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Piedmont Triad becoming Hollywood South?

by Mark Burger

Has the Piedmont Triad suddenly become Hollywood South? It sure seems that way, and no one’s more pleased than Rebecca Clark, the director of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission. She’s plenty busy and she likes it that way. “I think it’s just fantastic,” she says. Last year’s film production brought an economic boost of more than $20 million to the region, and the first half of 2007 has seen a variety of feature film projects being made here, in addition to the television productions, advertising and photo shoots that have long been a mainstay. Thanks to the state’s filmmaking incentive program, which allows filmmakers a 15 percent tax rebate on productions that spend over $250,000 in North Carolina, interest in the region has increased. It hasn’t always been this busy. There have been some lean years, particularly in the early half of this decade. For a time, the commission scrambled for funding just to keep operating. But, notes Clark, it’s becoming clear to local government and local industry that filmmaking is a viable, and profitable, endeavor. Even before the incentives were in place there had been an upswing in film production here. “It’s just what I had always envisioned for this area – a burgeoning, independent filmmaking mecca,” Clark says. “For this industry to work here, we have to support the indigenous filmmakers here while at the same time recruiting other projects.” Among the homegrown productions of late are Richard Clabaugh’s sci-fi thriller Eyeborgs and John Jackman’s Wesley, a biography of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, which stars Winston-Salem’s own Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans) in the title role. Clark didn’t need to lobby for those productions; they were always planned to be filmed here. But she lobbied hard to bring George Clooney’s Leathernecks (with Renee Zellweger, Jonathan Pryce and Clooney himself) to the region, as well as Peter Himmelstein’s thriller The Key Man, which stars Brian Cox, Hugo Weaving and Jenkins, which was filmed at the end of 2006. Many of the outside projects which come to the Piedmont Triad are cross-polinated with local talent. Clabaugh served as cinematographer on Jon Keeyes’ horror-thriller Fall Down Dead, which was filmed in Winston-Salem last year and featured Greensboro-based actor R. Keith Harris along with Dominique Swain, David Carradine and Udo Kier. “I like to see filmmakers who have a dedication to this region,” Clark says. “We have tremendous talent here.” Never one to jump the gun, Clark confirms that there are three major productions that may film in the region over the next few months, but is not at liberty to divulge more than that. For now, anyway.

For more information about the Piedmont Triad Film Commission, see http://www.piedmontfilm.com.

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