Movie studio promises jobs in Georgia county

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MELDRIM, Ga. — From Forrest Gump to an upcoming SpongeBob SquarePants sequel, a long list of Hollywood movies have been filmed on location in coastal Georgia. Now a production company setting up shop west of Savan­nah says it will make movies full time at a sprawling studio complex planned off Interstate 16.

An artist's rendering of a flyover to preserve wetlands at the new Medient Studios is displayed in Rincon, Ga. The studio's five-year plan promises 1,200 jobs.  STEVE BISSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
STEVE BISSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
An artist's rendering of a flyover to preserve wetlands at the new Medient Studios is displayed in Rincon, Ga. The studio's five-year plan promises 1,200 jobs.

Medient Studios Inc. broke ground last week on a 1,550-acre tract in Effingham County once used by timber companies to grow and harvest pine trees. Medient promises to build a $90 million studio campus that will operate as a film factory, churning out six to eight feature films a year. Everything from screenwriting and principal photography to soundtrack recording and special effects will be handled onsite.

It’s a plan that calls for ambitious growth for a company with just 22 employees and less than $53,000 in the bank as of its last filing with government regulators.

Medient is pushing to finish its first soundstage by March so it can get to work shooting its first movie with about 500 employees. Within five years the studio plans to finish its production facilities and employ about 1,200 workers.

The ability to handle every aspect of filmmaking in one place, and to work on different projects around the clock, will make the studio profitable, said Manu Kumaran, Medient’s CEO.

“We’re not trying to figure out how to grab electricity from lightning,” said Kumaran, whose father is a prominent Indian film director and producer. “We’re just making movies, which is a very simple process.”

Officials in Effingham Coun­ty, about 20 miles west of Savannah, have embraced their chance to become a part of the movie business. Local economic developers reached a deal to lease Medient the $10 million property for 20 years, with no rent due during the first two years. The county is guaranteeing $1.25 million in infrastructure improvements to the property such as roads, water and sewer lines.

The state awarded Medient $3 million in incentives for site preparation and construction, but only in installments based on the number of jobs the project has generated.

John Henry, the chief executive of the Effingham County Industrial Develop­ment Authority, noted that the vast majority of residents commute to jobs outside the county. If Medient can deliver on 1,200 workers – with jobs ranging from carpenters who build movie sets to computer programmers working in special effects – it
would boost the county’s workforce by more than 10 percent.

“A lot of people think it’s just going to be actors and cameramen, but that’s far from the case,” Henry said. “It’s a little scary because we’re not as familiar with the film industry, and it’s not as easy to plug into our spreadsheets we use all the time.”

Medient has 15 films under its belt, most of them produced for Indian markets. Its last project was the 2012 film Yellow directed by Nick Cassavetes, whose other films include The Notebook.

Kumaran said Medient has agreements with partners to help it buy filmmaking equipment and finance the first phase of studio construction.

He brushed aside any suggestion the company won’t be able to realize its ambitions.

“We’ve been told multiple times this cannot be done, you cannot survive, and you might as well take up fishing or farming,” Kumaran said. “But we’re here, and we’re happy to be here.”

Medient’s plan for success is largely based on producing movies in genres such as horror and science fiction, which are able to sell tickets without major stars attached, and to make those movies for international markets. For example, the studio might film with an English-speaking American cast during the day, then at night shoot the same scenes with an Indian cast for distribution overseas. Long-term plans include adding on-site housing for employees as well as a large concert venue and tourist attractions, which would push the studio’s total price tag to an estimated $300 million.

Jay Self, director of Savannah’s city Film Services Department, said he’s seen dozens of pitches for movie studio startups during his 18 years of wooing moviemakers to the Georgia coast. He said the Medient project is the only one to actually break ground.

“It’s always a gamble,” Self said. “They have every reason not to do this. You don’t go to all this trouble and all this expense if you don’t believe in what you’re doing.”

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Riverman1
90178
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Riverman1 09/02/13 - 01:50 am
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Wouldn't that be something if

Wouldn't that be something if it takes off.

seenitB4
93363
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seenitB4 09/02/13 - 07:31 am
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GREAT NEWS!

The small town of Crawfordville has enjoyed some movie business.....Tyler Perry has a big studio near Atlanta....even Heavys Barbecue has had a movie made near there....best kind of news.

Bring it ooonnn!

bdouglas
5567
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bdouglas 09/02/13 - 08:18 am
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Call me a pessimist, but a

Call me a pessimist, but a company with only $52,000 in liquid assets promising a $90 million dollar facility and 1,200 jobs is more than hard to swallow. Just that wacky "flyover" thing in the photo is going to costs multi-millions on its own. Sounds a bit foolish of the county to put down even just the lease money for the first two years of the property at this point, let alone the promised tax incentives. At least those have conditions attached to them. Movie production jobs are also very temporary based on the production schedule, so these aren't 1,200 full time permanent jobs they're talking about. The director of Savannah's Film Services Department is so impressed because this is the only studio that has actually broken ground, but sticking a shovel in the dirt for a photo op doth not a profit make.

seenitB4
93363
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seenitB4 09/02/13 - 08:27 am
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^^^

Don't be a debbie downer...

dashiel
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dashiel 09/02/13 - 10:35 am
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And Quit Show Business?!

Does anyone happen to know if Georgia has even one soundstage at the present time?

Riverman1
90178
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Riverman1 09/02/13 - 12:18 pm
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Yeah, many movies have used

Yeah, many movies have used Crawfordville for location shots with locals as extras.

bdouglas
5567
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bdouglas 09/02/13 - 08:44 pm
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If you read the film/tv job

If you read the film/tv job listings section on the Augusta Craigslist, there are apparently plenty of films being made right here in the CSRA. Though I'm not sure you'll see them in any theater, if you catch my drift...

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