Thanks to Georgia’s generous 30 percent film incentive and Chatham County’s additional 10 percent tax credit for productions filmed in Savannah, film and television production is booming here.
Last year was the best year ever for Savannah in terms of local production. According to the Savannah Regional Film Commission, production accounted for $120 million in direct spending locally.
So, who is on location in Savannah? It’s not just major studios, but also student productions like the Savannah College of Art and Design’s edgy student-produced sitcom “G.R.I.T.S.” (Girls Raised In The South). This show is written, directed, produced and performed by SCAD students, including local favorite Candice Glover.
Success of ‘G.R.I.T.S.’
An actress and songstress best known for winning the 12th season of “American Idol,” Glover portrays Tiana, a strong woman who is running a soul food restaurant and dealing with her younger sister, employees and community members.
“It’s almost as if the role found me,” said Glover. “Tiana is the straight man of the show. She keeps everything in line ... runs a restaurant and is well-respected by everyone around her. She reminds me of myself.”
Born and raised just an hour away from Savannah in Beaufort, S.C., Glover remembers coming to Savannah with her mother, Carole, when she was a youngster.
“When I grew, I visited Savannah often, and I’d see [SCAD students] walking with their art supplies,” said Glover. “I remember wishing that I could attend that school one day.”
Life has come full circle for Glover, who studies dramatic writing at SCAD and stars in the university’s latest hit television show. In February, Glover joined the show’s entire cast and crew in Atlanta when the pilot episode of “G.R.I.T.S.” premiered at the seventh annual SCAD aTVfest.
This international television festival brings together leading producers, actors, writers, and directors from all over the world to discuss industry trends and showcase the best work in the field. This year more than 7,500 people attended, and nearly 300 packed a theater to watch the “G.R.I.T.S.” episode and participate in a panel discussion with the show’s cast and producers.
Created by SCAD graduate Chad Morton, who also created the student Emmy-winning SCAD sitcom “The Buzz,” the show tackles tough and weighty issues within the African-American community.
Morton was interested in exploring many layers of sensitive topics around diversity, race and politics, as well as tackling taboo subjects within the African-American community.
“In most cases, it’s hard for people talk about these things and comedy makes it easier to talk about issues and spark a conversation,” Morton said.
While at SCAD, Morton studied some groundbreaking and historical television programming, including shows produced by the legendary Norman Lear. This research inspired him while developing the show.
Though the sitcom was a hit with the SCAD aTVfest audience, the cast and crew are not resting on their laurels. They are already busy rehearsing for episode two of “G.R.I.T.S.,” which will be filmed in early March before a live studio audience at a SCAD Savannah campus soundstage.
"I love ‘G.R.I.T.S.’! It stars SCAD student and ‘American Idol’ winner Candice Glover,” said SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace. “She's fierce and funny, and audiences are captivated by SCAD alumnus Chad Morton’s adept writing combined with tremendous performances from our all-star, all-student ‘G.R.I.T.S.’ cast. Everybody on this show has a big and bright future in the entertainment industry.”
The entertainment industry landscape is expanding, and no longer is it necessary to move to Hollywood to pursue the dream of having a career in the “business.”
Savannah may be a small city, but it offers big opportunities for creative professionals like Glover, Morton, and others who want to take center stage in the entertainment world.
Because Savannah is a hub for film and television, many SCAD students are also getting real-world experience by landing jobs both in front of the camera and behind the scenes on productions filming here. Glover herself was cast as a Gullah woman for two episodes of the TV drama “Underground” when it filmed its final season on location in Pooler.
But Glover is not satisfied with just being in front of the camera. She has set her sights on one day writing and directing television shows, motion pictures and plays.
“I love being here at SCAD,” she says. “I want to continue to build and perfect my craft ... While I go all over the world, I love the fact that I get to come back here [to Savannah] and continue to work on the things that I want to be better at.”