Watering WB’s ‘Tree’

N.C. beats out Vancouver for new series

Luring film production across the Canadian border works both ways.

Producers, looking for a production home for their new WB TV series, “One Tree Hill,” were considering Wilmington, N.C. (where the pilot was filmed), and Vancouver, Canada (where they would receive more favorable tax incentives).

The Wilmington Regional Film Commission, together with local film industry professionals and politicians, countered with a $750,000 incentive package ($500,00 from the state and $125,000 each from Wilmington and New Hanover County) to diminish the difference in Canadian/U.S. production costs and kept the series Stateside.

“One Tree Hill,” a Tollin/Robbins Prods. (“Summer Catch”) and Warner Bros. Television production, is a high school basketball drama projected to create 125 full-time and 3,000 part-time positions and a multimillion-dollar cash infusion to the local economy.

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Screen Gems Studios prexy Frank Capra Jr., who categorized Warner Bros. as a tough, bottom-line company when it comes to television production, applauded the community support as a factor in the decision.

3rd in the nation

Statewide, North Carolina Governor Michael Easley announced that for the 18th consecutive year, N.C. ranked third in the nation in production revenue for 2002. A survey by the N.C. Dept. of Commerce shows the state’s estimated $230.8 million in direct spending from film, TV and commercials ranked behind only California and New York last year.

The impact of runaway production is reflected in the survey by statistics that show North Carolina’s movie revenues down to $9.1 million from eight features in 2002, compared to $41.6 million from 12 films the previous year. Spending from television projects statewide was $55.5 million (up from $34 million in 2001), while spending on commercials, shorts, industrials and support services was $166.2 million in 2002, off slightly from the $175.1 million posted in 2001.

“The Film Office’s ability to alter strategies on the run for maximum effectiveness in a marketplace given to rapid shifts in finance, creative direction and technology has allowed North Carolina to increase TV and commercial recruitment to make up for losses in film production,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Jim Fain, whose agency houses the Film Office. “Collaboration with regional film commissions and the private sector were also factors in the state’s success.”

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Director Jay Russell’s Baltimore, Md., experience filming “Tuck Everlasting” was so positive, he decided to do it again — film in the city, that is.

“Ladder 49,” an action drama about the Baltimore Fire Dept. from Touchstone Pictures, Beacon Pictures and Casey Silver Prods., began principal photography in and around Baltimore in March.

What the state lacked in film incentives, offering only a 5% sales tax exemption, the local officials made up in cooperation for the film’s production needs.

“It’s great to be back in Baltimore,” said Russell. We’re grateful for the outstanding and ongoing cooperation that Governor Bob Ehrlich Jr.; the Mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley; Fire Chief William Goodwin; and the Film Commission’s Jack Gerbes have provided.”

Fire access

Local representatives afforded “Ladder 49” access to several fire stations, and members of the Engine 8 Station helped with research for the pic.

“After 9/11, firefighters gained a new respect, but for them it’s just another day at the office,” said Gerbes. “I’m so proud of the results of Russell’s last experience with us and happy to be part of telling this story.”

Based on a screenplay by Lewis Collick, the pic was produced by Casey Silver and stars Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett and Morris Chestnut. Marty Ewing exec produces. Buena Vista Pictures distributes.

Maryland realized an economic impact of $68 million in film revenue for its last fiscal year. In addition to “Ladder 49,” HBO’s “The Wire” is presently shooting. Other recent pics include “Head of State,” “Gods and Generals” and portions of “Red Dragon.”

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The Montana Film Office recently brought home several awards from the Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl.’s Marketing Awards Competition, held in Los Angeles during the annual AFCI Locations Trade Show. The Film Office won first place ribbons in the direct mail and promotional items competitions. It also won a third place ribbon for the black/white ad campaign competition and was honored with two booth awards for best creative design and theme.