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Studio gets closer to releasing long-awaited Yellow
Shapiro jake new
Jake Shapiro

As plans to bring water and power to a sprawling studio site in Effingham County take shape, the final cut of the long-awaited film “Yellow” could be ready soon, too, according to Moon River Studio officials.
Engineers are finalizing designs for the entrance road and water line, and editor Jim Flynn is working to get “Yellow” prepared for release.

“We’ve been ridiculously busy in a great way,” said Moon River CEO Jake Shapiro.

Shapiro said the Nick Cassavetes’ film should be more palatable to commercial movie audiences once Flynn is finished with his edits. He’s also hoping the movie channels the success of “Birdman,” “which a year and a half ago was this weird, independent film,” Shapiro said. The movie won four Academy Awards, including best picture. It since has grossed more than $42 million in the U.S. alone.

Sienna Miller, one of the co-stars in “Yellow,” also starred in one of last year’s biggest movies at the box office and in critics’ circles, “American Sniper.” That movie grossed more than $340 million in the U.S. alone.

“We’re getting a lot of interest from distributors,” Shapiro said of the expected version of “Yellow.” “They are agreeing it’s much more commercial. We may be in one of those strange businesses where you can just get lucky.”

The Penny Marshall film project, based on the life of the first female inductee of the Baseball Hall of Fame, also now has a line producer.

“It’s slow but steady,” Shapiro said of the movie on Effa Manley. “It’s moving forward nicely.”

The studio and its parent company, FONU2, bought out Applebox Productions, an equipment rental firm. Shapiro said they will move all the equipment, about $1.6 million worth, to the Effingham site.

“(It is) everything you need to make a movie,” he said. “It really makes us a tremendous player in coastal Georgia.”

Until the studio gets its first storage building erected, the equipment will remain in Jacksonville, Fla. Shapiro pointed out it’s only an hour-and-a-half drive from Jacksonville to the studioplex site, so if they need the equipment, they can have it there quickly.

The studio may seek approvals to get temporary buildings on the site to house the equipment.

“The warehouse buildings themselves only take six weeks to manufacture and deliver,” Shapiro said. “We’re ready to place the orders.”

Shapiro also met recently with the Savannah Film Commission, and having all the equipment needed to film a movie could help sway moviemakers to set up shop at Moon River’s locale.

“People loving coming to coastal Georgia,” Shapiro said, “but they have real concerns about the infrastructure. By us having all the equipment you need, it really helps solve that. A lot of great producers approaching us, (asking) when can they start production. Our phones have been ringing off the hook.”

The studio and Enterprise forged a deal recently, giving Moon River a line of credit for rental production vehicles, “box trucks, trucks for the crews, etc.,” Shapiro said. “We’re negotiating a number of corporate partnerships so anything and everything people need to produce films on our property.”

Steve Wohlfiel, an engineer with Hussey, Gay and Bell, said progress on infrastructure has been made with the water tank and well, the design for the road into the site and the site itself. Design for the water line has been completed and its submittal to the Effingham Industrial Development Authority, the state Environmental Protection Division and the county is pending.

Survey work on the entrance road is done, and Wohlfiel said its design should be submitted by May 15. The target date for the site survey is June 12.

An application to submit an updated master plan to the county is in hand. Wohlfiel said they hope to have the master plan to the county by the end of June.

“That is a step that has to be done before the plans can be approved by Effingham County, in addition to whatever comments they have,” Wohlfiel said. “They have to have master plan and zoning requirements.”

The studio team also is negotiating with Georgia Power on how to bring power to the site.

“The main focus is to get the first stages up and operational by the end of the year,” Shapiro said.