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With two productions already confirmed and two more projects recently announced, 2014 is shaping up to be one of the busiest years for filming that Wilmington has seen in quite some time.
At a meeting this morning of the board of directors of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, commission director Johnny Griffin said the recent announcements of two television pilots—ABC’s “Secrets & Lies” and FX’s “How and Why”—add to what’s shaping up to be a busy filming season, which includes the return of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” and CBS’s “Under the Dome” to film their second seasons.
“I think we’re starting 2014 better than we have in many, many years,” Griffin told the board. “Sometimes we start the year not knowing what’s coming in, not knowing if something’s going to be renewed or picked up, or what projects may be solidified. But this year, we’re starting off with a good slate already.”
All four projects are set to be in production by March or April, with “Under the Dome” starting production in about a month and “Sleepy Hollow” opening offices toward the end of March, with filming beginning as early as May.
“Secrets & Lies,” the pilot for a remake of an Australian crime drama, is opening offices immediately and is set to start filming within a month or so, Griffin said, adding there is potential for the pilot to be picked up as a series.
“We feel pretty good that will go to series, but it’s just not confirmed at this point,” he said. “As of right now, they’re just going to shoot a pilot, so that one looks promising.”
And “How and Why,” just announced yesterday, is slated to start filming in Wilmington this spring, with similar potential for pickup as a series.
Griffin said he and board chairman Bill Vassar, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, have been working on securing “How and Why” for several months, with “many conversations and false starts,” he said. “But at this point, it’s moving forward.
“Again, it’s a pilot; not a 100-percent commitment for a series,” he said. “But all conversations we’ve had lead us to believe it will continue and go into a series.”
Board member Carey Jones, president of the Production Source Inc., noted “How and Why” is the first FX project to film in Wilmington, though Griffin pointed out the network is part of the Fox family of networks, which includes “Sleepy Hollow.”
Griffin noted the number of episodes for that show’s second season is currently undecided, with a minimum of 13 episodes that could possibly increase to as many as 20. Responding to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who also serves on the board, Griffin estimated those episodes have ranged from $1.5 million to $2 million an episode, noting as well that the series drew the highest ratings Fox had seen in six or seven years.
Griffin said there are also several feature films and other television projects that look promising, noting that nothing is confirmed at this point. “But I feel confident that some of those will move forward,” he said.
“It’s also pilot season, so there are potentially other pilots that may surface here in the next few weeks,” Griffin added, noting that he and Vassar will be traveling to Los Angeles in the next few weeks to meet with executives and solicit more business.
“I would think—based on this work that we have and other work that’s circling—by spring, we could easily end up with five or six projects here in town,” Griffin said, “which is a nice load for us. That’s a nice, comfortable amount of work to keep everybody working, facilities working and have lots of activity coming on.”
Griffin noted productions are wary of the looming expiration date for the state’s film tax incentive, which is set to expire in December.
“The question that all of these people ask is: how long is the incentive good for, how long is it in place, when does it expire, what if we go over December? So obviously it is on everybody’s mind and is a concern,” he said. “But at least for now, it’s not an issue, and production is still moving strongly and looking very good for us.”