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Filmmaker’s Dreams Come True in Savannah

This week’s blog is from Jude Walko, filmmaker, writer, creative genius, horror flick fan and UGA grad! Jude’s story is one that will make you want jump out of bed and shout “Let’s get started!”  Read on for details then get ready to buy your tickets for Jude’s upcoming movie. FYI – The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonders. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map…

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As someone who grew up in Georgia and graduated from the Drama Department at the University of Georgia, I always had a penchant for the great “State of Adventure.”

Last year as my forty-fourth birthday neared, I found myself in quite a quandary. As producer on one of Chiller TV’s original content feature films, in conjunction with Studio71, I needed to find a place suitable to shoot an entire horror film, very much on a shoestring budget, when compared with most studio fare. One of the first questions I’m asked is always “Where should we shoot it?”

I had heard of the State of Georgia’s amazing film incentive which garnered filmmakers up to 30% back on each dollar spent in the form of a well-established tax credit program. Rumors in the industry of fellow film colleagues moving there in droves continually persisted. So I thought I’d check it out. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, my writers also had Georgia on their mind.

I had heard of the State of Georgia’s amazing film incentive which garnered filmmakers up to 30% back on each dollar spent in the form of a well-established tax credit program. Rumors in the industry of fellow film colleagues moving there in droves continually persisted. So I thought I’d check it out. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, my writers also had Georgia on their mind.

Long story short, what better place to film a horror movie than “America’s Most Haunted City” itself, Savannah, GA? A place where Spanish moss grows on everything while gothic cemeteries and antebellum plantations dot the coastline. This would be no easy task, however. The majority of gear and technicians were Atlanta based, or from even further removed New Orleans. It was clear I needed help.

That’s when Wil Hammargren at the Savannah Film Office suggested I reach out to the fine folks over at The Creative Coast. It was there that I was met by the shining faces and ebullient personalities of Kait Lance and the entire Creative Coast staff. They were more than happy to help me set up a production office, find crew and get us in the door with the locals, who were, at the time, a little reticent to deal with “Hollywood types.”

There was one catch: I needed to make a speech in a room full of strangers for the 1 Million Cups weekly presentation. I agreed, for at the time I needed them way more than they needed me.

Somewhat reluctantly, I shed my inhibitions and spoke, and was in a word, welcomed, by the community.

Over the course of the following months, my relationship with The Creative Coast would blossom into one which was mutually beneficial to my team, the filmmakers, and the local community. On the coattails of much bigger films like “Magic Mike XXI” and “Birth of a Nation,” negotiating wasn’t always easy. We were, after all, bringing some money and creative jobs into the community, but this is nothing if you didn’t first extend some Southern hospitality.

Lucky for us, I always found solace in The Creative Coast’s long extended reach into the community, and felt that a good word from them was well worth its weight in gold for barter.

Well the show got “in the can” and in fact it ended up doing quite well in the horror circuits. It’s called “SiREN”. In fact, here’s the newly released trailer.

But see, that’s only half the story. What you don’t know is that I have spent the better part of nearly three decades in the film business working hard, establishing a reputation and building other people’s dreams, in order that I myself, could one day, in turn, also flex my creative muscle. In my youth, I started as an actor, but quickly my goals matured into the desire to write and direct original content. How does this tie into Savannah, The Creative Coast and 1MC, you ask? Well, as a professional storyteller, I’d be remiss if I didn’t elaborate.
You see, while in Savannah, where I most likely wouldn’t have brought the picture had it not been for all of the help provided by the aforementioned, everything was coming to a head to make my dreams possible. In fact, it was during my stay there, perhaps by forces much bigger than me, that I meet a wonderful family who helped connect those dots and allow my own personal quest to come to fruition. Their son was an intern on the show, and they were so congenial and generous that they freely offered up their house as a potential filming location. While shooting there I would come to find out that they also owned a magnificent castle in the French countryside. The more I got to know them, the more I loved them, and the more they accepted me as not just a colleague, but a friend.

Cut to a year later, and the creative “film gods” made the stars align. Not only did we shoot in their amazing home, but we were able to build a fantastical world for the backdrop of the film, on the other side of the world. One thing lead to another and they ended up becoming Executive Producers on the film. We were able to get some great actors like Sam Valentine and former Superman, Dean Cain. The movie is nearly done and will be represented this year at the American Film Market. Dream accomplished, bucket list checked.
So what’s the moral of this story? Next time you’re at a 1MC meeting drinking coffee with complete strangers and feeling like a fish-out-of-water, don’t be afraid to say hi. Don’t be scared to get up there and get your story told. That person that passed you the creamer at the table or offered you the last donut may very well be the key to your future. Wherever like minds get together, so many amazing things can be achieved. We all love creativity, not for the amount of success or wealth it can bring to us, but for the mere passion of bringing new ideas into the world. For seeing people realize their dreams from paper to tangible product, is one of the most rewarding things in all of humanity. But make no mistakes about it, the minute you let that creative fire get trampled, or God forbid extinguished by naysayers, is the minute you have lost faith in yourself.

Dreams do come true, so please don’t lose sight of yours. In the meantime, please take a look at ours…

Jude

THE INCANTATION

The Loire Valley of the enchanted French countryside, sets the backdrop for Blue Falcon Productions’ first original content feature film, THE INCANTATIONThe film stars burgeoning young actress Sam Valentine and high profile actor Dean Cain.

Based on an original script by feature helmer, Jude S. Walko, the story follows a fish-out-of water Lucy Bellerose as she navigates the sometimes foreboding waters of her ancestral home. A young American girl has a chance of a lifetime to visit her ancestor’s castle in the south of France, only to find that her family is hiding deep, dark secrets about their nefarious past, far away from prying eyes. See the newly released trailer.

The Creative Coast was founded in 1997 by the Savannah Economic Development Authority, Chatham County and the City of Savannah to foster the creative, technology and enterpreneurial ecos-system.

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