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Reader offers rebuttal to film column 

Rebuttal to film column

Editor,

I read with interest and a fair amount of dismay the item in the 23-29 January issue: “2018: The greatest year ever for Savannah’s film and TV industry”, written by the founder of the Savannah Film Alliance, Charles Bowen. 

The one-sided article makes zero mention of the negative impact on Savannah residents directly, and often frequently, affected by this ever-increasing filming activity, especially in the Landmark Historic District.  Rather, it predictably cheerleads about the 2018 film results and its economic impact on the Savannah region, throwing big dollar numbers around that most proponents of more-is-better typically use, along with the hope to capture even more such business in the future. 

My question is where is any notion of residential quality of life and some balance between it and unbridled filming?  I submit that filming downtown is desirable (in addition to tax incentives) in large measure because historic Savannah is a living city, with its permanent residents taking great care of and maintaining – often VERY expensively – the many beautiful period homes and gardens. 

In return, many areas are repeatedly impacted by filming, often resulting in road and sidewalk closures, extended loss of parking due to filming infrastructure occupying valuable spaces, noise and lights, rubberneckers, and sometimes residents are even virtual prisoners in their own homes for short periods or treated as trespassers when returning home, and so on.

I think it’s great that Savannah is seen as a good filming destination and it doubtless has an economic impact (though employment numbers and the homeless population remain largely unchanged)  but it would be nice if its proponents would consider some balance with the quality-of-life rights of local residents. 

Most of us understand we live in a city and disruption is part of that lifestyle, but industry boosters such as Mr. Bowen should factor Savannah’s residents into his quest for more and more filming.

“Managing” filming by responding or reacting to residents complaints is not the way to effectively and efficiently control the process, but in large measure that is how it has worked until now. 

Presently, residents rely on the good efforts of the relatively new, understaffed and overworked Savannah Office of Special Events, Film, and Tourism to try and monitor and manage filming, but there is clearly more activity than they can handle. 

Indeed as I write this in late January, I’ve come across two more active filming locations along Abercorn St., neither of which was announced to the best of my knowledge.  

In an effort to address the effects of filming and other special activities, I am pleased that the Special Events, Film & Tourism Office has reached out to residents and other stakeholders to help develop a legally-binding Special Events ordinance that hopefully, among other things, will provide sorely needed city-mandated management of all aspects of film and TV production in Savannah. 

I hope that the industry is genuinely open-minded about the need to accommodate residents quality-of-life rights as this ordinance takes shape.

Robert B. Rosenwald
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Connect Today 05.25.2019

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