In the spirit of the holiday season, we decided this was the perfect opportunity to talk about one of Wilmington’s greatest treasures: EUE/Screen Gems Studios and Wilmington Regional Film Commission, Inc (WRFC). These businesses not only help improve the Wilmington economy but they also are huge supporters of the local community. Through various strategic tactics as well as some unintentional local promotion, the film industry is a driving force behind many of the local businesses in Wilmington.
It should also be mentioned how many jobs EUE/Screen Gems Studio has helped create in our area. From cast, crew, and extras to the creation of new organizations, such as the WRFC, Wilmington’s job market expanded immensely when the EUE/Screen Gems Studio set up shop in 1996. EUE/Screen Gems Studios still create job opportunities for the Wilmington community today, and even offer UNCW film students the opportunity to improve their resume by guiding tour groups through the studio lot.
To gain more insight into what community outreach WRFC is involved we spoke with one of their employees, Caleb Ward. He provided us with a quick explanation of how the WRFC works with local businesses. When movies or television shows begin their production in Wilmington, the WRFC provides them with a directory of local businesses. Local businesses do have to apply and pay for their appearance in the directory. However, for many local small businesses the benefits of being included in the publication immensely outweigh the monetary commitment. Local businesses such as Strickland’s Window Coverings have become a go-to for many productions because of their ability to keep up with the fast pace of the film industry’s demands. We aren’t talking months or even weeks, we are talking about days. Ward explained that it was Strickland’s production of a unique set of blinds that that paved the way for a promising business relationship with the film industry. The blinds ordered were to resemble those used in the White House during President Abraham Lincoln’s term. Strickland’s provided these blinds to the production company within two days of the order being placed. Strickland’s is not the only local business with a story like this. Julia’s Florist has seen a jump in business since tapping into the film industry for sales. Owner, Dana Cook, told Star News that she has begun receiving one to two film-related orders a day. To a small business this small increase in daily orders can have a large impact on their yearly sales. The WRFC recently hosted a brunch for local businesses not yet included in the directory. At the brunch, small business owners heard testimony from their fellow community members about what being involved with the film industry has done for them. This experiential marketing technique boosted the WRFC’s brand credibility with the local business owners who were potentially hearing from them for the first time. As a result, over half of the businesses in attendance were persuaded to join the directory.In addition to the opportunities created by the WRFC, the film industry brings about another kind of attention to the Wilmington area. With more major movies and television shows coming to the area, A-list celebrities are appearing more frequently. In the last year Wilmington has hosted: Jennifer Aniston, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Duhamel, Colbie Smulders, Emma Roberts, Channing Tatum, Julianne Hough, Ryan Seacrest, and Fergie. Just to name a few! Celebrities, now more than ever, have platforms that allow them to share their lives with fans. This platform is largely created by social media. Celebrities use their accounts for a variety of purposes including further extending their brand, raising awareness about different issues, and engaging with their fan base.
Recently, the local business community in Wilmington has been able to benefit from these extensive platforms because celebrities have been sharing their local experiences via their various platforms. Celebrities, like Emma Roberts and Colbie Smulders, tweeted about North Carolina coffee joints that impressed them. This kind of publicity is remarkable because the celebrities are sharing their own unfiltered opinions and there is no telling how many people it could reach. Local businesses that impress the celebrities are often additionally covered by various news sources, such as Star News and The Examiner. This is added news coverage that wouldn’t be possible without EUE/Screen Gems Studios.
There is one last tidbit that we simply cannot leave out. By bringing the film industry to Wilmington, EUE/Screen Gems Studios has facilitated the opportunity for the community to benefit from multiple philanthropic ventures. For example, when the filming of Iron Man 3 took over New Hanover County Medical Center the “producers reimbursed the hospital for staffing cost and made a donation to the center’s foundation, which supports various hospital programs.” Many other productions and actors have taken part in charity events that support local causes, such as One Tree Hill and Safe Haven.
There are so many wonderful benefits of having EUE/Screen Gems Studios a part of our local community. Not only does is bring in an A-list crowd but it will continue to help boost the local economy and benefit local businesses. With the growing popularity of EUE/Screen Gems Studio, we are hopeful that the continuous influx of celebs and big movie/tv productions will help keep Wilmington, NC on the map of places to visit!
- Alexandra Huss, Caroline Merrill, Alyssa Morrello, Lauren Van Trigt, Dann Williams