31-year-old coastal Georgia company spurs growth with film insurance

It was a perfect storm of opportunity: An established coastal insurance company, an experienced film producer, and an industry bringing billions of dollars to Georgia.

Chris Helton_Sapelo

That’s the situation Savannah-based Sapelo Insurance embraced this year, adding an insurance division focused solely on Georgia’s film industry. The company has handled insurance needs for a number of productions in its first year, including Brooke Shields’“Daisy Winters.” Filmed in Savannah, the movie opened in New York in October and will open around the country — including a local showing in Savannah for crew and extras — on Dec. 1.

“The way things are flowing now, we’ll be looking at tremendous growth,” says Chris Helton, a leader of Sapelo’s film initiative. “Production in Georgia is just not slowing down.”

Helton, whose film work includes being a producer with the upcoming film “Runnin’ From My Roots,” recently joined Sapelo to add film industry knowledge to the decades of insurance experience already rooted in the company. Sapelo, founded in 2004, is the insurance arm of Savannah’s The Sullivan Group, a 31-year-old human resources outsourcing company.

For the film industry, Sapelo’s insurance coverage includes the basics such as rental insurance and auto insurance, plus industry-specific needs like travel insurance for stars, camera coverage and insurance for inclement weather that interferes with filming schedules.

Rob Jones_Sapelo“It’s one of those things every production needs,” says Rob Jones, CEO of The Sullivan Group. “The reality of it is that we are a normal insurance company that has entered a very specific space with a very specific competitive edge.”

That competitive edge, Jones says, is Chris Helton. His film experience has helped Sapelo win business not only from “Daisy Winters,” but other Georgia-based productions such as “Crazy for the Boys,” “An LA Minute,” and “The Best of Enemies.”

While major studios such as Marvel have decades-old relationships with insurance companies, smaller productions are willing to consider shopping local for insurance needs, Jones says.

“This is new money coming into Georgia,” Jones says. “A production with something like a $20 million or less budget doesn’t have to obtain industry-specific insurance from New York or California anymore. Now there is an opportunity to bring that money into Georgia.”

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