Filming for Hallmark movie continues on Tybee Island
By Dash Coleman
Posted Apr 28, 2017 at 5:01 PM
Savannah’s latest claim to film fame is a Hallmark Channel movie being shot on Tybee Island.
Principal photography for summer romance flick “Love at the Shore” started last week and will continue next week.
The film follows author Jenna Thompson, played by “Colony” star Amanda Righetti, who takes her two children to the beach for summer vacation after a divorce. There, the neat and methodical writer meets carefree surfer dude Lucas McKinnon, and love finds a way.
“It’s a story about misguided first impressions,” Peter Porte, the former “The Young and the Restless” regular who plays McKinnon, said Friday during filming on Tybee’s south end.
Porte’s character has a furry, show-stopping sidekick: Happy the Hallmark dog.
“He steals every scene,” Porte said on set. “He lands his mark way more often than I do.”
The 2-year-old terrier is something of a brand ambassador for Hallmark - a lovable pup used to promote pet adoption.
“He was rescued,” said Happy’s trainer, Sarah Clifford. “He was found on the streets of downtown L.A.”
The energetic dog is owned by Crown Media Family Networks President and CEO Bill Abbot, but lives with Clifford, who has been training animals for film for 15 years. Unlike most dogs on Tybee, Happy has been permitted to access the beach for filming purposes, Clifford said.
Happy has appeared in Hallmark programs like the “Kitten Bowl” and “Happy Yule Log” with his feline counterpart, Happy the cat, but this is his first movie.
“We rehearse his lines every night in our hotel room,” Clifford said, describing how she uses buzzers and treats to teach Happy routines needed on set the next day.
Righetti and Porte both noted differences between typical Hollywood production and filming in coastal Georgia.
“Location wise, it’s just a different look out here,” Righetti said. “It’s a nice change of pace.”
Unlike Los Angeles, where studios are in no short supply, productions here require shooting on location rather than a fabricated backdrop. That means the cast and crew have to work around weather and the potential for other hindrances.
In this case, there’s also a rush on filming. “Love at the Shore” is set to air in July.
“Most films, they’ve got three months to put together,” Porte said. “We’ve got 15 days to put together a feature-length film, and it’s not controlled in a studio.”
Tybee has been a sought-after backdrop for films over the last several years, including Miley Cyrus-led romance “The Last Song,” kids’ caper “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water,” raunchy Robert De Niro comedy “Dirty Grandpa” and the soon-to-be-released “Baywatch” revival starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron.
“It’s funny, being out on this beach then looking at it, and suddenly it’s very familiar,” Righetti said. “You realize, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of stuff that’s shot on this beach. That swing is awfully familiar.’”
In general, filming is an increasingly big business in the area. According to January report in the Savannah Morning News, television-based projects brought in roughly $33.4 million in 2016 - an increase of about $30.4 million from 2015. The same report says more than 280 projects total filmed here in 2016, including feature films, shows, commercials and student projects - that’s up about 2.5 percent from 2015. All the projects contributed $132 million last year, about $3.4 million more than in 2015.
“Love at the Shore” will premiere at 9 p.m. July 29 on the Hallmark Channel.
Filming to take place on U.S. 80
Filming could impact traffic on U.S. 80 on Monday. The state Department of Transportation is asking drivers to do their best to steer clear of the highway between Lazaretto Creek and Battery Drive - a tough task considering it’s the only road onto the island - between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. A spokeswoman for the department said “filming should occur within the normal flow of traffic with law enforcement escorts” who would coordinate any necessary interruptions.