymous with the movie industry, such as Los Angeles and New York City. In fact, a New York street is one of the permanent sets, which could lure filmmakers away from the Empire State.

The aim of the studio will be to give students and, crucially, alumni greater resources for their projects. In addition to the plethora of equipment, locations, and connections made available to SCAD students by the college, there will soon be an 11-acre facility that the school can use to help fulfill its stated mission of “prepar[ing] talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented university environment.”

“We’re talking about a state-of-the-art, what’s next in the industry moment that our students can come and train on, learn on,” Andra Reeve-Rabb, the dean of SCAD’s School of Entertainment Arts, said to Fox 28 Savannah.

Many of the students will then apply that expertise to Georgia’s growing film industry.

The bells and whistles

The new studio will also be home to the first “extended reality stage,” a 2,000-square-foot space that will let the creators and actors see the visual effects that will be applied to them as they work.

Reeve-Rabb explained, “In the past, you may see a green screen, but then you see the actors working on that. Now, you’ll see it actually behind you.”

The extended reality, or “XR” stage, will be designed by MEPTIK, a company co-founded by an alumna of SCAD, Sarah Linebaugh, while the rest of the backlot will be designed by Paul Wonsek Associates.

The backlot will consist of streetscapes replicating locations such as the Savannah town square, New York City, and space for creating costumes, props, and other things needed in film.

Paul Wonsek, designer and president of his titular architectural firm which specializes in entertainment facilities, told InPark Magazine, “SCAD has filled an important role in the industry, continuously providing talented students and alumni who are fully capable of stepping into professional positions. The addition of this backlot and new state-of-the-art spaces will provide a student experience unlike any other university.”

The college advertises an annual undergraduate tuition of $37,575.

The project is to be constructed in phases, with the first phase beginning in the fall of 2021.

The College Fix reached out to several people and organizations associated with this project, including the Savannah Film Alliance, SCAD President Paula Wallace, the Department of Entertainment Arts at SCAD, and Paul Wonsek Associates. None of them responded.

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IMAGE: movie-projector-film-carbon-arc-flickr

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Ethan Connor is a student at University of Northwestern, St. Paul where he is majoring in media production. He serves as the secretary of UNW’s Turning Point USA chapter.