I’ve spotted them again downtown. The equipment trucks, generators, costume trailers and porta potties, all the telltale signs that movie and TV productions are in the hood. Many new to the area might not recognize the signs but I was very excited to see them back just down the street on a sunny morning earlier this week.
I asked to take a picture of one of the trucks the “grips” use and the person I spoke with said that I had picked a great truck to photo. The guy who owned it has used that specific truck, the blue one, since he worked on the Goonies almost 35 years ago. I told him I was just excited to see them back.
Wilmington was once a thriving hub of entertainment activity with many people we knew working in the industry. We had a film studio with one of the largest sound stages and one of, if not the largest, special effects water tanks in the world. We would sometime go and watch for a while when they were filming. They filmed an episode of Sleepy Hollow right across the street at St. Mary’s where the kids went to grade school. Walked by Ms. Gold’s house where they filmed the Longest Ride and watched a scene play out with Lucie Hale, which thrilled my daughter, just across Third Street. Unfortunately do to some, in my opinion, short sighted policies by North Carolina and aggressive film promotion by other states like Georgia the film business dried up and for years and had all but disappeared.
It was exciting to see it scenes happen, sometimes catch a glimpse of the stars, and get to see the old home town on TV and even the big screen. I have even met tourist, whose sole purpose was to see the places depicted in their favorite shows, flying into Wilmington with fan maps and descriptions in hand. People still come for yearly conventions celebrating One Tree Hill. Fans of that show still sign the 6th street Bridge which was part of the opening credits for the show.
And you never knew who you would come across. Dennis Hopper loved Wilmington and bought a building downtown. Linda Lavin, best known for the TV show Alice moved a few blocks away and was active in the local theatre scene. I saw James Earl Jones chomping on a cigar at a street festival, sat behind Val Kilmer at breakfast, and sang Christmas carols for Orlando Jones who happened to be staying in my neighborhood. I know one of my favorite people of fame, and they know who they are, lives in the hood and is a fabulous part of the community.
Wilmington has missed the film industry, the jobs and money especially, but also the promotion of our beautiful area and the civic pride and attachment of being a part of those cultural touchstones. Our friend and neighbor Senator Peterson, along with others, has introduced a bill, SB57, to help address and improve the incentives for film production and I hope you will support him. It would be a shame to watch those trucks roll off again perhaps never to return…FIN