While the pace of filming in the Wilmington region may have slowed in early 2022, be prepared for a “wild ride” in the second half of the year. That’s according to Guy Gaster, director of the N.C. Film Office.
Gaster was the featured guest at State of the State, the inaugural event in a series of four film forums presented by University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in partnership with Cucalorus. In a wide-ranging interview with Rachel Taylor, Cucalorus’ managing director, Gaster touched on a number of film industry topics.
Gaster announced an upcoming training program for individuals interested in becoming film production assistants. The Los Angeles-based group PA Bootcamp is bringing its intensive two-day training program to Wilmington on May 21-22 and will enroll 30 people. Normally $250, the training is free to participants, courtesy of the N.C. Film Office. Click here for details
To apply, individuals should send an email to [email protected]
by 5 p.m. Friday. The subject line should read “North Carolina PA Bootcamp”.
What projects are on deck for 2022?
The number and expenditures of productions in the state – and in the Wilmington area – this year won’t match the $416 million spent by a host of film projects that took place throughout the state in 2021, but that doesn’t mean this year will be a disappointment, Gaster said.
“Right now, we’ve got more than $120 million in projects committed to the state,” he said. “We’re expecting big announcements at the end of May or early June. You should see that number quickly jump. If you would ask where the end of the year is going, I think we’ll be well over $300 million. I don’t think we’ll top last year. We'll push $320 million, a level we’ll strive to be at regularly.”
With the recent wrap of George and Tammy
, a feature film about country music’s husband-and-wife duo of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Gaster said there are two new projects gearing up locally. The Highgate-for-Starz TV series Hightown
is shooting its third season in Wilmington, while an independent film, Providence
, is on location in Southport.
What’s the current status of North Carolina’s film incentives program?
Because the program is now well established and consistent, studios have gained confidence in it, according to Gaster.
“The program has shown it has legs,” he said. “It’s not perfect; the caps we have are based on the project size, so it’s going to be a while before something like Iron Man 3
returns. But we have lots of projects in our sweet spot, like Halloween Kills
. Niche market productions. What we go after are the series; that’s the reason why you keep seeing series that come in to shoot eight to 12 episode [seasons]: that’s a sweet spot for what our incentive program does.”
Gaster noted that, late last fall, the state legislature voted to lower the project budgets needed to qualify for the incentive. The minimum spend for a feature film is now $1.5 million, down from the former minimum of $3 million. He acknowledged that minimum is still too high for many independent films, but pointed out that small independents still benefit from having larger productions in town.
What are the workforce needs?
Susi Hamilton, former secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and now interim board chairwoman for the Film Partnership of North Carolina, reported that the first class of Wilmington’s new film workforce training program consists of eight people.
“Four have been placed on an active set, and the remaining four will be placed by the end of next week,” she said. “These are paid positions. We are working to duplicate this program in other parts of the state.”
Gaster said that the answer to building up the state’s film workforce probably lies with programs like the PA Bootcamp and Wilmington’s new on-the-job training initiative, rather than trying to lure former film workers back from industry hubs like Atlanta.
“Atlanta has a booming film industry; that’s the reason people are moving there,” he said. “But we can show that last year was not a fluke. Productions are returning and there’s year-round work to be had. We’re building our workforce with new individuals.
“We were going to run into problems with our workforce eventually,” Gaster added.
The second in the four-part Film Forum series takes place June 8, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Jengo’s Playhouse, 815 Princess St., Wilmington. It is open to the public.