ARE IN LOTS OF MINDS
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
James Taylor, a native of the Carolinas, praised the region in song with his 80s hit, "Carolina In My Mind." In the 90s, the Carolinas have become a hit with the film industry. From the mountains to the seashore to lots of hot towns and cities in between, the Carolinas are on the minds of many filmmakers in the know.
This region is definitely one of the world's fastest-growing centers for film and television production. Situated on the same latitude as Los Angeles, the two states offer great weather, rolling mountains, stunning seashore, and many other great locations.
The success of North Carolina is indicative of Hollywood's love affair with the Carolinas. The Tar Heel State hit list includes: "Nell," "Lolita," "To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday," "Eddie," "Dirty Dancing," "The Fugitive," "Bull Durham," "The Color Purple," and "Last of The Mohicans." Television credits include "Matlock," "American Gothic," and many others. This is definitely not just Mayberry anymore.
Moviemaking in North Carolina reached record highs in 1995, Governor Jim Hunt announced in March. A state Department of Commerce survey showed that the Tar Heel State hosted 54 features and 91 television projects. Filmmakers spent $391 million in the process. "The film industry spent more than a million dollars a day in North Carolina last year and averaged a new movie every week," said Governor Hunt.
Wilmington captured a big part of production, with revenues totaling $240 million from 43 features and 25 TV projects. The seaport city was base camp for the $70 million "Lolita," starring Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith, the $50 million "Eddie," featuring Whoopi Goldberg, "To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday," with Michelle Pfeiffer, the CBS-TV series, "American Gothic," and a barrage of movies-of-the-week.
The Charlotte area saw revenues climb as well, based largely on the film "Eddie" and three other features, as well as 26 TV shoots. In February, the regional economic development organization, Carolinas Partnership, established a film commission and lured Virginia's film commissioner, Marcie Oberndorf-Kelso, to the Queen City to head operations. "Charlotte's potential for success with film and video prroduction is phenomenal," she says. "The region has all the ingredients for success: a hub airport, major equipment houses, a strong crew base, and an amazing variety of locations."
Film activity in the Research Triangle region generated $27 million in industry spending in 1995, with six features and six TV projects. Western North Carolina hosted a feature, as well as nine television shoots, resulting in $23 million in industry revenues.
Winston-Salem and the Piedmont Triad area garnered much interest, including work on portions of "Lolita," "Eddie," and 24 TV shoots. Late last year, Winston-Salem and the Piedmont Triad formed a regional film commission and hired former Los Angeles producer Diana Costello as its director.
Since Governor Hunt established the state's film program in 1980, North Carolina has developed a variety of resources to help boost the industry. According to film office director Bill Arnold, services include: cutting red tape; assistance to location scouts, production designers, and art directors; availability of state government helicopters and fixed wing aircraft; advance work and liaison with locals; use of state facilities; and assistance with accommodations, catering, air and ground transportation; contacts with equipment and service suppliers, local government, studio facilities, and other film-assistance organizations; tax breaks for filmmakers; and help to film companies considering incorporation as a North Carolina firm.
Virtually non-existent as a location for feature films when the film office was established, North Carolina was recognized a decade later by The Hollywood Reporter as second only to California in revenues derived from all production and again last year by the Association of Film Commissioners International. The state has also hosted the three most successful independently-produced films of all time ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I and II" and "Dirty Dancing"). When it comes to North Carolina's success story it all comes down to the perfect places and people.
"I loved shooting in North Carolina," says Elizabeth McGovern, who worked in the state on "The Bedroom Window." "It's a beautiful place and the people are so welcoming and warm."
The Wilmington area has been especially strong as a film location, including "Lolita" and "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday" in 1995, as well as "American Gothic" and the famed "Matlock" series.
Danny Eisenberg, producer of 1994's "Dream A Little Dream," says "Everybody talks about Wilmington in the film business. It has the studio, it has the talented people. The equipment is available. It has the climate and the cost is a lot cheaper. All of that is better than Los Angeles." The area is so strong that firms like Wilmington-based Locations...+ are kept quite busy with location scouting and management, getting films from script to screen along the Carolina coast.
However, filmmakers know that Wilmington isn't the only game in the state. Other regions also bring great locations to the table, with 70 out of the state's 100 counties hosting feature films. The Charlotte area, western North Carolina, the Research Triangle region, and the Winston-Salem Piedmont Triad have all developed into major locations for filming in the Carolinas. The state is so diverse that there seems to be a location for any film treatment needed.
