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State seeks to be 'film-friendlier'
State officials have done much in recent years to make Georgia a destination for movie makers.

Tax breaks and other incentives have lured big-budget movies such as "X-Men: First Class" and the Miley Cyrus film "The Last Song" to Coastal Georgia, as well as TV productions such as Oprah Winfrey's "LoveTown USA" and several episodes of "Royal Pains."

But there is another thing the state can do to encourage more movies to be filmed in the region, according to state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah.

Stephens has introduced legislation to make it easier for movie makers to get permits to film on state beaches.

Currently, it's a six-month process to obtain a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources. If the legislation is approved, the decision would be made by the department's commissioner.

The commissioner could simply give temporary permission to film on state beaches instead of requiring the extensive review process currently in place.

Filmmakers would have to hire licensed and bonded marine contractors to ensure no environmental damage happens during filming, according to the bill.

Scott McQuade, executive director of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said the proposed legislation, if approved, would be helpful to attract movie makers to the region.

"These producers are looking for fast, efficient ways to do business," he said.

"They want certainty because they come with large investments."

Movie producers aren't the only ones who would benefit.

"It makes a lot of sense for the state, as well," McQuade said. "We've proven we are a very film-friendly state."

An important part of the proposed legislation is the requirement to have marine contractors on site to ensure the terms of the permit are followed, McQuade said.

"It behooves us not to make a process quicker without proper management processes in place," he said.

"The Department of Natural Resources is there to protect the resource."

McQuade said he or other staff members are usually present when movies are filmed in the county to ensure there are no problems.

The proposed legislation would not impact Cumberland Island National Seashore, where a permit to film on the beach can be approved by the National Park Service within a day, said Superintendent Fred Boyles.

"We get film permit requests all the time," Boyles said. "We turn them around very quickly."

Doug Vaught, chairman of the Coastal Georgia Film Alliance, said the region has been aggressively marketed as a destination for film projects.

He believes the legislation would make Coastal Georgia an even more appealing location for projects.

"We know that our coastal location and film-friendly community leadership are strong draws already for movies with beach scenes in them," he said. "(The legislation) would be another compelling incentive for all communities along the Georgia Coast."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about government and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 323.

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