LOCATION NEWS

SAVANNAH BANANAS OVER CLINT

Lensing of Clint Eastwood’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” in the Deep South has jumped out to solid start with few hitches, according to Savannah officials. The Warner Bros. production is nearly two weeks into the tight 36-day schedule in the historic Georgia coastal town.

Jay Self, director of the Savannah Film Commission, says America’s first planned city (founded 1733) received queries from would-be tourists as long as a year ago.

“There has been quite a buzz. It’s like a mood-enhancing drug,” Self said, standing outside Wednesday during the lensing of an exterior courtroom scene, complete with about 200 onlookers. “They hear it’s Clint Eastwood and they freak out.”

That’s exactly what Warner Bros. doesn’t want. The pic’s publicist, Marco Barla of Warner Bros., says studio officials want to keep the hype down — at least during lensing — because crowds on location “would really slow us down.”

But, production has not been hampered by traffic snarls or too many gawkers. Logistics, according to Self, were addressed plenty early, allowing city transportation companies as well as merchants to plan in advance. One particular benefit for filmmakers is easy mobility, because of the compactness of the town.

The arrival of the Eastwood pic, as well as the lensing of “The Gingerbread Man” earlier this year, should put Savannah in a new light, said city officials.

Aside from the $2 million in direct spending via “Midnight’s” production, “the real impact will be, tourists will know its Savannah,” explained Self, alluding to big productions such as “Forrest Gump” that did not give such broad recognition for scenes produced in Savannah. In the long run, if “the quality of tourism rises,” the economic benefit will increase “exponentially,” he added.

The Greater Philadelphia Film Office has announced that “Beloved,” starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover, will begin production in Pennsylvania at the end of June. The pic, directed by Jonathan Demme, will be released by Touchstone and produced by Clinica Estetico/Harpo Prods. The Philadelphia Convention Center will serve as the soundstage for the pic.

Nevada Film Commission officials are currently perusing the 107 entries in 10th annual Nevada screenwriters contest. To be eligible, 60% of the script must be filmable in the Silver State. Winners will be announced in July.

The New Mexico Film Office has announced that Working Title Films’ “The Hi-Lo Country,” directed by Stephen Frears and co-exec produced by Martin Scorsese, will begin lensing in September in Las Vegas, N.M. The screenplay, penned by Walon Green, is an adaptation of New Mexico native Max Evans’ novel. The story is a post-World War II drama of two ranchers struggling in the cattle business and their quest for the same woman.

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