For another strong southern accent, South Carolina brings similar attributes as a feature film and television location. The state's formidable films in recent years have included: "The Big Chill," "Days of Thunder," "Forest Gump," "The Jungle Book," Die Hard With A Vengeance," "Ace Ventura," "Last Dance," "The Prince of Tides," "Something to Talk About," "The War," and "White Squall." Television movie credits include "Caught in the Crossfire," "Gramps," and "The Yearling."
The breadth of subject matter in these films attests to the breadth of location possibilities in the state. The film office's "Picture Book" provides scenic examples of the state's three major regions, including upstate mountains, the small towns and rolling farmland of the midlands, and seaside wonders of the coastal region. South Carolina features small towns, large cities, beaches, waterways, quaint country roads, historic sites, and many other special places. In short, if it's needed on film, it can probably be found in South Carolina.
"South Carolina offers a mild climate with a diverse landscape and architecture, tax incentives, and a crew base that consistently delivers the highest quality professional and technical services," says governor David M. Beasley. "According to leading producers, our spirit of cooperation has been an important factor in bringing projects in on time and within budget."
"Motion picture production is one of South Carolina's fastest growing industries--and the numbers prove it," continues governor Beasley. "Revenues from the motion picture industry have more than doubled in the past three years."
With more than $53 million in economic contribution last year in the state, the South Carolina Film Office has played a big role in the growth of the state as a location lure. "We've been there for the industry giants--The Walt Disney Companies, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros.--as well as leading and smaller independents from coast to coast," says Isabel Hill, the office's director. "All will tell you that South Carolina worked to bring their projects in on time, on budget, and with production value on the screen."
The film office offers a wide array of services, including location scouting, government and community liaison, production assistance, and research. They can match a script with location options and deliver a customized location package within 48 hours. Their comprehensive location files contain more than 7,000 locations that showcase serene small towns, mountain ranges, pristine beaches, antebellum architecture, or virtually anything else. They can also help cut red tape; find lodging, crews, equipment, props, and services; and assist with any details, historical accuracy, and production design.
Along with the popular Charleston area, there are many other up-and-coming South Carolina locations. "Something to Talk About" and "Jungle Book" were mainly filmed around the quaint coastal town of Beaufort, while other counties like Dorchester ("The Yearling"), Jasper ("Last Dance"), Colleton ("Forest Gump"), and Berkeley ("Forest Gump") have also drawn rave reviews as locations. The possibilities include other parts of the pretty lowcountry on the Atlantic coast, the beaches of the Grand Strand, metropolitan Columbia and small towns in the Midlands, and, of course, the fabled Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you need a mountain town like Tigerville, deserted Seabrook, the stereotypical Laurens or Abbeville town squares, the historic houses and plantations of Charleston, or almost any location involving water, South Carolina can provide it.
The local film industry is also alive and well in South Carolina, proving you don't have to have a big budget to take advantage of the location. There is also much local support for such efforts.
For instance, thanks to a grant, the screenplay rights to Mamba's Daughters, the acclaimed 1929 novel of Porgy author DuBose Heyward, were recently sold to Charleston producer Debra Rosen. "I am thrilled to receive a grant to bring such a powerful novel by one of Charleston's greatest writers to the screen," said Rosen, a former state film office director. "We will be making this film using as much local talent as possible. Rosen is also a founding partner of Charleston Grip & Electric (see "Fine Facilities").
Another Charlestonian putting the Carolinas on the location map is independent producer Peter Wentworth. Wentworth and his company, Allagash Films, have been involved in such South Carolina films as "Metropolitan," "Swoon," "Ruby in Paradise," "Other Voices, Other Rooms," and "The Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day," which premiered at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival (Best Cinematography Award) and last month in New York's "New Directors/New Films" series at the Museum of Modern Art.
Thus, when it comes to locations in North and South Carolina, Hollywood (and many talented locals) often call the Carolinas home. That may be just what James Taylor had in mind.
Aunt Bea would be proud of the Carolinas. When it comes to facilities, there's much more in the region than the set for Mayberry RFD. What started with Andy Griffith's quaint little town has blossomed into an area filled with fine facilities for filming.
