N.C. prod’n breezy in ’00

Nothing could be finer than the status of filming in North Carolina. That is, according to the state’s Dept. of Commerce report that revealed film and TV producers spent an estimated $250.1 million in North Carolina in 2000.

“These figures are especially encouraging when you consider the competition we’re getting from Canada, where government subsidies and the rate of exchange give filmmakers significantly reduced costs,” said Commerce Secretary Jim Fain. “An increased level of activity here helped keep us ahead of most other states, and we’ll keep working to maintain that edge.”

North Carolina hosted 81 major productions, including 19 feature films, 56 TV series episodes, and six telepics in 2000, compared with 65 in ’99. Commercial-advertising production received a boost, and production-related jobs increased to 31,000, up from 26,000 in 1999.

While the report showed a drop of about $50 million from 1999 figures in direct spending on filmmaking in the state, Fain said the outlook for 2001 is very positive. Near-record levels of film activity have taken place this year in consideration of accelerated production schedules brought on by the threat of labor disputes involving both the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

Big-name slate

Films lensing in the state during 2000 included “Hannibal”, the Martin Lawrence starrer “The Black Knight”, John Travolta’s “Domestic Disturbance” and Spike Lee’s “The Original Kings of Comedy.”

TV teen-skein “Dawson’s Creek” renewed its production commitment to the state for a fifth season. Several locations competed for the opportunity to host the series, said producer David Hartley, including Toronto, Vancouver, Boston and Baltimore.

Bill Arnold, North Carolina Film Commission director, said the decision to keep the series based in Wilmington was primarily made for economic reasons, indicating the state is “still one of the most popular and cost-efficient filming locations in the nation.”

While filming on the new season is tentatively set to begin in July, Hartley said the start date depends on the outcome of upcoming contract negotiations between SAG and producers.

“Dawson’s Creek” produces 23 episodes in a season, spending approximately $1 million locally per episode.

Spending on feature films accounted for an estimated $30 million of the statewide total for 2000, while TV production accounted for almost $25 million. Commercials, documentaries, corporate, industrial and other production spending was placed at more than $195 million.

* * *

Despite recent challenges in the industry — the actors’ strike against the advertising industry, the averted writers strike, the ongoing negotiations between actors and studios, and runaway production — the Metro Orlando Film & Television Commission (MOFTC), a division of the Economic Development Commission of Mid-Florida Inc., announced that an estimated $424 million was directly spent in the region for film, TV and digital media product in 2000 vs. $390 million spent in 1999.

The ’00 figure represents money spent on labor, equipment, facilities and local goods and services. The MOFTC fielded approximately 2,786 inquiries and facilitated 214 permits for film and TV projects in the region, and the Web site received approximately 89,000 hits, up 112% from 1999.

Major productions in the area last year included “Jeepers Creepers,” the Dennis Hopper starrer “Held for Ransom” and Columbia/Tri-Star TV’s “Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.” Commercial production also played a relatively positive role in the year-end statistics despite the six-month commercial actors strike.

Darrell Kelley, president and CEO of the EDC, said, ” The region’s assets — a solid infrastructure, experienced crew base, state-of-the-art facilities and diverse locations — continue to stand out and have all contributed to strong production numbers for the year.”

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