With Good Behavior's Season Wrap, Wilmington's Film Industry At A Standstill

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Sep 12, 2017
Locally filmed TNT series Good Behavior officially wrapped filming on its second season last weekend, leaving Wilmington in limbo of current film activity.

Now those in Wilmington’s film industry are waiting for the next production to make it to the state, while others are seeking film jobs with projects in cities with a steadier market.

"No new awardings have been granted since the passing of the recent [state] budget [in June]," said Guy Gaster, director of the N.C. Film Office, in an email Tuesday.

The state budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year allocated $15 million in new funding, rolling over about $18 million left over from the previous year’s film grant appropriations. The following fiscal year, $31 million dollars are allocated and set to recur each year.

Good Behavior was one of three productions to receive N.C. Film and Entertainment Grants from the 2016-17 state budget. The series began filming in the Wilmington area again in April.

Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, said the recurring funding approved by state legislators in the budget this fiscal year through the state’s film grant program is boosting recruitment discussions. But, so far, no projects have given Wilmington or North Carolina the greenlight.

"In regards to productions, there are certainly still indigenous projects shooting in the state, but with principal photography now complete on Season 2 of Good Behavior, there are not any productions filming that have received a film & entertainment grant allocation," Gaster said in his email.

With Good Behavior, questions remain if the show will get renewed for a third season and if so, whether it will return to film in Wilmington, Griffin said. 

"They are in the process of wrapping up now like all shows do. And we wait and hope that the show gets renewed for a third season and that, that third season will take place here," Griffin said.

With History Channel’s Six, which filmed locally in 2016, the demands of the production changed, leading it to choose another location after the series was renewed for another season, he said.

But Wilmington is not relying on one production to keep the city’s industry going, officials said. The Wilmington Regional Film Commission is continuing to focus efforts on recruiting new productions to the area, Griffin said.

"We are always talking to projects. We have projects we are talking to right now,” Griffin said. “Some are on a short timeline. It could be they have an actor availability issue and so the project has to fall in a certain window. Other projects may have thought they were going to a certain city and then maybe something has happened and that is no longer an option for them so all of the sudden they call us.

“More long term we are already starting to have those preliminary conversations with projects for next spring,” he added.

Pilots and series that will shoot next year are doing their research now, Griffin said, adding that he aims for Wilmington to get in on the next cycle.

“We’re staying hopeful,” he said. "Given our incentive was renewed -- it was extended -- that's what our clients were looking for. They were looking for some longevity to that incentive. And so now they have that as they're making their plans.

“We still have our crew base, we still have the stages, we've still got our great history of production here, so I think everything is still in place ... they know if they want to do a series, two, three four years into the future, the money is there," he said.

Crew members are also trying to remain positive through the change in the flow of steady projects.

“I don’t know there has been a time where there has been zero production. We either had Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill that was a span between 1997 and 2011, where there was always something going on between those two TV series. It’s been quiet here since then after Iron Man [3] wrapped and all the flurry of production of 2012,” Tom Jones Jr., a construction coordinator in the industry, said of the lull in film projects. "I think you would have to look back to the late '80s and early '90s when there was absolutely zero production in Wilmington.

"But we’re optimistic that something will come in and gain traction and give North Carolina a second look," he added.

Jones has worked on a number of Wilmington films over the years, from the filming of the Year of the Dragon (1985) and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) to more recent TV productions such as CBS' Under the Dome and Good Behavior.

“The good thing is that rumors never cease, so there’s always a little bit of a sound bite that …. something may be coming in,” Jones said. “As far as any hard data we’re sort of in a lurch right now with the wrap of Good Behavior.”

Jones, who has been working in the film business since 1984, said that while he likes working from home, he’s not turning down any outside requests.

Beth Giles, who works as a set decoration and props buyer for film productions and most recently worked on Good Behavior, is doing the same.

Giles said now that the production has wrapped in Wilmington, she is currently “brushing off her resume” and sending it out to film projects in Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; and Savannah, Georgia. 

Both Giles and Jones pointed to pushback from HB2, the state's 2016 law on transgender rights that was repealed this year, and the change from a film incentive to a film grant program in 2014 to the loss of some of the state's film industry.

“Obviously the former incentive plan was what I called the ‘gold standard.’ It was simple for the producer and simple for the state to administer,” Jones added.

Giles has seen changes, but having lived and worked in Wilmington and its local film scene since 1989, she is not considered relocating anytime soon. Though she has been “treading water for the last few years,” Giles said she and her husband, who also works in the industry, have been able to stay in Wilmington and work.

“We are not considering moving, but I know a lot of people who are, a lot of experienced crew people, who are not as fortunate,” she said, adding that she estimates her local union has lost about a third of its membership over the years.

“These things are economically driven, and we never know. There’s always some uncertainty. The last time I remember being uncertain about things was after Dawson’s Creek [ended],” Giles said.

But she said she remains “cautiously optimistic” both in the return of Good Behavior and other business in the area. Though rumors about potential productions have already begun, she said, there is “nothing substantial at this point.”
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