Down in South Carolina, the facilities front is expanding quickly to match the state's lovely locations. Just last month, Charleston Grip & Electric (CG&E) opened first business as the state's first full-service motion picture and television equipment rental company. CG&E will definitely make South Carolina even more popular with Hollywood.
Associated with Boston's High Output, the leading supplier of motion picture and television equipment in New England, will serve motion picture, television, and commercial productions. "Our rental equipment inventory ranges from camera dollies and electrical generators to 12,000 kilowatt lights," says CG&E president Martin Bluford. "In addition, our wholesale and retail business will offer specialized art supplies, tools, and lighting filtration."
"CG&E represents an irresistible opportunity for us," says John Cini, president of High Output. "I am impressed with the experience and skills of the management team. We feel that together we will be able to capitalize on the growth potential of the Southeastern market." Isabel Hill at the Film Office added, "CG&E fulfills a critical need for motion picture support services and will undoubtedly help attract more production in the future."
The Charleston area is also home to one the nation's largest and most unique filming spaces. The former General Dynamics Building has provided filming space for "Die Hard With A Vengeance" and "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls."
"When the producers of "Die Hard With A Vengeance" needed to construct a New York City subway and crash it, they came to South Carolina," says Isabel Hill. "With a ceiling height of 200' and three huge 300'x200' areas, this clearspan building provides a hugely unique and popular facility for the film industry.
Some fine South Carolina-based people also provide superb support. Peter Wentworth of Allagash Films (see above) says, "In the six years I've lived here, we've seen an increase in production from a cottage industry to a very viable industry. South Carolina also benefits by having one of the most savvy film commissions I've ever had the opportunity to work with."
"It would be wonderful to see, in next decade, the film industry to follow suit of the recording industry, where pockets of the country become viable alternatives to New York and Los Angeles," continues Wentworth. "For example, Athens, Austin, and Seattle are the hot areas in the country for new recording acts." The same could be said for the Carolinas when it comes to film.
Companies like CG&E and people like Peter Wentworth are just two examples of the vibrancy of film in South Carolina. There are many other facilities and firms involved in the film industry. The South Carolina Film Office can put filmmakers in touch with all the right people and places.
In North Carolina, there are currently seven facilities statewide, 29 stages, and more than a million square feet of controlled space for production. they include eight stages and a backlot at Carolco Studios and three stages each at the Wilmington Film Center and Carolinas Cement Company in Wilmington; a 14,000-square-foot stage at Carolina Atlantic Studios in High Point; two stages at Charlotte's Creative Network Studios; eight stages at Earl Owensby Studios in Shelby; and four stages at the recently-completed Magder Studios, northeast of Greensboro.
This summer, the region will also boast the $14 million "Filmmakers Village" at the North Carolina School of Filmmaking, School of Arts, Winston-Salem. This facility, likely to become a filmmaking mecca, will include a backlot and three soundstages, as well as state-of-the-art post-production facilities. While the village will ostensibly be for the training of student filmmakers, post-activity has already been provided for 20th-Century Fox's "Nell," shot completely on location in North Carolina in 1994.
The coastal town of Wilmington is one of the many facility success stories in the Carolinas. Wilmington's tale started in 1984, when Dino De Laurentiis filmed "Firestarter" in the area. The producer loved the area and opened a production facility in the city, shooting about 10 films a year and drawing talent and recognition to Wilmington.
This Southeast U.S. film mecca was eventually taken over by Carolco Studios, which has played host to more than 90 feature films, television shows, and commercials. It offers eight soundstages, ranging in size from 7,200 to 35,000 square feet. The backlot includes four interiors and a three-block-long, four-story-high urban street that has replicated New York's Chinatown and Little Italy, Manhattan, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, and many other locales. The studio also offers a huge inventory of set lighting, grip, and expendables, as well as a 90'x38' blue screen, 43'x39' hard cyc, production offices, construction mills, plaster and paint shops, props, a screening room, editing suites, and a commissary and catering.
Amidst the bustle, the popular facility's parent company, Carolco, filed for Chapter 11 back in November. 20th Century Fox has an outstanding bid for the studio, but everything is still up in the air and there's still no word what they (or another buyer) would do with the facility. But brisk filming continues at Carolco, as well as at 61-acre Wilmington Film Studios ("American Gothic"), with two 40,000-square-foot soundstages and a 20,000-square-foot soundstage (more are on the way). Infrastructure firms in Wilmington include Joe Duinton Company International Cameras, Motion Picture Events, Southwynde Studios, and Cine Partners grip and electric.
