The abrupt dismissal of longtime Film Service Director Jay Self in September was perceived, just about unanimously, as yet another very public blunder by an already-beleaguered Savannah city government.
According to the City, downtown merchants were unhappy with the liaison work Self was doing between them and Paramount Pictures, which was negotiating the use of Broughton Street sites for Spongebob Squarepants 2.
However, other accounts have it that it was Paramount that forced Self out because they thought he was too supportive of local businesses.
In any case, Leisure Services chief Joe Shearouse suspended Self "pending dismissal" on Sept. 23, and the termination was approved a few days later by City Manager Stephanie Cutter. Shearouse himself continued working with producers on the city's behalf, and a full-sized pirate ship, carrying actor Antonio Banderas, ran down Broughton Street, as cameras rolled, in early October.
There was an outpouring of public support for Self, who had run Savannah's film office for 18 years.
In the immediate aftermath, Self fired off a 14-page letter to a local media outlet, claiming that Shearouse ordered him to push through film permits and ignore the legal process. Shearouse denied the accusations, and Self has made no further public comment.
He might, however, have the last laugh. In November, Self was hired as director of corporate affairs by Medient Studios, the multi-million dollar global film production company that's soon to set up shop in Effingham County. Medient has announced plans to build on 1,550 acres in Bloomingdale.
Meanwhile, two films released in 2013 were lensed, almost entirely, in Savannah. Written by former SCAD film professor Annette Haywood-Carter and her husband, Kenneth Carter Jr., Savannah (directed by Haywood-Carter) starred Jim Caviezel, Chiwetel Ejiofore, Sam Shepard and Bradley Whitford.
Although the national reviews weren't great, the film enjoyed a lengthy local run. And the British Ejiofore subsequently starred in the critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave. He is considered a front-runner for an Academy Award nomination for that film.
Also unveiled this year was CBGB, filmed over the summer of 2012 at Meddin Studios. Starring Alan Rickman, Donal Logue, Rupert Grint and Ashley Greene, the Unclaimed Freight production told the story of New York's legendary punk music club.
It, too, received mostly unfavorable reviews — although the soundtrack album, packed with punk classics, was a resounding success.
Unclaimed Freight producers Randall Miller and Jody Savin will return in February to shoot Midnight Rider, their adaptation of Gregg Allman's autobiography, My Cross to Bear.
The film will star Tyson Ritter, of the band All-American Rejects, as Allman. Wyatt Russell (the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) is set to play Duane Allman.