CHARLOTTE — Charlotte is among several North Carolina cities seeing movies and television return, despite the pandemic, as production levels reach the highest they have been in six years.
Lionsgate will begin filming in the Charlotte area this month for “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” a film based on Judy Blume’s beloved best-selling novel.
The cast includes Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates as Margaret’s grandmother, Rachel McAdams as Margaret’s mother, and Abby Ryder Fortson, who played Ant-Man’s daughter in two Marvel movies, in the title role, according to Deadline. The director is Kelly Fremon Craig, who also helmed “The Edge of Seventeen.”
Blume has been tweeting about the film, and its production, at one point writing, “It’s really happening! Exciting to see the cast come together. Off to a great start with Abby and Rachel.”
Her classic 1970 book tells the story of sixth grader Margaret Simon, grappling with anxieties, religion and puberty. Local production for the movie is expected to last through June.
N.C. offers grant rebates
Charlotte also will be the backdrop for the independent feature “Evolution,” according to the state. That film is about a mom determined to find a way forward after her daredevil teenage son suffers a freak accident. No other information was provided.
The two movies are among six productions receiving grants from North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grant, according to a news release Thursday from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. The incentives add up to more than $33 million.
The Lionsgate project for Blume’s book has been approved for a grant rebate of up to $7 million, and the independent film, up to $3 million.
The six productions are expected to generate in-state spending of nearly $135 million and create more than 5,700 jobs in North Carolina, according to the state.
“The film industry has been able to safely resume production and we are pleased to see more productions coming to our state,” Cooper said.
North Carolina offers a 25% rebate on qualifying expenses and purchases and has a recurring $31 million per fiscal year for industry productions since 2018, according to the N.C. Film Office website.
Last month, two state senators sponsored a bill that would add another $34 million to the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund over the next two years, Carolina Journal reported.
In 2015, the state changed to a grant program instead of a tax credit. Critics of the move lamented the loss of the more generous tax credit, which paid out $61 million in 2013, the (Raleigh) News & Observer reported at the time.
Showcasing local talent and locations
The film industry helps provide jobs where production takes place, North Carolina Film Office Director Guy Gaster told the Observer. Plus, within the industry, Gaster said having this many projects in the works makes producers think about considering North Carolina as well.
“It certainly also helps to showcase the different skills of our workforce as well as different locations and places people can visit,” Gaster said.
The grants are doing what they are intended to do, said Beth Petty, director of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission — showcasing the diversity of locations and the talents of local crews, in addition to providing job opportunities for individuals and companies.
“Film activity has been a bright spot for our community during the pandemic,” Petty said. “There is a lot of interest in our region right now, so we’re incredibly busy with leads for several different types of projects.”
Other productions in N.C.
The four other new projects receiving rebates are TV series and feature films, according to the governor’s office. They are:
LD Entertainment, whose N.C.-filmed production “Words on Bathroom Walls” was recently released, returns to EUE/Screen GEM Studios in Wilmington with a thriller feature length film “I.S.S.” about six astronauts living aboard the International Space Station after receiving distressing information from Earth. The project is approved for a rebate up to $3.6 million.
The Lionsgate television series “This Country” recently wrapped filming with location shots in New Hanover and Pender counties. It’s expected to air on FOX. The project has been approved for a rebate up to $8 million.
Blumhouse Entertainment returned with filming in New Hanover, Brunswick and Columbus counties for the feature film “Static,” a story about a young boy who fights to escape a serial killer with the help of past victims through a magic phone. The project was approved for a rebate up to $4.7 million.
A grant award was extended to another Blumhouse feature film that hasn’t yet been named and is expected to begin production this year. Cooper’s office did not say where filming will occur or what the movie is about. Production was scheduled to begin last year, but was delayed because of the pandemic. The project has been approved for a grant of up to $7 million.