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Wilmington film industry navigates challenges amid increased production

So many productions are looking to set up shop in the port city that Screen Gems studios cannot house all of them at their location
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 3:46 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Over the past several years, streaming services for movies and television shows have grown in popularity. With more people watching, studios and services are looking to create more content, which is bringing many productions to Wilmington.

Right now, five productions including “Florida Man” and “Breakwater” are filming in Wilmington, according to the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

“The fact that we have several streaming shows here right now, I think, is very encouraging for what the future could bring for us as far as renewals of those shows and even additional shows to come,” said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

Griffin believes part of the reason more shows and movies are going into production is because of their popularity on streaming services accessed more often while movie theaters were closed and viewers stayed at home during the first few months of the pandemic.

The growth of the industry, however, does not come without challenges. Griffin says so many productions are looking to set up shop in the port city that Screen Gems studios cannot house all of them at their location.

“It has been years, and I mean, literally, probably 10 years or more since we have had this level of production where we’ve had to, now, sort of branch out into the community and find other places where productions can set up offices,” Griffin said.

The commission has been working with production companies to find other office and set-building space around the city, depending on the needs of each production.

As the industry navigates one of its most successful years ever, another challenge has been trying to get more people into the industry. Griffin says he knows most productions will try to hire local first if possible, but says getting new people into positions is one of the “growing pains” in the industry. Still, he says people have been finding new jobs.

“There’s a lot of opportunity now,” said Griffin. “A lot of new people are getting into the industry. I hear every day of people who have called me and asked to get in touch with productions; they’ve called productions, and the next thing I know I hear that kind of job on a production.”

Another potential challenge for the industry looms, as the IATSE, a union representing thousands of behind-the-scenes employees, will vote this week on whether to authorize a strike citing long hours and “unlivable” wages.

[Potential film workers strike could stop the cameras from rolling]

Right now, it is unclear how a strike would impact the shows and movies in production in Wilmington.

Union members can begin casting their ballots on Friday and the organization says the votes will be counted by Monday, October 4.

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