Film pros optimistic about pilot season
February 4, 2011By Ken Little
It’s uncertain if “One Tree Hill” will be back for a ninth season. If not, The CW Network series will end an unprecedented run in Wilmington later this year.
There was the long-running TV series “Dawson’s Creek” before that, providing steady work for many of the same crew members who switched over to “One Tree Hill.”
Is there another production in the pipeline with the potential to captivate TV audiences for seasons to come?
Johnny Griffin hopes so. The director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission spent a recent week in Los Angeles gauging the interest of producers as TV pilot season gets under way.
“Production companies are getting ready to green light pilots. We go through this cycle every year,” Griffin said.
Several potential suitors expressed interest in bringing pilots to Wilmington, Griffin said. None had made a firm commitment as of late January. Other pilots filmed elsewhere and picked up by a network could relocate to Wilmington. Or the opposite could happen.
Word on “One Tree Hill” may not come until May, Griffin said.
“Our goal ultimately would be to keep at least one series going. We’re hoping for more,” he said. “We have multiple crews and multiple facilities and regardless whether “One Tree Hill” is here or not, we certainly have the facilities to accommodate additional work.”
Beefed-up film incentives in North Carolina and technology at EUE Screen Gems Studios like Stage 10, with its special effects capabilities, have put Wilmington back in the industry limelight, Griffin said.
“We’ve had the various television production companies say our current incentive works very well for them,” he said.
Two TV pilots were filmed in and around Wilmington in 2010. Neither were picked up. Even if a series does get the nod from a network, it must click with the public to have longevity. “Surface,” an NBC science fiction series filmed in Wilmington, premiered in September 2005 but only aired 15 episodes.
“Once the series starts, it all revolves around ratings,” Griffin said.
“One Tree Hill” has been “on the bubble” in recent years, but continues to be renewed, Griffin said.
Bill Vassar, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, is optimistic about the future of film and television productions in the area.
“This year we have had more interest from producers and Hollywood studios about filming in Wilmington since I began working here in 2000,” Vassar said. “We are discussing film, TV pilots and movies of the week projects.”
Interest doesn’t necessarily mean more jobs, Vassar said, “but it looks very probable.”
Each “One Tree Hill” episode generates about $1 million spent in the local economy. It’s been busy locally in the first quarter of 2011, with an estimated $50 to $60 million being spent by all productions.
“When the producers that are on the ground here now wrap up by the end of March, they would have spent as much money here in 2011 as they did in all of 2010,” Griffin said.
“We don’t have to wait until “One Tree Hill” is leaving before we find a replacement. We’re just looking for another series to come in here whether or not ‘One Tree Hill’ goes,” he said.
About 125 local crew members are employed by “One Tree Hill,” Griffin said.