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Editorial: Region has potential to attract more film projects

Mar. 18, 2013 @ 12:15 AM

If you pay attention to closing credits on the movies and TV shows you watch, you will notice that a growing number of films are shot in places other than Hollywood and New York.

California, with its massive studio infrastructure and base of talent and technicians, still has the lion share of the U.S. film production business, but the Golden State's share of the pie has been steadily eroding in recent years. It is enough of an issue that the state has actually done in-depth research on what needs to be done to slow the trend, including the idea of offering more incentives for productions in California.

A study done last summer by the Milken Institute showed that in 2009-2010 there were 1,087 movie and TV feature productions in California. New York came in second with 624, but guess who was No. 3?

Louisiana with 149.

In fact, seven upstart movie states (Louisiana, Texas, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, Florida and New Mexico) combined to host 710 movie and TV productions, more than New York.

Movie makers head for other regions, and many times other countries, for two basic reasons. Sometimes, the script or subject demands a certain location, but more often the driver seems to be cheaper production costs.

So, the idea of creating a regional film commission to attract productions to Huntington and the Tri-State is not as starry-eyed as it might at first seem. There is tremendous competition for these projects, but over time many areas have been very successful in winning some of the business.

The keys seem to be competitive financial incentives, lower production costs, good organization and at least some film production infrastructure. North Caroli na, for example, now has six regional film commissions, a major studio operation in Wilmington and a growing list of credits, including recent "The Hunger Games" movies and more than a dozen TV productions each year.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is working with local film, theater and broadcasting experts to promote the Tri-State area's strengths and see what needs to be done to help the region compete. Williams stresses the film office, which is targeted to open this fall, would not mean a lot of staff and money.

"It's taking the resources we already have and connecting them together," he told The Herald-Dispatch.

But the area does have promise. The filming done for "We Are Marshall" a few years ago showed some of the area's capacity and unique film locations, and Huntington-based Trifecta Productions has done a number of television and advertising projects, including documentary work for the History Channel's "Hatfields and McCoys." Trifecta also is renovating a portion of the former WOWK building for a 5,000-square-foot film soundstage.

Other production operations also are located in the area, including Exodus FX, which has done special effects for award-winning movies and commercials.

Those industry veterans are quick to say that the state needs more competitive incentives and infrastructure improvements, such as higher speed Internet access. But they see the opportunity for more film work, especially commercials and smaller film projects that can be done here less expensively.

The film effort is another example of a growing local creative community that has the potential to brings jobs and business to the region.



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