Film Equals Jobs- Wilmywood Talks With Local Businesses

| July 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mere days ago, Bill Vassar – executive vice president at Wilmington’s EUE/Screen Gems Studios – issued a statement, continuing his advocacy for the state’s film incentives program. The fight’s not over yet. And, as legislative negotiations over the new state budget – including the incentives! – drag on, Wilmington business owners join Vassar in speaking up for the programs’ benefits. These business owners have spent years building trust with the film crews, proving that they can meet any requirements that a film or TV production must satisfy.

Image Monster, a large format digital print shop and graphic design studio, opened in 1998. Owners Jed and Karen McDonough have set up their business on New Centre Drive, a high-traffic area that attracts a wide variety of Wilmingtonian clients, including local

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“You never know what to expect with the film industry,” says Michael Edwards, a graphic designer and print specialist at Image Monster since 2009. He recalls the studio’s work on locally-produced blockbuster Iron Man 3. Marvel contracted the print shop to wrap Tony Stark’s stylish new Audi. This involved printing an adhesive vinyl material that looked like a paint job, but could be removed easily without damaging the sports car.artists, gyms, and – of course – film and TV productions.

Jobs like this typically come to Image Monster with a tight deadline. Although the turnaround may sometimes seem impossible, Image Monster assures their film industry clients that this Wilmington business is “willing to work into the wee hours of the morning to make sure they get what they need.”

Image Monster also offers services that larger graphic design studios may not. As an independently-owned business, they can personally cater to the needs of their clients. They can print backdrops and walls for set decoration. They can even print directly onto wood or glass, a service that other companies might have to outsource.

That dedication and resourcefulness are crucial to the continuing prosperity of their business, and it’s why Image Monster has been contracted to work on productions like Sleepy Hollow, Under the Dome, Tammy, and upcoming FX comedy pilot How & Why. “We’ve built a relationship with the film industry,” says Edwards. “People know they can call us and we’ll be there for them, no matter what the deadline might be.”

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Just down the street from Image Monster, Prima Day Spa offers services to the film industry – some of which won’t even appear onscreen. This business opened in Wilmington in 2001, though back then it was called Coastal Body Wrap. Since relocating, owner Jennifer Saucier has developed a strong relationship with Wilmington’s film industry.

Prima Day Spa has made their space available as a shooting location, and Saucier works with production teams to arrange deals for cast and crew of local productions, many of whom are regulars at the spa during filming.

Actors often come for spray tans or inch loss body wraps, which help them to look leaner and healthier on screen and fit into their wardrobe better”, says Jennifer Saucier. Cast and crew members also come in for massages, which is particularly useful for stunt performers and grips – film industry jobs that typically require a great deal of physical stress. Although these services don’t always show up on screen, they undoubtedly enhance the crew’s comfort and efficiency, and make Wilmington a more desirable place for film work.

On the other side of town, Gwenyfar Rohler contributes to the community’s film industry as proprieter of Old Books on Front Street. A staple of downtown Wilmington since 1982, this independently owned and operated bookstore is a longstanding proponent of supporting local business. That includes a healthy relationship with Wilmington’s film industry.

Old Books regularly rents out books to production companies for use as set dressing. They’ve become a trusted resource for the film industry, because Rohler offers a flexibility and versatility that corporate bookstores cannot. She and her staff can prepare collections of books, arranged by color, age, or the number of feet they take up on a shelf. And, like Image Monster, they can offer these resources quickly enough to meet the tight deadlines of the film industry. A larger bookstore chain can’t rent out two feet of pre-1964 hardbacks within four hours, but Old Books on Front Street can.

Among their contributions to the local film industry are: demonology textbooks for Sleepy Hollow; 23 feet of magazines for Secrets & Lies; and a set of matching reproduction maps for Journey to the Center of the Earth. They’ve also repeatedly bought and re-sold a law library, originally from the set of Matlock. Locally produced television shows like Dawson’s Creek have purchased this set from Old Books to maintain on-screen continuity over the course of the series. According to Rohler, that law library has appeared in approximately 40 films.

No matter what demands the film industry may have, local businesses like Old Books on Front Street have proven themselves capable of meeting them. Sometimes this complicates a regular business day, as when Safe Haven borrowed every fiction novel from Asimov through Brown for three months. Rohler admits that it was challenging to explain the unavailability to her customers, yet she maintains that the situation was mutually beneficial.

“During heavy production, usually from March through the end of October, sales and rentals from the film industry account for about $1200 to $1600 in sales,” Rohler reveals. “That’s the mortgage paid!” And that’s just from the direct business that productions bring to her door.

“It’s harder to measure sales from the indirect, long-term effects of the film industry,” she adds. Among her customers, she notes students from UNCW and CFCC, who’ve chosen to study film in Wilmington because of Screen Gems’ presence; families of those students; and even the film crews and cast members themselves.

But, perhaps most significantly, she cites film-related tourism as an enduring source of business. Within the last two weeks of June alone, four separate groups came to Old Books, seeking the downtown filming locations of One Tree Hill — a show that’s been off the air for over two years!

Toni Incorvaia, owner of Noni Bacca Winery on Eastwood Road, has also noticed a boost in business due to film-related tourism. Fans of One Tree Hill and Iron Man 3 come to her award-winning winery, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity.

Ken-Toni-1Noni Bacca brokers produce, juices, and musts from all over the world: Italy, Chile, Niagara-on-the-Lake, California, and Washington State. They then hand-craft and ferment seventy different wines, right here in Wilmington, for distribution to local restaurants, markets, and tourist shops – like Fire & Spice Gourmet in downtown’s Cotton Exchange. Since opening seven years ago, Noni Bacca Winery has developed a sparkling reputation, accruing 94 international medals from the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

That reputation includes a healthy relationship with Wilmington’s film community. Officially registered as a vendor for local film productions, Noni Bacca has provided wine barrels and bottles as props. Audiences may have glimpsed one of the winery’s own creations getting uncorked by Nat Wolff in 2012’s Stuck in Love. (Wilmingtonians may recognize this film as Writers, the title used by the production team during filming.)

According to Incorvaia, approximately 10 percent of her business can be directly attributed to the film industry. “Not to mention the nannies, spouses, actors, grips, and other people that work on specific films in the area,” she adds. “We get a lot of people who work in the film industry, in one way or another, to try and buy our wine.”

Because of the unexpected ways that the film industry brings business to Wilmington, each of these local business representatives remain steadfastly in support of the film incentives program.

“They’ve got a good thing going!” says Incorvaia. “I don’t think they should mess with the incentives. Keeping film here in Wilmington attracts a lot of people to the area.”

Rohler agrees, “I’m glad that the 4200 jobs are being discussed, but the number of small businesses and jobs that are impacted by money spent, directly or indirectly, by the film industry — that’s much harder to assess.”

Edwards points to the May 4th film rally as an indication of the community’s attitude. Over 1000 supporters turned out, including representatives from both parties. “We are absolutely, fully in support of the incentives. Our livelihood truly does revolve around the film industry,” Edwards says.

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About the Author ()

Alex Marden has been a Wilmington resident for seven years. He graduated from UNCW with majors with Creative Writing and Film Studies. He's been active in local projects like "Iron Man 3," "Witches of East End," and "Jack to the Future." He also served as Head Writer for local theater Pineapple-Shaped Lamps, winning the Wilmington Theater Award for Best Original Production in 2012. If you'd like to read his thoughts about "Star Trek" or "Quantum Leap," follow him on Tumblr at dashoftime.tumblr.com

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