Netflix film ‘Along for the Ride’ starts shooting at North Carolina beaches this week

“Along for the Ride” is filming in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wilmington and Oak Island. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Still)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. –– A Netflix feature film set in a “charming beach town” is slated to start rolling Wednesday in Carolina Beach, according to a film permit application Port City Daily obtained. The production is also planning to shoot scenes in Kure Beach, Wilmington and Oak Island through early June.

An Apr. 13 presentation given by Night Owl Productions LLC to the town’s council confirmed more than half of the teen romance, “Along for the Ride,” is expected to film in Carolina Beach.

“It’s really the showcase of the story,” Wilmington-based location manager Brandon Goertz told council members.


Related: Could Georgia’s own divisive politics send filmmakers flocking to a post-HB2 North Carolina?

Monday night, Kure Beach council unanimously approved permits for multiple filming days, Apr. 26 through May 10, in town limits. After Memorial Day, the production is expected to move largely out of Carolina Beach to shoot scenes in Wilmington and Oak Island.

“Along for the Ride” is an adaptation of the 2009 young-adult novel by popular North Carolina author Sarah Dessen. Netflix first announced in May 2019 it optioned three of Dessen’s titles. The streaming service is starting with “Along for the Ride,” a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. It plans to subsequently release movies based on “This Lullaby” and “Once and For All.”

“Along for the Ride” is a coming-of-age love story that follows a teenage girl named Auden as she visits the beach town her father and step-family lives in. During her summer there before college, she meets Eli, “an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac,” according to a Netflix press release. The adventurous boy takes Auden on a quest to try things she’s never done before.

Screen Arcade partners Bryan Unkeless and Eric Newman are producing the trio of films alongside executive producer Alyssa Rodrigues.

“I knew right away we would want to be down in this area because it has the look and feel . . . they’re looking for, for this particular project,” Goertz told Carolina Beach council.

The boardwalk at Carolina Beach is expected to play a large role in the story. Other locations the production is eyeing include Nauti Dog Restaurant, Pleasure Island Rentals, Nest Realty, Carolina Smokehouse, Carolina Beach Scuba, Melissa’s Coin Laundry, Havana’s Restaurant, North End Java Stop, and two residences on Carolina Beach Road and Carolina Beach Avenue.

Most locations will be transformed into different businesses to match the plot of the movie. For example, Nest Realty is likely to be converted into the boutique Auden works at.

In Kure Beach, scenes are expected to film at the pier, the Beachwalk subdivision, Fort Fisher, South Wind Motel and a home on Fort Fisher Boulevard.

As filming nears, details are subject to change. Night Owl Productions is in communication with the private businesses and property owners around the sets and sending letters to nearby residents with updated times and dates as filming days approach.

Council members for both beach towns were willing to host the production but expressed interest in minimizing impacts.

“We’re glad you’re bringing this to Carolina Beach,” Mayor LeAnn Pierce said. “The only thing we don’t want to do is impose on other businesses who this is their first season after Covid.”

Disruptions to some activities and traffic are expected, though Carolina Beach’s Tim Murphy, parks and programs superintendent said he expects the project to “go off without a hitch.”

“It is a big movie. It is going to be a big experience. It is going to be a big endeavor,” Goertz said. “It’s going to be something that’s . . . a little bit more impact than just a ‘Hightown’ coming in for one location, for one day and moving out . . . This is something that’s really going to be here and kind of get in with the community a lot – in a good way.”

“Along for the Ride” is one of two projects in production in the greater Wilmington area. Spectrum Originals series “George and Tammy” recently launched pre-production, according to the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. The STARZ series “Hightown” and feature films “I.S.S.” (starring Chris Messina) and “The Black Phone” (starring Ethan Hawke) all recently wrapped.


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