These facilities have made fans of people like Jeff Peters, producer of "Matlock," who says, "What a pleasure it has been to discover the wonderful film production potential in Wilmington. The fully complemented Carolco Studios is augmented by the availability of a group of talented, experienced, and dedicated production personnel who are an asset to any production team."
Of course, "Lolita" was the most recent and most visible success story for facilities in the state. Though it shot for more than 100 days in 80 different locations across six states, more than six weeks was spent in the Wilmington area and elsewhere in the state. Director Adrian Lyne ("9 1/2 Weeks," "Fatal Attraction," and "Indecent Proposal") needed three basic looks for the film, based on Vladimir Nabokov's controversial 1958 masterpiece: New England, the Deep South, and the bleak frontiers of West Texas. Lyne found much of it in Wilmington and the Carolinas. \
"The novel is extraordinary," says Lyne. "Nabokov's descriptions are so visceral, so tangible, and so tactile that he tells you how to shoot it. As I read the novel, I could see where I would have to put the camera. Lyne often put the camera in the Carolinas.
In the Chargeurs production, Lyne teamed with executive producer Mario Kassar, a major innovator in international picture production and distribution, who is also renowned for his talent in greenlighting projects that go on to become worldwide blockbusters. Kassar also served as executive producer of such Carolco hits as "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," "Basic Instinct," "Total Recall," "Cliffhanger," and last year's "Cutthroat Island."
In Wilmington, they found the perfect conditions for many phases of filming, including a house which became a virtual character in the film. "The house we found has so much character, so much personality," says location manager Patty Doherty. "No matter how hard you'd try to make something different about that house, it would always be this giant character." That could be said for locations and facilities throughout the state.
The rest of North Carolina's industry infrastructure is just as strong as Wilmington's. In Charlotte, Paramount Show Services operations by Viacom adds a huge single source for production support in the center of the state. Housed in a 50,000-square-foot facility at Paramount Carowinds Theme Park, the operation provides lighting equipment, grip equipment, scenery construction, set dressing, model shop, props, costume rental and manufacturing, and transportation to production anywhere on the east coast.
Charlotte is also the home to the east coast outlet of Hollywood Rentals, Matthews Grip Equipment, Expendable Supply, and U.S. Helicopters. To the east, Triangle Rent-A-Car, initiated in Raleigh in 1979, has supplied vehicles for more than 100 feature productions.
The facilities are in place in both states and the support people are ready, willing, and able. They are definitely on a roll in the Carolinas.
LOCATIONS AT A GLANCE
(Members of Association of Film Commissioners International)
North Carolina Film Office, Bill Arnold: (919) 733-9900 or (800) 232-9227 for current recorded production information; Fax: (919) 715-0151
Charlotte Region Film Office, Marcie Oberndorf-Kelso: (704) 347-8942 and (800) 554-4373; Fax: (704) 347-8981
Durham Film Commission, Donna Taylor: (919) 687-0288; Fax: (919) 683-9555
Western North Carolina Film Office, Mary Nell Webb: (704) 687-7234; Fax: (704) 687-7552
Wilmington Film Commission, Mark Stricklin: (910) 762-2611; Fax: (910) 762-9765
Winston-Salem Piedmont Triad Film Commission, Donna Costello: (910) 777-3789; Fax: (910) 721-2209
TRADE AND PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
Cape Fear Filmmakers Accord, Jay Tobias: (910) 763-3456; Fax: (910) 763-8381
Cleveland County Film Commission, Steven Nye: (704) 484-4999; Fax: (704) 480-1900
Davidson County Film Committee, Laura Johnson: (910) 472-6300; Fax: (910) 475-4802
Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Gail Murphy: (910) 274-2282 or (800) 344-2282; Fax: (910) 230-1183
Haywood Country Chamber, Kay Dossey: (704) 456-3021; Fax (704) 452-7265
Hendersonville Chamber, Ray Cantrell: (704) 693-1413; Fax: (704) 693-8802
High Country Film Committee, Judi Scharns: (704) 264-2225; Fax: (704) 264-6644
Lexington Area Chamber, Carol Woodward: (704) 246-5929; Fax: (704) 246-2161
Thomasville Area Chamber, Doug Croft: (910) 475-6134; Fax: (910) 475-4802
Motion picture production companies are entitled to a cap of 1 percent sales and use tax purchases or rentals of items used in the making of films in North Carolina. Companies interested in the tax break should register with the Sales and Use Tax Divisiion of the North Carolina Department of Revenue, P.O. Box 25000, Raleigh, NC 27640.
