Film business heats up


By Alison Lee Satake

Film business continues to heat up in Wilmington and the number of productions coming to town this year is projected to surpass last year’s record.

“We are definitely hot right now,” said Johnny Griffin, Wilmington Regional Film Commission director. “We will beat 2011 numbers by mid-year pretty easily.” 

In 2011, film productions spent over $133 million on local goods and services, which represents a 156 percent increase from the previous year, according to the local film commission. In 2010, about $44 million was spent here.

“[Last year,] we fielded 178 production inquiries, and brought in feature films ranging from ‘Journey 2’ and ‘Arthur Newman’ to ‘Piranha 3DD.’ On the television side, in addition to hosting ‘One Tree Hil’ and ‘Eastbound and Down,’ projects from Warner, Lionsgate, ABC Family, ABC Television and WBTV all decided to produce here,” Griffin said in a press release.
Currently, seven projects are in production and the film commission reports that it has received several serious inquiries from new productions recently.

Feature films in pre-production include Marvel Comics’ “Iron Man 3;” “Heart of the Country,” produced by Wilmington native Anne Hawthorne; “Writers,” starring Jennifer Connelly; “Over the Wall,” starring Hayden Panettiere; and low-budget film “The Occult.” An ABC television pilot rumored to go straight to series called “Mistresses” also plans to begin filming here later this summer. A horror film, “The Conjuring,” is currently in production.

“We have several hundred crew, mostly locals, currently working, and we have productions talking to each other about how soon one will be wrapping so they’ll know when those crew members will be available. That is really gratifying,” Griffin said.

Local film industry professionals credit, in part, the current North Carolina film tax incentive, which is a 25 percent refund up to $20 million per feature film.

“In previous years there were projects that wanted to film here, but they couldn’t justify it. We just weren’t competitive,” Griffin said. Paired with the established crew of Wilmington film professionals and EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the area is attracting new film business.

“There are vendors who are based in California that are considering expanding their businesses here, to our area, because of all the activity. I think that is a good indicator of how the industry is viewing us now,” Griffin said.

2011 productions include (provided by Wilmington Regional Film Commission):
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (New Line Cinema)       
Hick (Independent)                   
Piranha 3DD (Dimension Films)
Arthur Newman, Golf Pro (Independent)                                            
Iron Man 3 (Marvel prep)
The Conjuring (New Line Cinema prep)          

Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song (Warner Premier movie)                   
Eastbound & Down (HBO) season 3 series           
One Tree Hill (WBTV) 7 episodes in season 8 series        
One Tree Hill (WBTV) 13 episodes in season 9 series       
Playing With Guns (Lionsgate TV pilot)
Teen Spirit (ABC Family movie)
Revenge (ABC Television pilot)
Hart of Dixie (WBTV pilot)
Game Time: Tackling The Past (Proctor & Gamble movie)
Hallmark Hall of Fame Presents A Smile As Big As The Moon (McGee Street Productions movie)
Hornet’s Nest (TNT movie)
Teen Mom 2 (reality show)
Swamp Loggers (reality show)
Extreme Makeover Home Edition (reality show)

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