Savannah Morning News: Tybee readies for Miley’s ‘Last Song’By Lesley Conn

Filming “The Last Song” on Tybee Island could create traffic tie-ups.

It will limit access to the beach some weekdays, and shooting typically will go as late as midnight.

And crew members some days are going to take up about 100 primo parking spots right off the pier.

And what did groups of Tybee business owners and residents largely say in response?

“Welcome to Tybee” and “We love you.”

With filming of Disney’s latest Miley Cyrus movie scheduled to begin shooting on Tybee in a week, most on Tybee are focused largely on what the influx of film crews, movie buffs and squealing teenage Miley fans could mean for Tybee’s economy for years to come.

“It’s going to be good for us,” said Gloria Magune, who owns Royal Palms Motel on Butler Avenue. “Even ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ is still bringing us business.”

Bass Hampton, location manager for the shoot, and two other production officials met with business owners and residents in two meetings Monday.

They answered concerns about parking, security, late-night noise and how bright the lights at night would be.

They were easygoing and polite and promised to respond quickly to any concerns brought to their attention. One factor that should help: No filming will happen on weekends because, as a minor, Miley is not allowed to work then.

Security will be strong around the movie set and autograph seekers will be controlled, city officials and movie personnel assured.

Boost in tourism

Movie reps also assured the group they would create a beautiful movie that would make the community proud. It also should bring tourists, they said.

“People still come to see where Forrest Gump sat on the bench,” said Tom Parris, an assistant location manager, in one meeting. “They’re going to come see where Miley Cyrus sat on the pier. They’re going to come see where Miley Cyrus sat on the beach.”

Business owners such as Sallie Armstrong, who co-owns the gift shop Seaside Sisters, say the tourist season already has started strong, and they anticipate it only getting better with filming, which is scheduled to begin June 15.

Amy Gaster, president of Tybee Vacation Rentals and a board member of the Tybee Tourism Council, was looking beyond the busy summer season.

“Thirty to 40 weeks of the year, Tybee is very quiet. We’re not at full capacity,” she said. “We’re hoping it helps spread out the shoulder season.”

Movie crews will be shooting for weeks on Tybee and at a few locations in Savannah.

Initially, the movie was to be set at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., but once location scouts saw Tybee’s distinctive look, movie executives asked author Nicholas Sparks if he would agree to change the setting to Tybee. He did.

Weeks of shooting on Tybee will feature the pier, the lighthouse, a beach cottage and other spots around the island.

Early filming will include shooting a festival on the beach, complete with carnival rides. Near the end of shooting, crews will use movie techniques to create the effect of burning down the facade of a church built just for the movie.

Littering concerns

One of the more fundamental issues Tybee Island city officials will face is how to handle an influx of people who need restrooms and might leave more than their share of litter on the island.

Both issues have been sore points already, and hundreds, even thousands of extra people on the beach only threatens to exacerbate the problem.

City Manager Diane Schleicher said two people on beach patrols have been designated to monitor litter problems, and they have been talking with tourists and handing out trash bags.

The City Council on Thursday is expected to pass on second reading an ordinance that will make it a $100 minimum fine for littering on the beach.

Some council members on Monday were discussing making sure citizens had sufficient warning, because they didn’t want the public outcry Savannah officials have faced over jaywalking citations, which carry a state-mandated minimum fine of $140.

Signs warning of littering fines will be posted.

“I think the word is getting out, and I’d like us to continue getting the word out because the fines will be stiff,” Schleicher said.

As for restrooms, timing is everything.

The city is expecting delivery this week of two portable restroom trailers that will have multiple units. They were ordered before Tybee learned it had won the movie