Wilmington native talks about directing, filming 'Heart of the Country'

Jana Kramer stars in "Heart of the Country."
Jana Kramer stars in "Heart of the Country."
Director John Ward with his son.
Director John Ward with his son.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – John Ward may have moved to Hollywood from Wilmington 20 years ago, but he left his heart in the country.

Ward wrote and directed Heart of the Country, which is now available On Demand and on DVD at Walmart.

It is based on a book he authored with Rene Gutteridge.

The book is set in Columbus County, where Ward recounts spending summers with his grandmothers.

Last year, the movie filmed in and around Wilmington.

"From the creative standpoint, I set it here, I grew up here and it was about the people who I encountered as a child in Columbus County," he said. "My family has lived in Columbus County for over 200 years."

The movie stars Jana Kramer (One Tree Hill), who received the Academy of Country Music's award for Best New Female Artist. Gerald McRaney, who is well-known for his role in the TV series Major Dad, plays her father in the flick.

"I'd written a lot of love stories at the studio and I thought what if we did a father-daughter love story," Ward said. "The inspiration was the birth of my own daughter. I remember being in the hospital with her that night and just holding this little baby."

Ward said the production filmed here, in part, because of the state's film incentives program.

Any production spending more than $250 thousand is eligible for a tax credit of 25 percent of its expenditures.  The incentive is set to expire at the end of 2014. There's been a lot of debate about the program in recent weeks.

Ward is a supporter of the program.

"I believe that the incentive program in North Carolina is vital for all of North Carolina," he said. "It's a misconception to believe that these incentives only help the privileged few in the movie business. And I can tell you first hand because we just made a movie here.  We employed over 300 people. Most of those 300 people were local residents of this area. When you hire somebody, what do they do with the money you pay them? They spend it, in everyday life."

Ward, who is working on several new projects, said he hopes to bring another movie to Wilmington in the near future.

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