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SCAD Savannah Film Festival: A Launchpad For Students, And For Oscars

(Image credit: SCAD)

“My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.’”

If you are a movie fan, you know the character who says that famous line, and likely even know the A-list actor who plays him. That would be Forrest Gump, played on screen by Oscar winner Tom Hanks. But did you know that the scene from that famous 1994 Best Picture winner was filmed in downtown Savannah, in one of the city’s picturesque squares? 

The bench that Tom Hanks sat on has since been moved to the Savannah History Museum, but visitors can stop by and sit for a spell on any other bench in Chippewa Square, pretending like they are an actor in a blockbuster Hollywood film. That’s because Savannah has played host to numerous film productions over the years, providing scenic backdrops for beloved movies such as Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington’s Glory, Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s satiric spoof of the lifeguard television show Baywatch.

SCAD Savannah Film Festival opening night reception (previous year) (Image credit: SCAD)

Savannah’s frequent brushes with the entertainment community help explain why so many gifted artists with aspirations of creative careers enroll in the undergraduate and graduate programs at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design. Founded in 1978, SCAD now offers students numerous programs of study in the School of Entertainment Arts and School of Digital Media, which break down into the following categories: Film and Television; Performing Arts; Production Design; Sound Design; Animation; Visual Effects; Motion Media Design; Immersive Reality; Interactive Design and Game Development; and Themed Entertainment Design.

But Savannah’s proximity to the movers and shakers in the entertainment industry increases each year when the city opens its doors to the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, a weeklong celebration of the finest features, documentaries, and shorts Hollywood has to offer. 

“With in-person events that prioritize safety, comfort, and community, SCAD’s signature festival dazzles with a display of more than 150 films and an assortment of stars — from living legends like Kenneth Branagh to luminaries such as Aunjanue Ellis. And more — always more,” said SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace. “Premieres. Panels. Masterclasses. That’s SCAD. Home to the world’s largest and most lauded university film studio complex, home to tomorrow’s top talent.”

SCAD Savannah Film Festival honored guests 2021 (Image credit: SCAD)

SCAD Savannah Film Festival offers students and attendees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about careers in the industry directly from the leaders in the field. SCAD students benefit from unprecedented access to film and television stars, producers, screenwriters and talents, all eager to pass their knowledge down to the next generation of storytellers who populate the classrooms of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“We are so excited to be back in person to celebrate the best in cinema at the 2021 SCAD Savannah Film Festival, and to continue our diverse programming, championing wonder women and artisan talent trailblazers in the industry,” said SCAD Savannah Film Festival Executive Director Christina Routhier. “This year we have a stellar lineup of films, honorees, and panelists that will be at the event to engage with our audience and students. New to the festival will be an added outdoor screening venue, featuring some Halloween favorites that are sure to be very popular.”

And the university’s legacy is only growing. In September, the Savannah College of Art and Design opened a state-of-the-art extended reality (XR) stage for virtual production; making SCAD the only university in the country with this cutting edge technology at this scale available for students. The XR stage is part of a landmark 10.9 acre expansion project of Savannah Film Studios which will also include a Hollywood-style film backlot, costume and set design facilities, among other features. Set to be complete in Fall 2023, the expanded Savannah Film Studios will be the largest and most comprehensive university film studio complex in the nation.

The XR Stage at SCAD Savannah Film Studios (Image credit: SCAD)

“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,” Wallace said.

“Think of the great backlots of movie history: Paramount, Pinewood, Universal, and now, SCAD.”

Learn more about SCAD today by visiting And make plans to attend the 24th annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival, which kicks off on Saturday, October 23 and runs through October 30.

(Image credit: SCAD)

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