St Marys Film Society

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ST. MARYS, GA—In the wake of Amelia Island’s recent success as a film magnet, executives from the Amelia Island Film Festival met with St. Marys residents recently to discuss a “sistership” in the advancement of film production and promotion for both areas. According to Tony McAdoo, president of the Amelia Island Film Festival, the collaboration is a natural.

“With the Cumberland Sound Ferry bridging the two towns, it makes a lot of sense to piggyback on each other’s resources,” McAdoo said. “Here we have two states separated by a mere river and each having its unique characteristics. We’re proud to offer our visitors and residents another dimension of entertainment and historic exploration by supporting the development of a St. Marys film organization.”

St. Marys Film Society organizers’ ultimate mission is to position St. Marys as a valuable location option for filmmakers. Toward that goal, they plan to begin by getting acquainted with film industry movers and shakers—producers, directors, writers, and actors, and building a portfolio of resources for the industry. One of the St. Marys Film Society organizers, Doug Vaught, said that Savannah has nothing on St. Marys when it comes to being an attractive location to make a movie.

“We trump them on cemeteries. Our diversity of geography and our water realm including Cumberland Island presents filmmakers with an excellent backdrop for drama, comedy, and adventure films.” Vaught went on to cite the recent filming of Resurrection Fern in St. Marys and on Cumberland Island as a good beginning toward getting the word out. He also went on to say that our proximity to the Jacksonville International Airport and technical talents available in neighboring Jacksonville will add to St. Marys’ appeal as a film location. Donna Boyett, proprietor of The French Quarter in Downtown St. Marys agreed.

“St. Marys and our surrounding area has much to offer, and as a business owner I’m eager to reach out to the film community and show them how easy we are to work with,” said Boyett, another Film Society organizer. “The economic advantages of having film crews in our town spending money are evident, but the residual benefit of boosted tourism like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil brought to Savannah has even greater positive ramifications.”

Thus far, two events are in the planning stages as part of the St. Marys Film Society launch. On February 18, one week before the 2010 Amelia Island Film Festival begins, the Film Society plans to host a screening of one of Amelia Island’s entries at a downtown St. Marys location. Then during the actual Amelia Island Film Festival (February 25-March 1, 2010), the St. Marys Film Society will host a “meet and greet” in St. Marys. Guests of the “meet and greet”—film execs and artists—will come from Amelia Island by ferry and visit with several businesses in order to familiarize themselves with what St. Marys has to offer.

“We have to walk before we run,” said Vaught. “This year we see ourselves as an ‘appetizer’ for the Amelia Island Film Festival. Future years will hold bigger things and bigger returns for our city.”

Looking to the future, Vaught and other Film Society organizers endeavor to form a film commission and take advantage of an official affiliation with Georgia Economic Development and all that they offer local organizations.

“More than 600 films and television projects have been shot in Georgia,” said Janet Brinko, Director of the St. Marys Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s good for tourism, and that means it’s good for our economy. There’s no reason why St. Marys can’t capitalize on our natural beauty and our business-friendly environment.”

According to industry statistics, for every $1 spent in the promotion of filmmaking on a local basis, $7 is returned to the local economy. Georgia Senator Jeff Chapman said that “In a time when cities around the nation are searching for ways to rejuvenate their economy, community leaders who are thinking outside of the box can add great value to a city’s long term plans. The organizers of the St. Marys Film Society are to be commended for their vision and their willingness to do the heavy lifting to make things happen.”

Anyone in the community who would like to get involved in the St. Marys Film Society is urged to call 912-882-4000.

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