ideal-LIVING.com ideal-LIVING • Summer 2014
what keeps them coming back? Griffin says while budget
and location are the first two priorities, that the experience
of making the film is another vital part of the decision-making process.
“I had a producer tell me once, ‘I’m so used to L.A.,
where you call a vendor, and say do you have x, and the
vendor says no and hangs up, because that’s the end of the
conversation. You need it, we don’t have it, so go somewhere
else and find it. But here (in Wilmington, NC), I call a ven-
dor and he says, “No I don’t, but tell me what it is, tell me
what you use it for, where you get it back home, how much
you need, and let me see if I can help you get it somehow.”’
And, next thing you know that local vendor is carrying a
product that the producer needed that they don’t normally
carry because the vendor sees it as a win/win situation. Pro-
ducers just aren’t used to that.”
It’s this vibe, this sense of accommodation and hospi-
tality, that turned unassuming Wilmington into the film
capital of the southeast coast starting in the mid 80s. EUE/
Screen Gems was built by Dino De Laurentiis in 1984 af-
ter he’d filmed FireStarter near Wilmington in Brunswick
County at a site called Orton Plantation.
“Dino was looking for a place to build a studio outside
of California. There was really no industry here at the time.
He fell in love with the community. He fell in love with the
people here, the lifestyle. He could have built an industry
anywhere. And, he chose Wilmington,” Griffin said.
When the studios opened, 5% of film crews were locals.
Today, it’s up to 95%, offering hundreds of jobs to the community.
Griffin said that actors and actresses are generally recharged and refreshed after working on films in and around
“They’re so relieved to not have people staring at them.
They don’t have to worry about paparazzi standing outside
waiting for a shot at them,” Griffin said.
“Once they settle in here, they’re totally taken by the
place. They’re blown away by the restaurants here, the ac-
commodations, and the fact that they can get anywhere they
need to be in 15 minutes.”
Josh Duhamel, the leading actor in Safe Haven, filmed
in and around Southport, NC, a quaint, seaside town near
Wilmington, in 2011 and 2012, told Wilmington Star News
reporter, Cassie Foss that the experience was refreshing.
“It’s a very small-town feel, similar to what I grew up in.
It was just a very friendly kind of community that welcomed
us and made us feel very at home. I actually loved hanging
out with the people from Southport and Oak Island. How
can you not be talkative when everyone’s showing love?”
Southport local, Zeke Hamblin, moved to the area in
1992 from Alaska, when he was 9. He works at The Inn at
He says that actors and actresses are at ease there. “They’d
have coffee with the rest of us at Moore Street Market, or
drink beer at The Provision Co. [a favorite local restaurant].
Josh Duhamel would even strike up a conversation with
you. He seemed so happy to not be swarmed with people.
People just aren’t like that here.”
Film History Attract Tourism
As film and television really ramped up in the 80s and
90s, crews settled in for films like Deliverance, Driving Miss
Daisy, Bull Durham, Forrest Gump, The Prince of Tides and
Dirty Dancing. And, it’s these films, says Robb Wells, executive director of the tourism division of the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce in SC, that continue to draw tourists and
“Beaufort has a storied history. But, movies like The Big
Chill, The Prince of Tides, and Forrest Gump, are as big a
part of our past as any other story. It’s the first thing tourists
ask about. Our film history draws people here. It’s part of
what drew me here,” Wells said. “There’s something about
watching my kids play soccer on the field Forrest Gump
mowed. There just is. It can’t be explained.”
That’s a wrap
Whether it be on a EUE/Screen Gems studio tour Wilmington or Atlanta, or on a film ferry tour in Beaufort, SC,
the South knows how to strut their film history. There’s a
palatable pride among residents that goes deeper than the
big screen. It’s a pride in the history, the culture, and the
landscape, all of which makes the South so precious, so coveted in film and otherwise.
At the end of the day, film and the South are a match
made in heaven. Economically, culturally, and geographically, film just fits. There’s nothing like making a good thing
better, and let’s face it, the big screen brings out the best in
all of us. I-L