Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Filmmakers producing projects in North Carolina are on track to invest a record amount of money in the state in 2021, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday during a press conference at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington.
The industry’s $409 million investment is the largest tally seen in the state since the creation of the North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grant in 2014. Combined, these productions will create more than 25,000 job opportunities for North Carolina’s highly skilled film professionals and background talent.
“We’ve all worked hard toward this banner year for North Carolina’s film industry,” said Cooper. “With our resilient communities and local businesses, and our growing reputation for inclusion and diversity, North Carolina will continue to provide a beautiful stage for film projects of all sizes in every corner of the state.”
This new in-state spending figure eclipses the state’s previous record of $373 million from 2012, when “Iron Man 3,” “We’re The Millers,” “Revolution,” “Homeland” and “Banshee” lensed in the state.
“These multimillion-dollar revenues for 2021 are great economic development wins for North Carolina,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “Our film industry, with its experienced production talent and compelling film locations, creates good paying jobs and positive economic impacts for our economy.”
Productions continue to be drawn to the state’s highly skilled film workforce, its well-established infrastructure, quality, and variety of locations, and the 25 percent rebate offered through the bi-partisan approved North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grant. With a strong emphasis on series productions, recruiting efforts focus on project budget and the story’s setting that are the best fit for the state.
“Our consistent message of a strong workforce coupled with a stable and reliable rebate program has been heard loud and clear by production executives and has resulted in these economic developments wins for North Carolina,” added Guy Gaster, director of the North Carolina Film Office, which is housed within the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and leads the state’s recruiting efforts in conjunction with the N.C. Department of Commerce. “There is a high demand for content and our state is proving that we are among the best in helping to bring these stories to life on screens of all sizes.”
With film activity occurring in all eight of the state’s economic development prosperity zones, this year’s projects include eight scripted series which present opportunities to return to North Carolina to film additional seasons. To date, major productions that have been awarded N.C. film and entertainment grants for 2021 are as follows:
♦ Florida Man – Season 1: Created by Donald Todd and executive produced by Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan for Aggregate Films, Netflix’s upcoming series centers around a struggling ex-cop (Edgar Ramírez), who returns to his home state of Florida to find a mobster’s runaway girlfriend. What should’ve been a quick gig soon turns into a wild odyssey. Featuring a slate of acclaimed directors such as EP Miguel Arteta and starring Ramírez alongside a cast including Anthony LaPaglia and Abbey Lee, Florida Man production is now underway and will continue into November in the greater Wilmington area.
♦ The Summer I Turned Pretty – Season 1: Produced by wiip Studios in association with Amazon Studios, the series is about the magic of that one perfect summer.
♦ Our Kind of People – Season 1: Hailing from Twentieth Century Television, and scheduled to premiere on FOX this September, “Our Kind of People” is the story of a single mom, who risks it all and moves her family to a vineyard with hopes of taking her natural hair care line to the next level by infiltrating the African American elite in the Oak Bluffs community. Production is underway in and around Wilmington for the series.
♦ Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: Lionsgate Studios returned to the state for the production for this feature film based on Judy Blume’s best-selling novel. Production took place this past Spring with cameras rolling in Cabarrus, Gaston, Mecklenburg, and Union Counties.
♦ The Peripheral – Season 1: From Amazon Studios, this production is set in the future where technology has subtly altered society.
♦ Echoes – Season 1: “Echoes” begins filming in September and is a mystery thriller about two identical twins, Leni and Gina, who share a dangerous secret. Since they were children, Leni and Gina have secretly swapped lives, culminating in a double life as adults: they share two homes, two husbands, and a child but everything in their perfectly choreographed world is thrown into disarray when one of the sisters goes missing. The production will be based out of EUE/Screen Gems Studios as it films in and around Southeastern North Carolina, with plans for filming key scenes in other parts of the state.
♦ Along for the Ride: Adapted for the screen and directed by Sofia Alvarez, this Netflix feature is based on the YA novel of the same name from New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen. The film marks the directorial debut for Sofia Alvarez (“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You”) and stars newcomer Emma Pasarow, Belmont Cameli, Kate Bosworth, Laura Kariuki with Andie MacDowell and Dermot Mulroney. The summer before college Auden (Emma Pasarow) meets the mysterious Eli (Belmont Cameli), a fellow insomniac. While the seaside town of Colby sleeps, the two embark on a nightly quest to help Auden experience the fun, carefree teen life she never knew she wanted. The film is produced by Screen Arcade’s Bryan Unkeless and Eric Newman and Executive Produced by Screen Arcade’s Alyssa Rodrigues, Sian McArthur, and Erika Hampson. “Along For the Ride” wrapped filming in New Hanover County in June.
