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Film

Latest Project Could Take Film Spending To $150M

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Nov 5, 2019
The Wilmington region's latest film project could shoot this year's film spending to $150 million, Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, said Tuesday.

Filming for The Georgetown Project, a working title, began Monday. The movie stars Russell Crowe and is being produced by Miramax. Meanwhile, filming for Hulu’s Reprisal and Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures' Halloween Kills wrapped over the weekend, he said. 

Between the three productions and others that have filmed in Wilmington -- including DC Universe's Swamp Thing, which shot here for a single season -- Griffin said the commission is estimating that annual spending from film projects this year could reach about $150 million.

A typical crew size for a film like The Georgetown Project is about 150 members, Griffin said, adding that he does not have exact figures.

According to film permit applications with the city of Wilmington, the production is proposing filming at several Wilmington locations such as St. James Episcopal Parish, 25 S. Third St., and the Brooklyn Arts Center, 516 N. Fourth St., this month.

But work has started already outside of what is being requested of the city, Griffin said. The production will be shooting until around mid-December.

Reprisal and Halloween Kills, however, still have a presence on-site at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, said Bill Vassar, executive director of the 10-stage studio complex off North 23rd Street.

"It's been wonderful to have three productions on the lot this last couple of weeks," Vassar said. "Until the end of this week, from maybe two weeks prior, three weeks prior, every single stage on the lot was full. I don't ever remember it happening before."

Both Griffin and Vassar are hopeful the trend will continue next year. 

Griffin said there are several projects the film commission is working on reigning in, on top of readying efforts to fish for television pilot projects early next year.

"It's just great to see .... so many familiar faces we haven't seen in years working on the lot," Vassar said. "It feels like the family has come together again."

And more work to increase films across the state is slated to take place after Gov. Roy Cooper established the Advisory Council on Film, Television and Digital Streaming.

Griffin, Vassar and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who is also chair of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission board, were among several Wilmington-area members recently named to the council, which was announced at a press conference at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington in late October

The council, which is being chaired by Susi Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and a Wilmington resident, is slated to meet in Raleigh for the first time in December but an exact date has not yet been announced, Hamilton's office said Tuesday.

Members will advise the governor on strategies to increase film productions in the state, serve as a forum for filmmaking matters in the state and make recommendations regarding the film industry as outlined in an executive order, said Michele Walker, public information officer for N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, in an email.

"Wilmington is home to a large portion of North Carolina’s film industry, including studios and crew members, and is a popular location for film and television shooting. Strengthening North Carolina’s film industry will positively impact Wilmington’s economy, its small business community and the film industry employees who live and work in the area," Walker said.

Griffin said the industry is in a growth phase right now, with the most spending happening over the course of 2019, than has happened in the past three years.

"I think it's important for the state to be cognitive of that and to be aware of what the growth is attributable to. What are we doing right? What has changed? Why are we seeing this growth? Trends that may be happening in the industry. And so I think it's good for them to start to acknowledge that and want to look at that in more detail ... so we can make sure that we continue that as a state and continue to see this growth moving forward," Griffin said. 
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