Piedmont Triad Film Commission wants you to shoot here

by Mark Burger

Frank Sinatra made the song “It Was a Very Good Year” his own, but Rebecca Clark might consider making it her signature number – especially given how very good the year 2007 was for her. (All due respect to Frank, of course.)

Clark is the director of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission, which had one of its best years to date in ’07 – thanks partly to the statewide filmmaking incentives (filmmakers love those tax credits!), partly to a rising number of filmmakers in the area, and partly to Clark’s efforts.

Big or small, local or from abroad, Rebecca Clark wants YOU – to make your movies in the Piedmont Triad.

Whether it’s location scouting, assistance during pre-production, assistance during production itself and post-production, or merely general information about filmmaking (and filmmakers) in the region, the Piedmont Triad Film Commission will mark its 15th birthday in 2008 – and it looks like it will be a happy birthday.

The facts and figures won’t be in for some time, but Clark estimates that nearly $30 million was pumped into the area’s economy because of the film projects being made here. The year before wasn’t too shabby, either: $21 million in 2006 – “and we’re definitely going to exceed that for 2007,” she says.

The real nest egg here is the community of indigenous filmmakers, who call the Piedmont Triad their home and who want nothing more – or less – than to make movies here and create a self-sustaining film industry.

“Indigenous filmmaking builds the community and the economy,” observes Clark. “It takes both to create the infrastructure.”

On average, there was a feature film a month being shot in the Piedmont Triad during 2007 – and you read about many of them in these pages, among them Dogs of Chinatown and Children of the Hunt (Greensboro); Eyeborgs, Solo, Lost Stallions: The Journey Home and Wesley (Winston-Salem); Red Dirt Rising (Archdale), Mandie and the Secret Tunnel (Reidsville), From Bubba With Love (Yanceyville) – and that’s not including the television segments, short films, music videos, commercials and photo shoots that, during the commission’s leaner years, were its bread and butter.

The biggest area production of the year was, of course, Leatherheads, a period-piece comedy produced and directed by its Academy Award-winning star, George Clooney. Also in the cast: Renee Zellweger, herself an Oscar winner, and Jonathan Pryce, who’s picked up a couple of Tonys and a best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival before being shanghaied by the franchise that is Pirates of the Caribbean. (Not that his accountant is complaining, I’m sure.)

Set in the 1920s, Leatherheads is likely the biggest picture to have ever filmed in Winston-Salem. And don’t give me Mr. Destiny – which filmed there in 1990 … even though I’m the first one to admit that Michael Caine (“Mr. Destiny” himself) is a god.

Incidentally, one of my reliable downtown sources confirmed that all three actors couldn’t have been nicer when he met them – with a special nod toward Mr. Pryce. (Can’t fault him for that.)

Nearly a decade ago, when I interviewed Clooney in Miami regarding Out of Sight, he said he’d planned to soon make Leatherheads with Steven Soderbergh directing. Then again, in Hollywood, 10 years IS soon.

The fact that Out of Sight wasn’t the hit it should have been might have put the brakes on Leatherheads then, but it’s always been percolating – and who’d have ever guessed it would wind up shooting here? Certainly not I. (Soderbergh retains an executive producer credit on the film, by the way.)

Leatherheads, which filmed from February through May of last year, will be released nationwide April 4, 2008. The trailer is already one of the most popular downloads on the Internet.

Looking ahead to 2008, Clark is already looking at a number of projects (both independent and studio) that are planning to shoot here, as well as some projects that MAY shoot here. (If she has anything to say about it, they will!)

Some, in fact, are already in pre-production and actual production – and you’ll read all about ’em here in YES! WEEKLY. For more information about the Piedmont Triad Film Commission, you can check out its official website:

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2007, Mark Burger.