New studio complex in Savannah hopes to boost local film industry

Local News

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

KAT-5 Studios is set to break ground on the western edge of Savannah city limits. The permits were approved last week and developers hope to begin work later this month, with completion in December 2022.

The complex will house more than 130,000 square feet of production space and soundstages. Project leaders estimate it will contribute $265 million annually to the local economy.

KAT-5’s Taylor Owenby explained that crews that film in Savannah often don’t stay, as right now there are no soundstages for indoor scenes.

“They’ll come down to take advantage of the beautiful architecture or maybe the beach out at Tybee and they’ll shoot two or three days out of a 60- to 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 partnering with David Paterson, a screenwriter 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 been coming to the Hostess City yearly for the annual festival. 

Paterson said the idea to bring a soundstage to Savannah came to him more than a decade ago.

“There would always be movies being shot and I’d say, ‘Oh where are they shooting the interiors?’ And they’d be like, ‘Oh they go back to Atlanta to do that.’ So every year when I came here, I said why hasn’t anyone built a soundstage?”

The studio’s name is symbolic, as the leaders say it is being built to withstand a category-five hurricane. Paterson, a former first responder and rescue worker in the aftermath of 9/11, said it’s important to give back to the community.

“Being prepared in any way, not just for movies, but for communities is important too,” he said. “That’s why we have a FEMA element based and we’re already in discussion with FEMA for a mutual aid agreement for them to use our lots for staging grounds for impending storms.”

KAT-5 also plans to open its doors for Georgia Power to store trucks during storms as well.

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

“We’ve seen more productions in the last few years than ever before,” Executive Director Beth Nelson said. “Of course, this provides needed jobs in our community and also economic impact for our local businesses. It will hopefully expand our industry which will employ more local crew and provide a great economic benefit to our community.”

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

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

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

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