The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) announces a major expansion of the university’s film and digital media studios. The expansion of Savannah Film Studios, a landmark 10.9-acre project, will include a Hollywood-style film backlot, a next-generation XR stage for virtual productions, and new soundstages, among other features. The expanded Savannah Film Studios will be the largest and most comprehensive university film studio complex in the nation.
These facilities will further SCAD’s tremendous impact on the film and television industry in Georgia and beyond, producing the next generation of creative leaders. Of the nearly 15,000 SCAD alumni from entertainment and digital media disciplines, 3,500 SCAD alumni work in the multi-billion-dollar Georgia entertainment industry. Students from an array of SCAD’s top-ranked degree programs, including film and television, performing arts, sound design, motion media design, immersive reality, user experience design, production design, and interactive design and game development will be able to collaborate on innovative and entertaining projects that exceed industry standards and help chart the future of film and television production.
“SCAD has always provided our students the most advanced learning resources — quite literally everything any student or professional filmmaker could ever desire: 4K cameras, Foley stages, motion-capture technology, a high-powered SCAD Casting Office, a massive research library, residence halls practically right on set, every degree program required to uplift the heart with stories, and now a 10-acre studio complex and backlot unrivaled at any university, anywhere,” said SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace. “Think of the great backlots of movie history: Paramount, Pinewood, Universal, and now, SCAD.”
The backlot will include scenes from Savannah’s iconic historic district, an urban environment featuring alleyways and a gas station, and a suburban backdrop of a town hall and an array of homes in varying architectural styles. The backlot will be constructed in three phases; the first phase will be completed in Fall 2021 with the other two phases slated for completion by 2023. Paul Wonsek, president and owner of Paul Wonsek Associates, will design the backlot expansion.
“We are excited to be part of the expansion of Savannah Film Studios,” Wonsek said. “Designing a film backlot is an ambitious and important undertaking, and demonstrates SCAD as a leader in the Georgia film industry. For the past nine years, my design partner Josh Borton and I have led the team that designed Tyler Perry Studios. Knowing this, SCAD proposed we collaborate to create a world-class facility for film and television production in Savannah. SCAD has filled an important role in the industry, continuously providing talented students and alumni who are fully capable of stepping into professional positions. The addition of this backlot and new state-of-the-art spaces will provide a student experience unlike any other university.”
SCAD is collaborating with MEPTIK, co-founded by SCAD alumna Sarah Linebaugh, to design the leading-edge, 2,000-square-foot XR stage for AR/VR programming, powered by disquise xR. The immersive, extended reality environment will empower students, alumni, and external productions to create innovative stories that match or exceed current studios. The XR stage is scheduled to open in Fall 2021 as part of the expansion’s first phase.
The XR stage and backlot will be built adjacent to the existing Savannah Film Studios building. The 22,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2014, houses three soundstages, green rooms, lighting grids, postproduction suites, a multi-purpose recording booth for ADR and Foley recordings, screening rooms, and production offices for SCAD’s film and television program.
In addition to the current Savannah Film Studios building, new XR stage, and backlot, three other buildings totaling more than 139,000 square feet are undergoing major renovations and expansions. These renovated spaces include a film field office, three new soundstages, a building dedicated to set design and costume design, and classroom space. SCAD is also creating a second XR stage in Atlanta scheduled to open in 2022, bringing the university’s film, television, and digital media footprint to more than 300,000 square feet across the Atlanta and Savannah locations.
This significant investment in the film and television industry is an example of SCAD’s continued economic impact in the state of Georgia. According to a 2019 study conducted by Tripp Umbach, the leading national consulting firm for the not-for-profit, arts, and tourism sectors, SCAD generates $766.2 million in annual economic impact for Georgia.
Thanks to the university’s locations in Atlanta and Savannah near booming film and television production hubs, SCAD students work on real sets long before graduation for major studio features, hit TV series, and indie films. Through the SCAD Casting Office, the only professionally run casting office in higher education, students have booked over 500 roles in major motion pictures and television series in Georgia, earning their Screen Actors Guild cards while earning their degrees. In 2020, more than 200 School of Entertainment Arts and School of Digital Media alumni contributed to Oscar-nominated films in areas such as production, directing, visual effects, and animation.