Wilmington continues to rebound from production slump
Film Industry Coming Back Strong
By CHRISTINE R. GONZALEZ | Photography by ALLISON POTTER
THE year started off great for the local film industry and
is finishing on a high note after a pandemic-related dip.
“2019 was the best year we had in five years. The
momentum from that was strong through January and
February, and then COVID hit and everything came to a grinding
halt,” says Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film
Commission. “We didn’t have any work here for five or six months.
We’ve come back and things are looking good for the end of the
year. Even though filming is down overall in 2020, we will still
probably do more business than we did in 2016, ’17 or ’18.”
Filming continued for the STARZ series Hightown in October at
the Oceanic restaurant and Hanover Seaside Club in Wrightsville
Beach. Griffin says there are a lot of inquiries regarding upcoming
television series and feature films, but nothing new is confirmed for
A number of factors make Wilmington ideal for film: the weather,
the combined experience of EUE/Screen Gems crew and other local
industry professionals, and state film incentives.
“One of the things we have is an extensive local crew base,” Griffin
says. “Most productions hire about 90 to 95 percent of crew from peo-ple
who live here. So that is very important for us. Even though we
have a full range of seasons, winter is relatively mild so productions
can shoot here in the wintertime. And our history of being in business
for 35-years plus. We’re an established industry with established ven-dors
and crew who know how to make productions here.”
North Carolina offers a 25 percent rebate on qualifying expenses
made by productions while in-state as its film incentive. The rebate is
funded through the N.C. Film and Entertainment Grant.
“Our incentive program is key to getting productions here right
now,” Griffin says. “Incentives are used around the globe to attract this
industry. If you have meaningful incentive programs in place the pro-ductions
are going to consider you. So right now, that is a tool that we
need to keep in place.”
Griffin says keeping film incentives is crucial to staying in business.
He appeals to the public to thank elected officials for making that
possible. “If you have a chance to interact with our local elected offi-cials,
let them know you appreciate what they have done for the film
The only negative Griffin laughingly mentions is that clients would
like to see direct flights from Los Angeles to ILM so they don’t have to
change planes. But he’s quick to point out that the EUE/Screen Gems
studio is less than 3 miles from the airport.
“What we tell them is you do have to take a connecting flight, but
the experience you find when you land at this airport is going to be
so much easier to navigate,” he says. “Once you land here, you can be
in the studio at work in 10 to 15 minutes.”
december 2020 22