Staff photo by Cole Dittmer
EUE/Screen Gems Executive Vice President Bill Vassar speaks to a crowd gathered at the Northeast Regional Library for the Hollywood East panel discussion on Monday, Feb. 10.
A full house interested in Wilmington’s film industry filled the Northeast Regional Library on Monday, Feb. 10, to learn about it firsthand from four of the top authorities in the industry.
Organized by the nonprofit organization Friends of the Library, the discussion was designed to give a behind the scenes look at the current climate of filmmaking in Wilmington, said Friends of the Library volunteer coordinator Anne Langan.
“You see the white tents, you see the crew signs and many people have never been in Screen Gems so I just thought the more this community understood about this industry the more supportive we could be and hopefully keep it here,” Langan said. “We all know these people live and work here but we don’t really know what it is they do.”
The four representatives from the Wilmington film industry assembled for the discussion were EUE/Screen Gems Studios Executive Vice President Bill Vassar, Wilmington Regional Film Commission Director Johnny Griffin, NCasting owner Vanessa Neimeyer and University of North Carolina Wilmington film studies lecturer and filmmaker Terry Linehan.
Vassar said 2013 was a big year for Screen Gems and the Wilmington film industry because three of the top movies of the year were filmed in Wilmington; “Iron Man 3,” “We’re The Millers” and “The Conjuring.” For Screen Gems, Vassar said “Iron Man 3” was a game changer.
“That put us into a whole different level of respectability in Los Angeles,” Vassar said. “Working with that level of company and the level of people that make that kind of movie took our skill level up; so, we, as a town and a facility, really benefitted from it.”
Part of the reason Screen Gems was able to contract the “Iron Man 3” production was a complete overhaul of the facility’s Internet system at a cost of around $1 million, Vassar said. That investment paid off and Vassar said the head information technology coordinator for the production told him the Screen Gems system was the best he had worked with in the world.
Johnny Griffin’s organization is also another reason why “Iron Man 3” and other big name productions have come to Wilmington because the Wilmington Regional Film Commission serves as a marketing agency for the Wilmington film industry.
Griffin said around $520 million was invested in the community during the last few years from the film industry.
The reasons productions want to come to Wilmington are credited with being the North Carolina film incentive program, the experienced crew living in Wilmington, Screen Gems and the fact that Wilmington’s Anytown USA quality means it can be made to appear as many different kinds of cities.
Both Vassar and Griffin were also excited about the productions returning or coming to Wilmington in 2014 like “Sleepy Hollow,” “Under the Dome” and a new NBC pilot Vassar said would begin filming in the coming months.