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Film

State Creates New Film Council

By Johanna Cano and Vicky Janowski, posted Oct 22, 2019
Crew members for Hulu’s Reprisal are shown working on Castle Street this summer. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday announced the creation of a Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television and Digital Streaming during a conference at EUE/Screen Gem Studios.

“We are here today to announce efforts to support even more something that we already know: that North Carolina is the ideal home for the film industry,” Cooper said. “It's great to be here where they are filming the streaming series Reprisal, and we look for many more projects like this because we know of the positive economic impact that the film industry has on our state.

"We also know painfully that the film industry has taken a hit here over the last few years," he added. "We're sending now the message that we want to return to those robust days. We are continuing to push the General Assembly for a more robust incentive program, and today we're taking it even further.”

During the conference, Cooper signed an executive order that established the new council.

Susi Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and a Wilmington resident, was named chair of the new council.

Cooper said the council’s role will be to advocate for the film industry, provide advice and develop strategies to bring more business to the state.

“The film industry continues to change and evolve with production demands from streaming channels, and we know that the film industry is growing alongside changing demands and viewer habits,” Hamilton said. “North Carolina is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these shifts, to welcome new industry voices and be a force in film production into the future. We have what it takes to be an incredible state partner for the film industry.”
 
According to the StarNews, Kevin Williamson, the creator of Dawson’s Creek will be filming a horror film in Wilmington starring actor Russell Crowe.

The film, produced by Miramax, is under the working title “The Georgetown Project,” as listed on the Wilmington Regional Film Commission’s website.

Cooper's visit Tuesday came as film activity has picked up in the Port City, with the addition of some projects for the type of streaming services Hamilton referenced. 

Swamp Thing, which shot for a single season for the DC Universe streaming outlet, wrapped up filming this summer.
 
Hulu’s Reprisal also was shot in Wilmington this year, as was the independent film Uncle Frank, followed by feature film Halloween Kills that began filming in September.
 
Mayor Bill Saffo said the region has seen growth in productions this year.
 
“I know that we’ve got some productions coming," Saffo said. "If you took all 2018, 2017 and 2016 combined, we've had the best year [this year], and we've got productions that are still rolling in here, which is very good for our community and for the area.
 
"[Film] is still creating a lot of jobs and bringing even some people back from Georgia," he added. "So we've had a great year, and film is back – obviously not at the levels that we saw in 2014 and 2015, but it’s coming back."

Sabrina Davis, president and owner of Port City Signs & Graphics, which has provided many backdrops, signs, wallpapers, decals and other graphics for locally shot films, said during the conference that the film industry supports small business owners.

“I think when some people hear the term film incentives, they think that we are giving money to fly-by-night companies that provide lights and cameras to film crews and that we were supporting production staff who work here briefly and then take the money elsewhere,” Davis said. “That is far from the case. Many of the companies like ours that work closely with productions have been here for generations and have worked with film since the industry started here in the 1980s.”

An initial list of council members was announced in a news release.

They include: Saffo, Amy Tiemann, Beth Petty, Bill Vassar, Judy Girard, Johnny Griffin, Chris Cooney, Chip Hackler, Dale Williams, Darla McGlamery, David Burris, Eric Johnson, Herman Stone, John Bankson, Lana Garland, Lauren Vilchik, Mike McGaha, Rebecca Clark, Robert Newton, Tim Bourne and Tod Thorne.

Additional members may be added.

“Film is more than red carpets and celebrities,” Cooper said. “It's about the talented crew workers, the studios, the local businesses. They're all working together; they are the backbone of the industry where the jobs are happening. These are the people who make it happen.”

Reporter Christina Haley O'Neal contributed to this story.
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