Mon., September 30, 2013 4:14pm (EDT)

Spongebob Begins Filming In Savannah
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 7 months ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
SpongeBob balloons on display at Savannah's 2009 Saint Patrick's Day Parade.  (Photo Gail-Carmichael)
SpongeBob balloons on display at Savannah's 2009 Saint Patrick's Day Parade. (Photo Gail-Carmichael)
Production on a new Spongebob Squarepants movie began in Savannah today.

The film is moving forward despite the suspension of a key city official.

Film office director Jay Self led together Savannah's film recruiting business for 18 years.

Last week, his boss suspended him ahead of a termination hearing.

A memo obtained by local TV station WTOC suggests complaints about the Spongebob movie from businesses and state film officials prompted Self's suspension.

But furniture seller and Downtown Business Association President Ruel Joyner says he's had no complaints about the production.

"I just think it's a great opportunity for our city, for businesses," Joyner says. "There's going to be a spotlight on what's going on down here. You're going to have folks coming back from around the area to see what's going on. It's not a closed set."

The production repainted parts of downtown to resemble a seaside village.

The film's production crew opened its temporary Savannah office on Monday.

But city officials weren't talking about what caused them to suspend Self.

Michael Jarema of the city's film commission said the move surprised him.

"We had a record year last year in Savannah with a $20 million impact," Jarema says. "Jay Self was the film services director in those years and every year preceding it."

City film officials say filming on the Spongebob movie is expected to pump about $8 million into the city's economy and last through November 8th.