50 States LLC
Number of employees:
9265 Old River Road, Burgaw
Russell Davis, owner
What does the company do with regard to film?
Davis: “I own eight trucks that I rent for film projects. They provide the driver and a signed rental agreement; they also cover the insurance while it’s in their possession. Four or five of my trucks are road tractors, and I have a couple of box trucks, which are like U-Hauls. I also have a fuel tanker used to fill generators.”
Do you have any sidelines?
Davis: “I do not rent to other customers. What’s happened over time, the insurance part [of truck rental] has gotten more involved, but there is a company out of Los Angeles that provides insurance for guys like myself.”
How did you get into this business?
Davis: “In 1987, me and two other guys moved to Wilmington from Charlotte. We were starstruck; we wanted to work out at the [movie] studio. We did what we could and eventually got to work out there. I was hired as a driver – you didn’t have to have experience, just show up every day. I realized that every single item a movie company uses is rented; they don’t own a thing. I thought I could get better trucks than they were using. So, I bought some trucks and rented them to film projects at the same time I was working as a driver. My employment for film projects was separate from my truck rental business.
“Over time, I had to create a company, 50 States LLC, in order to get paid. But it’s just me. I do everything.
“My customers are good friends of mine. I rarely work for new customers, but I just sent two trucks to Charlotte for a project. There’s big companies out of Atlanta that can provide a lot more [trucks] than I can, but I’m local here in Wilmington and I’m affordable.”
You say you retired from driving this year. What did you do most recently?
Davis: “I was a generator operator. The last thing I worked on was Florida Man. Movie sets have giant lights. Sound stages have their own power, but on location you need generators to power the lights. After I had been driving for a while, the opportunity arose to drive a generator truck, and the studio asked me if I wanted to do it. The job was 100% on-the-job training.”
What are your plans for future growth?
Davis: “I am winding down. I say I’m not buying any more trucks, but then I go out the next week and buy one. I’ve been working on my trucks the last couple of days; I have more time to work on them since I’m not working on the sets.”
How have things changed in the film industry here during your career?
Davis: “When I started, the pay scale was awful compared to other areas like New York and L.A. [The studios] took full advantage of us in the early ’80s into the ’90s. Wilmington kind of cut its teeth on the fact that what [local employees] didn’t know, we made up for in enthusiasm. Now we have labor unions to represent us. Most workers out there now are union members.”
Editor’s note: Film Focus is a monthly series looking at the people and businesses that are local vendors to the film industry. To be considered for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s Film Focus feature, contact [email protected].