The first stirrings of the dirt are taking place on the sprawling Medient property.
The studio isn’t ready to start putting up buildings and soundstages on its 1,550 acres off Interstate 16 and Old River Road. But a necessary step is now under way among the pine trees, as Medient has begun work on the well that will provide water for its first phase.
“Water is always an important part of any project,” said Jay Self of Medient Studios, "especially something as big that is planned for this property. We’re excited it’s going to help us move toward completing the project.”
PINCO was awarded the bid, for just over $797,000, last month, and work started Monday. Drilling the well could take from 30 to 90 days and it could be ready by the beginning of next year, said Scott Pinholster of PINCO. Once in operation, it will pump water at 1,500 gallons per minute. There is a permit for 150,000 gallons per day on the site.
“This is a beautiful piece of property,” Self said. “It’s a very appropriate piece of property. It has the right partners attached. But it is a pretty open space and we need to do quite a few things to get it ready. That couldn’t happen without the (Effingham Industrial Development Authority) and local contractors.”
The water provided from the well is expected to handle all the needs from the first phase and some of the phase 2 requirements. The well also is a much more economical solution for the first phase water needs. Without it, Self explained, the studio likely would have to put in eight miles of pipe to connect to Effingham County’s water system.
“The alternative to this for the first number of years for the project would be constructing an eight-mile pipe, which would cost millions of dollars,” he said. “It’s not smart for us, it’s not smart for the IDA, it’s not smart for anybody. This is a really good way to get us started.”
How much water eventually will be needed for the project is still up in the air, though Self said engineers are working on determining that figure and how to supply it. As the core elements of the project are built and become profitable and the build-out continues, Medient officials expect to have a batter grasp of what is needed.
“There are engineers working on that who know much more than I do,” he said. “But Effingham County’s water engineer, our engineer and our contractor have been having meetings, and they’ll work it out.”
Meanwhile, the studio is planning on four movies, including the spy thriller “Kickback” and “The Damned.” The latter, a horror film, will be shot in Savannah. Work on that production is scheduled for later this year. “Kickback,” based on the real-life death of a Russian journalist, will be shot in eastern Europe, and the cast includes John Cusack, Famke Janssen, Mischa Barton, Sean Astin and Tom Sizemore.
Also in the works is “Kilat,” a martial arts movie to be made in Malaysia, and “The Battle for Banaras,” a documentary on the recent national elections in India.
“It’s a contentious and very watershed event in India’s history,” Self said. “I think it’s going to be a great project.”
Production on the films on the pipeline isn’t contingent on the soundstages being built, Self added, “but the stage will make it much easier to work story after story.”
Medient CEO Manu Kumaran has been at the Cannes Film Festival and called the start of the project’s infrastructure a “fundamental milestone.” The site also has been given needed permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, since nearly 40 percent of the property is wetlands.
“Due to the scale of the project, the design and the engineering of the water infrastructure is criticallly important,” he said in a statement, “and I would like to personally thanks the teams of people who have worked on this to help achieve today’s milestone.”
Added Effingham IDA CEO John Henry: “Drilling this well should allow the studios to get up and running quickly now.”
Self couldn’t give a start date for construction of the studios but said it shouldn’t be long after the general contractor is on the ground.
“This is an extremely ambitious project,” he said, “unlike any other project in this area. There are also things that come up that nobody has thought about. But we have a good team and great partners in the IDA and Effingham County. We’re very positive about the future.”