WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Wilmington’s film industry begins the year with a lot of action at EUE/Screen Gems Studios, several months after COVID-19 suddenly forced productions to stop work at the start of the pandemic.
Bill Vassar, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems said four productions are at the studios, including the Starz series Hightown, a Blumhouse Production thriller, FOX’s This Country and a movie called International Space Station.
“They are actually building an International Space Station on stage 10, the big stage, and it’s amazing to see,” he said. “It’s giving new people the opportunity to get into the business. We have been short of carpenters in the market, show carpenters, people experienced at working on TV and film production. And Tom Jones, who is running the crew on International Space Station, went out and recruited five local construction personnel who have the experience of being master carpenters and he is teaching them the film business. So those are five more people that are going to be available in this market for years…to be able to work on television and film.”
Vassar said productions are also hiring extra staffers to manage the new COVID-19 protocols that allow the projects to film, while keeping the cast and crew safe.
Film cameras stopped rolling in the spring, when COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions forced the productions to stop work.
Vassar said the latest installment of Scream, which filmed in Wilmington in the fall, set an example that production was possible with COVID-19 protocols in place.
“The producer was extremely experienced and he looked at it as a challenge,” he said. “Scream was one of the first, if not the first, productions in the country to be up and rolling and he took the COVID protocols, and he took it very seriously.”
Vassar hopes state lawmakers will eventually add more money to the film grant program, which attracts productions to the community.
“We have an opportunity to cook, to really get going on all six burners, but we are going to need more assistance from the state because there are other states out there that offer better incentives,” he said. “We had five years where we were slow because of the HB2 Bill and because our incentive was cut and now we are geared up. HB2 is no longer an issue with any of the studios and people want to be here and it would be wonderful if the legislature could find a way to get more than $31 million into the film grant.”
Vassar said more productions are interested in coming to Wilmington this year. He said it’s possible the next Halloween film, the third in the latest series, will film in Wilmington in the fall.
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