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TOP STORIES: Film Activity Finishes Strong In 2020

By Jenny Callison, posted Dec 18, 2020
Crews filmed the Hallmark movie USS Christmas in downtown Wilmington in September. (File photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
After a promising start in early 2020, and then a bust when COVID-19 shut it down in March, film activity has come roaring back to Wilmington in the second half of this year.
“We have not been this busy in years,” Bill Vassar, executive vice president at EUE/ Screen Gems in Wilmington, said Dec. 8.
Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, put a number to that.
“Our last big year was 2014 when local projects spent $270 million,” he said this month. “We have not been near that – even half that – since then.”
After a very strong 2019 that carried over into the early months of 2020, the outlook is much improved now, thanks to strict coronavirus protocols governing how filming is done, and both Vassar and Griffin are optimistic.
Guy Gaster, director of the N.C. Film Office, concurs.
As of Dec. 9, five projects were underway or just wrapping in the area: feature films Scream 5 (dubbed Parkside during its production phase), Static and International Space Station, as well as TV series Hightown and This Country.
Earlier this fall, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ USS Christmas filmed part of its television movie here before moving to Charleston, South Carolina, for the remainder of the project.
Parkside is wrapping and will be out mid-December,” Vassar said. “Hightown producers are encouraged; it should be very successful, based on the way it looks and is testing. Static is moving in. The crew will build the sets in January and shooting will start in February.
International Space Station has moved into offices here and is building sets on two of our stages. It should shoot starting in February.”
This Country, a Lionsgate Television project for the Fox Network, recently received the go-ahead to produce 14 episodes, according to Griffin.
The project, which is not using EUE/ Screen Gems facilities, planned to take a break for the holidays and return in early January, he added.
This Country was one of the pilots that attempted to shoot here in the spring,” Griffin said. “They were able to shoot only part of one day before things were shut down, but they were happy with their experience here and the project was given the go-ahead.”
All six projects will receive N.C. Film and Entertainment grants, said Gaster. Information about three of those grants was released in September; the most recent three are still in discussions with the N.C. Department of Commerce to determine the amount of their potential grant eligibility, he added.
USS Christmas is eligible to receive a grant rebate up to $1.1 million; Parkside could receive as much as $7 million; and the second season of Hightown has been approved for up to $12 million.

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