To the North Carolina voters and legislators,
Please forgive me for not being able to attend this weekend’s film rally. I’m already signed up to attend the Olevolos2014 fundraiser for a One Tree Hill castmate – Bryan Greenberg – up in NYC. But I wanted to send along a message of support for the NC Film community as the State’s current incentive is up for discussion.
As a little girl from Virginia, my family made the commute to North Carolina each summer for various vacation adventures…Tweetsie Railroad, the Outer Banks, The Lost Colony, Chimney Rock…all nostalgic and fantastic destinations. But it was one summer in middle school, when my parents decided to venture a little further South, that I fell in love with a most unique location.
Wilmington. I remember it being a town covered in flowers and those low slung oak branches. Driving down Market St toward downtown, my father stopped at an old antique Car Museum. Parked out front were untouchable classics, all shining in the July heat (you know the haze I’m talking about!). We got out. Peeked in windshields. Got wildly excited over the little round windows on a 60-something T-Bird. And then we were invited inside where the “real gems” were parked.
Picture cars, the man called them. He started naming actors who had sat in the very automobiles we were looking at. Dustin Hoffman. I want to say, I remember him saying John Travolta’s name. Right now I couldn’t tell you all the names of those productions, or all the actors he listed. But in that moment, my little girl dreams of becoming an actress were within my grasp! I couldn’t believe movies were made here – a few hours from my home – and not in the far off hills of California.
That was in the early 90s. The car museum has been gone for quite some time. The place where we had lunch that day is now Halligan’s Pub in Lumina Station. But, the trees are still low slung, and it is still the place where magical movies are made.
A decade later I came back to Wilmington as a fortunate member of the Warner Bros. production, One Tree Hill. I had fancy picture cars of my own to drive this go-round! Over the course of my 7 years in NC, my brother Billy moved down from NY and became a production assistant. He has since worked his way up the ranks and is currently a 2nd assistant director. My parents left our life-long home in Virginia and moved to town, where my father works with Stevens Fine Homes building new communities and my mother is an agent at Re/Max. My brother John came to town, spending his summers as a bouncer at Level Five, and finally settling in Fayettville, working on film productions of his own. My youngest brother Conrad transferred to UNCW and was a DJ at Z1075 for years before moving to Raleigh.
Our entire family was brought down to the area by the film community. And so to me, family has always been at the core of my support for the NC Film Incentive. I have attended the little league games and birthday parties of crew-members’ children, and I have been privileged to consider these hard-working, immensely talented professionals my friends. I never forget that by keeping film in NC, we are allowing these men and women to be at home – not working in Atlanta or New Mexico or Miami – with their families.
It’s a business. So to erase sentiment from it, here’s the truth. Film’s benefit is it’s amazing ripple effect on our state. Consider that there are dozens of productions happening at any given time in NC. If just one production employs 100 people, those 100 people and their families are spending money living and contributing to the NC economy. Every day the production spends money renting space from local vendors, buying food from local vendors, putting out of towners up at local establishments. Commercials for NC-made productions become advertisements for tourism in the area, and a constant rotation of television and film ensures that there are always new reasons for folks to sight-see in NC.
I’ve seen abandoned buildings re-purposed, gardens planted, historic homes re-habbed. I’ve seen vacant lots turned into highly anticipated stops on the Wilmington Film Tour. I’ve seen actors come in and contribute to local charities, take part in parades and fundraisers, and fall in love with the area. And I’ve seen kids like that middle-school version of myself marvel that they are so close to the magic of filmmaking. It gives a person the ability to dream big in a small town.
After working all over the country, I’m proud to say that I too still marvel at the capabilities of the NC Film community. Speaking up about maintaining the incentive and continuing to support NC’s sterling reputation in the world of filmmaking is important to me, and I hope it will be important to you. It is with deep affection for a place that did so much to nurture me personally and professionally that I write this, and I very much look forward to my next opportunity to work in the area.