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On the verge of a comeback, Coronavirus impact on film industry is unknown

Updated: Apr. 9, 2020 at 6:45 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After years of being skipped over for more enticing incentives in neighboring states, the film industry began to thrive once again in 2019.

Darla McGlamery, Business Agent for Internation Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 491 and member of Governor’s Advisory Committee on Film says the industry made $197 million in business in 2019, and was expected to top that in 2020.

“I think we were on track to do that," she said. "We had a show prepping in Charlotte and we had two features lining up to come into Screen Gems middle of May, shooting by June and all of that has changed.”

On March 13, everything came to a halt.

“I was actually working on two television pilots simultaneously which was really busy for us and everything stopped quite suddenly in the past month,” said film worker Alex Sinesi.

When production stopped, filming was underway for three major projects in and around the Port City, including Season 2 of HBO’s ‘Gemstones,' and two TV pilots, ‘The Lost Boys’ and ‘This Country.’"

“It was a bit disappointing because the industry had been quiet since late last year when there were a few big productions. Everything was just kind of spooling up again when this happened so it was quite a striking transition there it was basically zero to 60 and then 60 to zero about a week and a half later,” Sinesi said.

McGlamery represents 600 contracted film workers in the region and says from east to west coast industry professionals are working to develop plans for a comeback.

“I’m just hopeful that when we are able to come back to work we are able to crank out as much content as possible and that North Carolina is back on the map," she said. “We were just starting to recover from the fiasco of HB2, production companies were starting to look at us, remembering what our crew base is able to get done and the talent that we have here. They were starting to stick their toes back in the water, come back, and then COVID-19.”

There is no timeline on when production will be able to resume, but McGlamery says safety is the first priority.

The stop in production reaches far beyond film crews.

“Six hundred is an easy number for me to tell you of members that are impacted by the shutdown here locally and across Southeastern North Carolina. In addition to that, the multiplier effect is the small businesses that we were starting to kind of cultivate back into our world. Easily 3,000 people have been directly affected by these two productions shutting down," McGlamery said.

“It’s a huge influx of business to the entire state and not just the film industry when a production comes here and they’re really coming in with budgets that are unlike other businesses in the area they can just fund contract workers like myself and also small businesses for a long time with the capital that they’re spending. So I’ve seen really positive impacts across the community any time a production comes through and I just hope they’re able to start back as soon as possible,” said Sinsei.

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