**The use of all state facilities--highways, buildings, ferries, parks--is coordinated through the film office, most often with a one-day turnaround when given sufficient notice. Thirty days lead time is requested for filming on state and federal highways.
**Federal lands requiring permits include national parks and recreation areas, national forests, and Bureau of Land Management-controlled lands.
**Cities, towns, and counties may have a variety of local requirements for permits, but most are easily-handled by the film office.
The state generally enjoys a mild climate, but nonetheless enjoys four distinct seasons.
North Carolina offers 72 public airports (there is direct daily service to Los Angeles, New York, and London) and more than 300 private airstrips, making the most remote areas accessible to on-location productions. The state also features the nation's largest state-maintained road system, with more than 76,000 miles of good roads.
The state production guide lists:
Animal Handlers/Wranglers 7
Art Directors 5
Art Dept. Assistants/Coordinators 3
Assistant Directors 13
Boom Operators 5
Camera Assistants 22
Camera Operators, Film 1
Camera Operators, Steadicam 2
Camera Operators, Video 13
Casting Associates 4
Craft Service 3
Dialect Coaches 2
Food Stylists 1
Hairstylists/Make-up Artists 32
Location Scouts/Managers 22
Production Assistants 46
Production Designers 1
Production Managers 17
Production Office Coordinators 17
Prop Masters/Assistants 21
Set Decorators 8
Set Designers 1
Set Dressers/Leadmen 9
Sound Mixers/Recordists 8
Special Effects 7
Professional film and video resources in North Carolina are listed in the Official State Film and Video Directory. For a copy, call (919) 733-9900. On the Internet: http://www.telefilm-south.com/NC/OLNC.html
LOCATIONS AT A GLANCE
(Member of Association of Film Commissioners International)
South Carolina Film Office, Isabel Hill: (803) 737-0490; Fax: (803) 737-3104
The film office offers a one-stop office for complete service throughout the state.
South Carolina is a right-to-work state and welcomes both union and non-union productions. The rapid growth of the state's motion picture-related labor force indicates their serious commitment to the development of a viable film industry.
Equipment and supplies used in the production of motion pictures and television programs are exempt from sales and use tax in the state. To obtain this exemption, you must obtain a certicicate of examption from the South Carolina Tax commission by completing an Application for Certificate (Form ST-10) and returning it to the local office of the South Carolina Tax Commission.
In most cases, location permits are not needed. Exceptions include: the city and county of Charleston (contact the film office); state-owned facilities (call South Carolina Parks at (803) 734-0122) or the film office); and federally-owned properties (call the film office).
The state generally enjoys a mild climate, but nonetheless enjoys four distinct seasons.
Every major airline offers service in to South Carolina, with direct flights into Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston from many major cities. There are also several popular and well-located regional airports. The state's capitol, Columbia, is centrally-located, with an excellent highway system making any location in the state less than two hours away.
The state production guide lists:
Animal Handlers/Wranglers 12
Art Directors 6
Art Dept. Assistants/Coordinators 10
Assistant Directors 13
Boom Operators 4
Camera Assistants 10
Camera Operators, Aerial 4
Camera Operators, Film 10
Camera Operators, Steadicam 1
Camera Operators, Video 23
Casting Associates 33
Craft Service 10
Dialect Coaches 6
Food Stylists 3
Hairstylists/Make-up Artists 22
Location Scouts/Managers 28
Production Assistants 64
Production Coordinators 4
Production Designers 1
Production Managers 5
Production Offic Coordinators 18
Prop Makers 16
Prop Masters/Assistants 17
Set Decorators 9
Set Designers 5
Set Dressers/Leadmen 26
Sound Mixers/Recordists 16
Special Effects 9
Stunt Coordinators 7
Professional film and video resources in South Carolina are listed in the South Carolina Production Guide. For a copy, call (803) 737-0490.