Piedmont Triad Film Commission introduces promotional film short

by Mark Burger

There’s money to be made where movies are made, and North Carolina is no exception. Last week, the Piedmont Triad Film Commission hosted a special event at the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro to officially unveil its new promotional short, “Focus on the Piedmont Triad.”

The three-minute film, the winner of a contest sponsored by the film commission, emphasizes three important facets designed to attract filmmakers to the region — location, local crews and incentives — while showing scenes from various projects filmed in the Piedmont Triad, including Junebug (2005), Leatherheads (2007), Goodbye Solo (2008) and Two Soldiers, the 2003 adaptation of the William Faulkner story which won the Academy Award as Best Live Action Short. The promotional film, made by Clay and Tiffany Hassler, will be posted on the Piedmont Triad Film Commission’s homepage.

Rebecca Clark, Piedmont Triad Film commissioner and a native, said: “It gives me great pleasure to promote the area in which I was born and raised, and it gives me great satisfaction to promote this region. We have leveraged very small operating budgets into blockbuster results.”

Jerry McGuire, the chairman of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission Board, opened the event greeting the assembled guests, including Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office; Robert Egleston, president of DataMax Foundation; Andrew Rodgers, executive director of the RiverRun International Film Festival, filmmaker Phil Smoot and various members of the local media. (Other members of the media, however, were conspicuous in their absence.)

The purpose of this event event, said McGuire, was simple: “Celebrating the Triad’s film industry and the revenue generated by that” — an average annual revenue of approximately $20 million.

Dennis Quaintance, the president of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels (including the Proximity) noted “It’s really easy to underestimate the impact” that the film industry has on the region.

Keith Crisco, the state’s Secretary of Commerce, called 2011 “the best year ever” in terms of revenue generated by production in the state, estimating the total at “over $200 million in direct spending.”

Later, Quaintance expressed to this writer his high regard and sincere appreciation for the very publication you’re reading now. On behalf of the YES! Weekly staff, I offered my sincere thanks for his sentiments. (There’s nothing like getting positive feedback for the community.)

Upcoming is one of the biggest projects to ever film in the state: Iron Man 3. The majority of the film will be shot in Wilmington and surrounding environs, and Syrett considers it a major coup. Production is scheduled to begin early next year, after star Robert Downey Jr. completes promotional chores on the Sherlock Holmes sequel. Screenwriter Shane Black will assume the directorial reins from Jon Favreau, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Scarlett Johansson are expected to reprise their roles.

Recently, The Hunger Games, the first installment of the futuristic franchise based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novels, was filmed in nine different counties throughout the state under the direction of Gary Ross and featuring an all-star cast including Jennifer Lawrence (Academy Award nominee for Winter’s Bone), Liam Hemsworth (Thor), Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Wes Bentley, Alexander Ludwig and Donald Sutherland (as President Snow). The film, due for release in March 2012, is only the first in a planned quartet of films.

Closer to home, the Piedmont Triad Film Commission recruited the feature film Arthur Newman, Golf Pro to shoot scenes in Alamance County this month. The film, which marks the feature directorial debut of Dante Ariola, stars Oscar winner Colin Firth and Emily Blunt. Firth previously worked in North Carolina when he starred in Main Street, filmed in Durham in 2009.

According to Syrett, 2011 has been “the busiest year ever” — and there are still two months to go. In the past 10 months, the state’s film industry has generated work for 3,600 crew positions, 560 actors and 22,000 extras. “Regional film commissions are the backbone of the state film commission,” he said.

During the 2010-’11 production year, some $25 million in revue was generated by the film industry in the Piedmont Triad, and with the statewide 25 percent refundable tax-credit incentive, passed Jan. 1 by the NC Senate, replacing a pre-existing 15 percent incentive, that revenue is expected to increase in the years to come. Both Clark and Syrett confirmed that they’ve received a considerable increase in inquiries and interest in the months since the new incentives passed.

Simply put, concluded Syrett, “it’s working.”

The official Piedmont Triad Film Commission website is: www.piedmontfilm. com.