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Some Film Activity Continues In NC; Local Studio Expansion Plans Still In Place

By Jenny Callison, posted May 17, 2023
Despite a writers' strike that has impacted some filming, Dark Horse Studios officials are proceeding with expansion plans at their Wilmington facility. (File photo)
Although production of what’s called the Untitled J&L Series has paused in Wilmington because of the strike by the Writers Guild of America, two other film projects continue to shoot in other parts of the state.

A romantic drama series, Untitled J&L stars Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff. It was shooting on locations throughout Wilmington before stopping earlier this month for reasons related to the labor dispute.
 
Jackson is known to Wilmington, and to Dawson’s Creek fans worldwide, as Pacey Witter from that iconic teen drama series shot locally. Ridloff is known for her roles in the TV series The Walking Dead and in the film Eternals.

The strike was called May 2 when the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers could not agree on major provisions of a new contract.

“J&L is the only one we’re aware of that has stopped production,” said Guy Gaster, director of the N.C. Film Office, on Tuesday.

As to why one project would shut down while others continue, he responded, “Each project is unique as to its needs as well as its position about observing a strike. I know that everyone is monitoring the situation.”

The other two film projects are Blue Ridge, shooting in the Charlotte area, and Summer Camp, a feature-length film on site in western North Carolina. Summer Camp stars Diane Keaton, Kathy Bates and Beverly D’Angelo. Blue Ridge is a streaming/television series based on a 2020 feature film.

Also continuing are Dark Horse Studios’ plans to expand its Wilmington production campus by adding two more sound stages, effectively doubling its capacity to house productions. President and CEO Kirk Englebright sees the strike-related industry slowdown as something of a boon.

“We’re still on schedule to break ground in June,” he said Tuesday. “There could not be a better time, from our perspective, for the strike to happen since we will be under construction and can’t do anything. Everyone hopes, of course, that [the two sides] will come to a resolution soon. When that happens, there will be a lot of pent-up demand for new content.”

Dark Horse does still have a commitment from a project that’s slated to occupy its existing production space starting this November; Englebright is staying mum on the project details but says that his latest intelligence from the producers is that the strike is not affecting their schedule. He hopes that the strike will be over by then, anyway.

An acknowledged optimist, Englebright reports seeing activity on the part of industry officials to secure production space for the second half of 2023.

“When they are able to open back up again, it’s going to be a busy second half of the year for all of us,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping.”
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