ASK MOST Savannah residents about movies filmed in town recently, and they’re liable to draw a blank. Some might bring up Forrest Gump, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, (all filmed in the 1990’s) before taking a long pause.
As far as big or even medium budget movies go, Savannah’s heyday as a film location appears to be something of a 20th century phenomenon. A quickie visit to the City of Savannah’s Film Office website reinforces that perception, listing only three films shot locally since 2000, and none since 2003.
With the CinDigenous Film Screening Event, scheduled for Thursday night at the Jepson Center, the Film Office hopes to bring Savannah up to speed on the rapidly expanding sector of local, independently-produced short film.
“Typically the only time people know about films being made here are when someone comes in from outside the area,” said Melissa Fader, with the Film Office. “They bring in a few stars and are gone six weeks later.”
Even in the world of independent films, all is not equal. The four short films to be screened on Thursday are part of the underdogs of that category, which, according to Harvey Ray, represents a coming trend in the larger filmmaking community,
Ray is a producer of one of the films to be screened, And Then She Was Gone, and is a member of the Savannah Film Commission.
“What we have now is two classes of independent films,” said Ray. “One raises enough money that it not only has enough for production, but also a decent budget for distribution and publicity.
“Then there are the rest of us. We raise enough to do production and chances are we are still raising money as the film goes along, and most of the time it works out for us. We get bankable talent to sign on with us by paying expenses only, with a promise of a good chunk of the profit if and when it comes. That is the kind of film being shot in Savannah right now.”
Ray met the film’s creators, Jacqueline Pennewill and Pete Konczal, in the 1990’s during his stint as director of Film Industry Relations at SCAD. Although the couple is not indigenous to Savannah, their film has been local from the start.
“From the very beginning they had Savannah in mind, they have been coming here with this film in mind for almost three years,” said Ray. “It’s set and filmed in Savannah but it’s not about Savannah. It could be anywhere—as long as you could find anything half as beautiful.”
Pennewill and Konczal created the five-minute long version of And Then She Was Gone in hopes of making a feature length film in the future.
“It’s part of the independent film making process,” said Ray. “It’s very often used as a vehicle, especially if you have directors and a cinematographer who has a vision. They can take five minutes of your time on the screen and can hook you on this film and this concept and this look.”
Savannah film actress Diana Scarwid stars in the movie, anchoring its roots firmly in local soil.
The other films on Thursday’s roster are The Street Cleaner, produced by Perpombellar Productions; The Madness of Being, a short stop animation film by Hal Miles; and a film about the Charleston Symphony Orchestra by Michael Chaney.
For the time conscious, CinDigenous offers a schedule that does for the week-long film festival format what speed dating does for courtship. In the span of two hours, Thursday night’s event starts with a light reception, screens the four films, and then wraps with a panel discussion.