Film industry

Movie industry strong in Wilmington, NC midway through 2022

It’s only halfway through the year, but according to figures released last week by the North Carolina Film Office, film and TV productions have already spent or committed to spending about $107 million in the state. so far in 2022.

While that’s significantly less than the record total of $416 million spent statewide in 2021, it still represents a very strong year for the motion picture industry in North Carolina, and especially in Wilmington, where most of the biggest projects are done.

“I don’t think we’ll match last year’s numbers, but it’s still been a really good year,” said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, which promotes the region’s film industry. and helps bring projects to town.

Last year‘s record numbers were partly due to studios like Amazon and Netflix rushing to create content for streaming audiences that have swelled during the pandemic. That demand may have fallen slightly, but Griffin pointed out that, historically speaking, 2022 has been a very good year for the industry so far.

“If we stopped now, we would have even more business this year than we had” over the five-year period between 2016 and 2020, Griffin said. “But we’re only halfway there.”

In addition, according to the NC Film office, industry spending has created about 4,900 jobs statewide so far this year, with many if not most of these workers living in the Wilmington area.

The $107 million figure is based on rebates approved for production companies through the North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grant, which pays up to 25% of eligible expenses and purchases made in the state. It’s a $31 million program funded by the General Assembly, and production companies must pass an audit before receiving any money.

Last week, the NC Film Office announced that five productions had been approved for grants, three of which were shot in Wilmington: Independent feature “Providence,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt ($1.75 million rebate) ; the Starz Network crime drama “Hightown” ($10 million); and the Amazon Prime series “The Summer I Turned Pretty” ($13.6 million).

Two actors in the Amazon Prime show "The summer when I became pretty" in a scene shot in Fort Fisher.

“ABG and Her Monster,” a feature film shot in and around Charlotte, got a $600,000 rebate on the film, and Hallmark feature “To Her with Love,” which will shoot in Rowan and of Mecklenburg, was approved for a grant of $975,000.

Earlier this year, NC Film Office announced a grant for the Wilmington country music series Spectrum Originals/Paramount + “George and Tammy,” and two for feature films shot outside the Wilmington area: The Movie country music “Something Here” and the romantic comedy “The Other Zoey”, with Heather Graham.

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"George and Tammy," a television miniseries about late country music stars George Jones and Tammy Wynette, filmed scenes in Wilmington at Legion Stadium on Monday, January 24, 2022. The series is co-produced by Spectrum Originals and the Paramount Network.

According to Guy Gaster, director of the North Carolina Film Office, productions “are essentially pre-approved for their maximum reward at the start of production, and then the actual rebate is paid after the project is fully completed and the production expenses are audited. by a CPA licensed in North Carolina.”

However, the actual amount spent in the state is likely over $107 million, as not all productions qualify or seek reimbursement.

Griffin said on a recent trip to Los Angeles, industry people he met were optimistic about filming in the Wilmington area. He said he expects to announce several other projects looking to shoot here later this year.

He added that the industry is trying to read the tea leaves to find out if social legislation, like abortion bans in other states, could potentially have an impact in North Carolina.

“It’s a bit early to tell,” he said. “The industry is looking at it.”

Recently, “Eric Larue”, a film that marks the directorial debut of Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon, moved to Wilmington after originally planning to shoot in Arkansas. The filmmaker decided not to film in this state after adopting a ban on abortion.

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In the past, the state lost the film industry when the old state tax credit was repealed by a Republican-dominated General Assembly, ushering in those lean years between 2016 and 2020. State also lost business because of the “toilet bill”. NC Gov. Pat McCrory who required people to use public restrooms that matched the gender on their birth certificates. This law was later repealed.

Griffin pointed out that most production companies generally don’t take positions on social issues, but consider the views of filmmakers.

“If (artists) have enough clout, (studios) have to honor that,” he said.

In addition to studio-based film and television projects, independent filmmaking is also having a strong year in Wilmington. Honey Head Films has just wrapped production on its feature debut, “A Song for Imogene“, and writer/actor/director JR Rodriguez premieres his romantic comedy “Remember Yesterday” on August 11 at the Point 14 Theater in Wilmington.

The manufacturers of Indie Golf Comedy “Birdies“have found success with a direct-to-consumer approach, and WIlmington filmmaker Nakia Hamilton had her work highlighted at the NC Black Film Festival in Wilmington and the Charlotte Black Film Festival.

What’s going on in Wilmington?

The summer and fall promise to be busy for Wilmington’s film industry.

“Hightown” is expected to wrap filming this month, and three more projects are in pre-production.

Sam Straley and Chelsea Holmes in "Welcome to Flatch" Premiering Thursday, March 17.

Two are TV series that were recently renewed for a second season: Fox comedy “Welcome to Flatch“, which is filming in the Burlaw area, and Amazon’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” which uses many beach locations.

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“Eric Larue” is also set to begin filming here in August.

Coming soon

It’s already been a busy year for the release of projects shot in the Wilmington area, with horror movies “Scream” and “The Black Phone” does well at the box office.

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In addition to early seasons of “Flatch” and “Pretty,” the Netflix movie “Along for the Ride” caused a stir on this streaming service, and several Hallmark and Lifetime films that were filmed here also debuted.

The next big Wilmington project likely to see the light of day is “George & Tammy”, which stars Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain as country music couple George Jones and Tammy Wynette. It is expected to debut this fall.

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The Netflix dramas “Florida Man” and “Echoes” do not yet have airdates.

Similarly, four feature films shot in the region have yet to announce a release date: “Breakwater,” a thriller starring Dermot Mulroney and Mena Suvari; “One True Loves”, a romantic comedy/drama starring Simu Liu; “Summer Boys”, a coming-of-age thriller starring Mel Gibson and Mason Thames (“The Black Phone”); and “Providence”, which has just finished filming earlier this summer.

Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or [email protected]