The Savannah College of Art Design has announced the opening of its Hollywood backlot at the university’s Savannah Film Studios. The news was announced during the 2023 Savannah Film Festival.
Phase One of the project is part of an “11-acre, three-phase expansion, making it the largest, most comprehensive film studio complex at any university in the country,” which includes two new soundstages, and production design and costume design shops.
“More is more: more films being made, more stories being told, more students creating films under the guidance of the very best professors in higher education,” said SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace. “Together, the backlot, soundstages, and LED volume form the sought-after trinity of filmmaking opportunities, placing everything at a filmmaker’s fingertips, from outdoor shooting locations to indoor sets to entirely computer-generated worlds. Add our television studio in Hamilton Hall and all models of production are being taught right here in Savannah. If you have a story you want to tell on a screen, big or small, you can tell it at SCAD.”
Resembling Savannah’s historic district Phase 1 includes “17 separate street facades and totals over 4,500 sq. ft. of dressed set space. The facades include historic Savannah homes, a cafe, a pub, hardware/antique retail space, a boutique, barber shop, a general-use lobby for a hotel or hospital with an exterior porte-cochère and automatic doors, and a double-height bank with interior overlook on the most East elevation.”
“Georgia is the new Hollywood and Savannah’s film industry is booming,” said SCAD School of Film and Acting dean Andra Reeve-Rabb, “When we designed the backlot we wanted to give our students access to all the filming locations they either cannot access, like a hospital emergency room, or common filming locations like a coffee shop, without requesting permits or competing for space with the studios who are filming in Savannah. Plus, one of the reasons Savannah is such an attractive filming location is it can easily resemble a quaint European town and be dressed for the 1800s or modern day.”
Phase Two, set to open in fall of next year, will resemble New York City, including “Brooklyn brownstones, an urban alley, bodega, upscale retail shops, a chic Manhattan coffeehouse, and a classic ‘Big Apple’ subway entrance.” It will also include “a 17,000 sq. ft. support building that will house three production classrooms, a costume shop, production wood/machine shop, and additional classrooms.”
Phase Three, opening Fall 2025, “will consist of a town square, city hall, single-family home, convenience store, and other facades, as well as a 23,700 sq. ft. support building for two sound stages, eight classrooms and office space.”
The investment in the backlot highlights the contributions set aside for furthering the education for those in the School of Film and Acting, School of Animation and Motion and School of Creative Technology.
“Our mission is to prepare talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented environment,” said Reeve-Rabb. “That’s exactly what the expansion of Savannah Film Studios does—it prepares our students to have a seamless transition from SCAD to the professional world whether that’s in Georgia, California or New York. We are eager to share these incredible resources with the industry and provide our students and alumni opportunities to work on professional productions using our facilities.”
The planning for the backlot’s concept was done in association with Paul Wonsek and Associates, with final building designs and project implementation by SCAD Design Group. Wonsek was also the production designer of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.