Kewaan Drayton is what you might call a serial entrepreneur. Being co-owner of Red Eye Film Productions and The Savannah Underground, Drayton was also involved in the launch of Selfie World Savannah in Pooler, Georgia this September. He’s passionate about growing businesses and sat down to talk about his endeavors with The Creative Coast.
Red Eye Film Productions’ specializes in outstanding videography, filming commercials, movies and shorts. Their goal is to continue “disrupting the predictable” with featured films, such as their current project “I Will Not Say His Name” and high quality film. Red Eye has worked with dozens of companies to create impactful and professional content. To see samples of Red Eye Film’s commercial work, click here.
Drayton’s most frightening and exciting addition to Savannah, The Savannah Underground, won the “Best of Savannah Award” this year. The website describes it as “….a ghost hunting attraction like Savannah has never seen. It’s a new way to experience Savannah’s dark and terrifying past as three creepy, true tales play out around you in a 360 degree set. This is not your average Savannah ghost tour… This is one of the scariest things to do in Historic Savannah.”
Drayton’s entrepreneurial journey began in 2009 and has since grown into two thrilling ventures.
When did you officially launch Red Eye Film Productions?
We officially launched the business in January of 2017, but we’ve been running it since 2009. Initially it was JT, my brother, and I just shooting videos and getting free-lance projects, but not doing it as a structured business. One day we just said okay we’re going to start getting serious about this.
You guys are self-funded then right?
Yes, everything we made while doing the smaller jobs before we launched our company, we used towards our company.
I saw that you have your bachelor’s degree in criminology and that’s the same time I guess you decided to launch. Why did you decide to do that for a little while before settling down to Red Eye Film Productions?
Yeah I love crime. I just love to study prisons, the psychology of it all, why people commit crimes. We both knew we wanted to do something different and have a unique career. But we also thought, what do I have to fall back on, so we both have degrees where if anything detrimental happens, we can always go back to work in law enforcement.
Why did you and your brother decide to start a business together? What’s the driving force here?
JT has been filming ever since he was 10 years old. To be honest, I’ve never had a direct passion for film and television like he has. My passion has developed over the years, but his passion for film and video has helped me develop my passion for entrepreneurship.
JT came to me and told me he just wanted to shoot and didn’t want to do the business stuff. That’s what forced me to kick into an entrepreneurial mindset. I find the job, and he executes it. That’s when we realized that we could really do it.
For us, it is because we want to do what we love and we want freedom. It is worth the risk to attempt being an entrepreneur while you have the time at an early age. Just because the outcome – – being able to work when we want – – is worth it. We don’t want to work on a normal nine-to-five schedule.
How old were you when you came to this realization that you wanted the freedom of working for yourself?
I’ve always enjoyed the idea of it, it’s just that when you’re growing up you think that being a business owner is hard because of how people talk about it. And it is hard, but it’s all about finding your passion. Developing and building a team that can help bring it to life.
Where did you come up with the name Red Eye Film Productions?
It’s actually a really funny story. When JT was really young, his dad and his uncle played a trick on him in the mountains in Asheville. They told him a scary story about these creatures in the woods that had red eyes. One night, his dad and his uncle went out in the woods, and they had these little laser beams, and they pointed them at the window where he was. Someone came into the house and said “JT, look outside, there’s creatures with red eyes looking at you,” and it scared the living crap out of JT. He’s been traumatized ever since we named the company out of that.
That’s so funny! I’m curious how many people do you have on your team currently and do you plan to grow?
Right now we have a team of about 20 people. That includes our actors, our stage managers, our producers, our costume designer, set designers and other administrators who help us with everyday stuff and that includes The Savannah Underground.
Let’s switch gears to Savannah Underground: why did you and JT start that?
The start of The Savannah Underground was a hard pivot on Red Eye when the pandemic hit. March of 2020 hit and the corona virus was new. Everybody was freaking out, and we were about to face shut down. Marketing teams kind of just shut down because we couldn’t get into groups to shoot videos.
We kind of had to just enter this phase of planning and thinking of how we were going to pivot. We looked at Savannah overall, and we thought about what Savannah has: Tourism. We needed something to entertain tourists.
Savannah at the time didn’t have anything immersive where people could actually come in and experience all the terrifying things that have taken place in Savannah. That was kind of our logic behind opening up Savannah Underground.
How did you guys jumpstart the idea and turn it into what it is today?
First, we created a video. We rented out a venue for one day, and we shot a video that replicated what we wanted to do with Savannah Underground. After a few weeks, we realized that the video started going slightly viral. People were asking “when can we sign up?” “When can we get tickets?” ”This is so cool. Savannah needs something like this.” Once we saw that, JT and I thought, dang we really got to do it now because people want to see this.
Then we took a month and started planning. We cast actors and finished developing stories. Then, once March hit, we were running shows at the Clyde Venue and we partnered with them.
Mallory, who worked with Clyde Venues, gave us a location to actually hold the show. After March we had all the information we needed to validate the market and show that it would be worth it to continue pursuing the venture. We did and here we are now. We have our own location. We host shows every Friday and Saturday, and we’re about to start hosting shows every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And we’re just going to keep going from here.
I’m wondering, do you have any plans for Halloween? Are you going to change the experience at all or are you going to stay the same course?
My intention originally was to run the show that we have, because we know we have it down to a science. Our actors are comfortable with it and everything just flows. But, we just literally finished up a new show, and we’re about to start rehearsing for this month, and it’s going to be ready for us to add in October before Halloween hits.
That leads me to the next question: to see the shows, do people come to your location at 415 West Boundary Street, or do they get on the trolley and take it over there?
We have two different options: people can come directly to the show or they can book the trolley tour of Savannah that ends with our show. The trolley is a combined experience where one of our Savannah Underground members meets guests at the visitor center where they get on the trolley. Then our actor gives them a tour of Savannah, all the horror things and they even tap on some of the things that they’re going to experience in the story, so it’s an interactive ghost hunt. The guide on the trolley is running them through a training camp that will prepare them to hunt ghosts when they get to the underground.
You have all these different responsibilities, you’re now helping with Selfie World Savannah and you run Savannah Underground and Red Eye Film Productions. How do you divide your time between all these responsibilities?
I don’t divide my time. I wish I could tell you that I organized it in a specific way, but literally, I wake up every morning and every day is different. On some days, Red Eye calls for a lot more time. Some days the Underground does and now Selfie World has been busy. I ask for help and I trust my team to know what they need to do.
Be on the lookout for the fun experiences Kewaan and JT have in store with Savannah Underground this October. To purchase tickets to Savannah Underground this spooky season, visit their webpage here. Learn more about Red Eye Film Productions services by visiting their website here. Connect with Kewaan on LinkedIn here.