♦ Line Sisters: Hailing from the North Carolina-based production company Swirl Films, comes a made-for-TV movie for Lifetime about a group of best friends who experience a tragic accident while pledging a sorority and agree to cover it up. Now, 10 years later the girls start experiencing things that make them think maybe the accident didn’t happen as they thought. The project completed filming in New Hanover County earlier this year.
♦ One Summer: A made-for-TV movie, from production companies The Cartel and Crown Media that is set to premiere on September 26 on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel, “One Summer” centers around a widower who brings his family to his wife’s hometown for a summer vacation, discovering old and new love along the way. Production recently took place in Brunswick and New Hanover counties.
♦ County Line: All In and County Line: No Fear: County Line: All In and County Line: No Fear are sequels to the original County Line movie, continuing the story of Sheriff Alden Rockwell as he solves crimes and brings justice to his home and neighboring counties. The movies, which star Tom Wopat (“Dukes of Hazzard”) and Patricia Richardson (“Home Improvement”), were filmed earlier this year in the greater Charlotte area, including at Media-Comm Studios. Both films were produced by Alpha Productions, a subsidiary of INSP Films, and distributed by Imagicomm Entertainment.
♦ Christmas in Harmony: A second made-for-TV movie from The Cartel and Crown Media to air on one of the Hallmark channels, “Christmas in Harmony” tells the story of a woman who returns home to re-discover herself, and also finds love along the way. Filming on the holiday-themed feature is currently underway in the greater Wilmington area.
♦ George and Tammy: George & Tammy is produced by Spectrum Originals, MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios. Starring Golden Globe Winner and Oscar Nominee Jessica Chastain, George and Tammy is a limited TV series for Spectrum Originals, Paramount+ and Paramount Network, that chronicles the country music power couple, George Jones and Tammy Wynette. The production is scheduled to begin in the greater Wilmington area in 2021.
♦ Hightown – Season 2: From Lionsgate Television and Jerry Bruckheimer Television, the second season of Hightown continues the story of a women’s journey to sobriety that is overshadowed by a murder which she feels convinced to solve. As previously announced, the production filmed the second season of the series in southeastern North Carolina from September 2020 through February of 2021.
♦ Delilah – Season 1: After pausing due to COVID-19, production on the first season of Delilah, a Warner Bros. Television series for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), wrapped in early 2021. The series features a headstrong, highly principled lawyer in Charlotte who left a demanding white-shoe law firm a decade ago and hung her own shingle so she could make raising her children her top priority. As previously announced, the series filmed in the greater Charlotte area.
♦ The Black Phone: Blumhouse Entertainment returned to the state with the feature “The Black Phone”, a story about a young boy who fights to escape the clutches of a serial killer with the help of past victims through a magic phone. The production filmed in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Columbus counties under the working title “Static”.
♦ Welcome to Flatch – Season 1: As previously announced and filmed as “This Country”, Lionsgate Television wrapped principal photography earlier this year on the half-hour mockumentary about a documentary film crew that goes to a small town to study young people and their current concerns. Filming took place in Pender and New Hanover counties and the project is expected to air in 2022 on FOX.
♦ I.S.S.: LD Entertainment, whose N.C.-filmed production “Words on Bathroom Walls” was recently released, returned to the Tar Heel State with a new feature-length film “I.S.S.” The thriller features six astronauts living aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and follows their actions after receiving distressing information from Earth that threatens their missions and their lives. This project filmed in Wilmington at EUE/Screen Gems Studios.
♦ Evolution: Another project that was put on hold due to the coronavirus, “Evolution” is the story of a mom determined to find a way forward for her family when her daredevil teenage son suffers a freak accident, finding hope from the most unexpected source. This feature filmed earlier this year in Catawba, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Iredell, Polk, Rutherford and Wake counties.
In addition to the above grant awardees, production has also taken place on several reality series including “Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks” and “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” as well as on national commercials for Chevrolet, Adidas, Shell and Volvo among others.
The North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grant provides financial assistance to attract feature film and television productions that will stimulate economic activity and create jobs in the state. Production companies receive no money up front and must meet direct in-state spending requirements to qualify for grant funds. The program is administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce and promoted by the North Carolina Film Office, part of VisitNC and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.