Screen Gems Studios prepares for new productions

Shea Lenkaitis | Staff Writer


Screen Gems Studios has been the home to hundreds of movies, television shows and commercials throughout the years. It is the biggest production company outside of California and has been a part of many notable productions such as “Firestarter,” “One Tree Hill,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Dawson’s Creek.”

2011 was the best year for Wilmington’s film industry in a decade. “We owe this success to our local crew base and the North Carolina tax incentive that our legislators have fought so hard for,” said director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission Johnny Griffin. The largest production Wilmington has ever been home to will be filming at Screen Gems in May, assuring the industry that 2012 will be a successful year too. 

Walking up to the white gates, encompassing the extravagant sound stages and offices, the presence of greatness is already there. A mural of the “Dawson’s Creek” cast covers a wall. Posters of the “One Tree Hill” cast line the fences. Names of people who have worked on these productions line the doors of the offices, and cars in the parking lot can be recognized from the shows and movies.

After “One Tree Hill” wrapped filming in November of last year, having taken up space in four stages for the past nine years, they are now looking to fill that space of their studio.

The new North Carolina tax incentive, 25 percent tax credit, is helpful in bringing in new productions, because it is usually cheaper to film here than in California. Known as “Hollywood East,” this film town is still bringing in new projects and becoming a great destination for filmmakers. This town provides filmmakers with hundreds of well-trained crew and diverse locations.

The studio on its own is an incentive for filmmakers to come to North Carolina because of its extensive sound stages and other things it has to offer. There are 10 stages, and multiple companies work directly with Screen Gems and have offices on the premises, such as Fincannon and Associates Casting, Carolina Effects, North Star Sound and many more.

Some of the sound stages just appear to be empty rooms, but when they are filled with sets and props and people, they can create magic for the screen. The extensive work that goes into creating these film worlds is apparent when guests can see an entire pool, backyard, and house that have been created from nothing.

The biggest production ever shot in Wilmington, “Iron Man 3,” going by the code name “Caged Heat,” will begin filming in May. This production is expected to bring in more than $80 million to the Wilmington community. They mainly chose to film here because Screen Gems is home to the biggest special effects water tank in the country, and they will need this for their production.

“My top priority is creating jobs, and this film production will mean high-quality, well-paying jobs for North Carolinians,” said Gov. Bev Purdue.

“The film will create 550 new crew jobs and more than 1,000 talent opportunities, according to the governor’s office. There will be five weeks this spring when all of the stages at EUE/Screen Gems will be used for the film,” said executive vice president of Screen Gems Bill Vassar.

“Iron Man 3” is not the only production locals will be seeing around Wilmington. The television show that began airing their third and final season Feb. 19, “Eastbound and Down,” will be back in Wilmington to film for 8 days in February. Their offices are located at Screen Gems Studios.

Another film, “The Conjuring,” has set up an office at Screen Gems and has begun casting with Fincannon and Associates. The studio will look to fill the other stages throughout 2012.

“Iron Man 3” will be taking up a lot of time and space in 2012, but Vassar wanted to reassure new productions that they “still have stages, offices and production support available to host pilots, series and other films right now.”

Screen Gems Studios has been hosting productions in North Carolina since 1984, and the film industry continues to grow. 2012 should be an exciting year for the film community in Wilmington.