N.C. film industry still developing

Published 8:52 pm Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Special to the Daily News

North Carolina is known for its beaches, barbecue and basketball, but the film industry rarely enters the conversation.
That doesn’t mean the film industry is not important to North Carolina.
“Since 1980, when the N.C. Film Office was established and began tracking the industry’s financial impact on the state, productions have generated more than $7 billion in revenues,” reads a page on the N.C. Department of Commerce’s website.
In North Carolina, 800 motion pictures and 14 network or cable television series have been made. Some notable examples include the movies “Nights in Rodanthe,” “The Guardian,” and the TV show “One Tree Hill.”
The state government has worked to attract filmmakers and TV productions.
Gov. Beverly Perdue signed two bills, House Bill 1973 and House Bill 713, in 2009 that gave various incentives to filmmakers. Some of these incentives included larger tax breaks for filmmakers and larger working budgets.
The incentives are intended to lure filmmakers back to North Carolina. They began to drift away to areas where it was cheaper to make films, areas such as Vancouver in Canada and Romania.
Among North Carolina filmmakers are Blake and Emily Scott with STRS Productions Inc. in Washington. They have produced original, independent films in North Carolina.
The husband and wife recently premiered the third film in their “Refuge” series on Roanoke Island at the North Carolina Aquarium.
The film shows footage gathered on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Scotts spent a year on the refuge.
Blake Scott said filming “Refuge: Pea Island” was an interesting experience.
“It is a phenomenal film. We have footage of harbor seals. People didn’t even know they had harbor seals down there. We went offshore and saw 80-foot fin whales also. We were also in a snowstorm and completely froze over down there.”
Hurricane Bill also came while the Scotts were filming, but they soldiered on and even caught some footage of the storm.
“We went in at night and got permits for special cameras to film during the hurricane. It was pretty tedious, to say the least. We had to anchor ourselves down. We also got footage of turtle eggs being washed out,” he said.
Clay Johnson is another North Carolina independent filmmaker. Johnson’s company, Clay Johnson Productions Inc., is based in Raleigh.
Johnson said he’s been interested in films since he was a child and took courses in cinematography. Johnson said he chose a career in journalism because he wanted to do something meaningful.
Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of South Carolina.
He offered some practical advice to younger people who want to break into the field.
“Getting a degree in journalism or something related is a must. Also, getting practical experience through internships or part-time (work) is also helpful,” he said.
Johnson began working in Raleigh in 1988 after previously working in Charleston, S.C. Some of his work has appeared on the shows “N.C. Weekend” and “North Carolina Now,” which are shown on the UNC-TV network.