WILMINGTON — On the sidewalks of downtown Statesville, a few of the films that were shot in the small Piedmont town are preserved in stone plaques beneath the feet of residents.
The so-called Walk of Fame honors made-for-TV movies that brought Hollywood to town and gives visitors a chance to see where they might be able to catch Statesville on the small screen.
In Wilmington, North Carolina's most popular and storied film town, no kind of similar program acknowledging the wealth of local productions has been instituted.
But that could soon change.
City staff, including Mayor Bill Saffo, are floating the idea of a program that would honor prominent locations made famous by area film and television productions.
The city is certainly not lacking possible candidates, from the Harry Forden Sixth Street Bridge featured in "One Tree Hill" to Carolina Apartments featured in "Blue Velvet."
As of now, no one has officially brought the idea to the table. But Saffo said the city's deep bench of film crew and the community's rich history of supporting the industry are the perfect ingredients to launch a potential program.
"The city embraces our film industry, our local base of professionals, and our rich history as a filmmaking town," Saffo said in a statement. "We appreciate the groups who have helped make some of the local filming sites more widely known, from 'Blue Velvet' to 'One Tree Hill' and numerous others. While we haven't had any formal conversations, we would embrace the opportunity to work with these groups and other interested parties to continue those efforts."
One potential contender for such recognition is a site that knows a thing or two about historical significance — Bellamy Mansion.
It was a recent push to commemorate the final screen performance of Katharine Hepburn in "One Christmas," a 1994 Hallmark TV movie shot in Wilmington, that resurrected the conversation of a film marker program. One of her four days of filming were spent at the antebellum mansion at Fifth Avenue and Market Street, and Gareth Evans, the museum's director, said he's open to having Hollywood history immortalized on the property.
"That fact that it was her and her last movie, that makes it the most interesting film to shoot here," said Evans, noting other productions like "Sleepy Hollow" and "Bolden" also shot at the house.
While the city's interest in the program is very preliminary, it could be another asset in the film community's arsenal when it comes to attracting future productions looking for a shooting location that is accepting of its film history.
"I always tell producers that Wilmington didn't just get into this business over the last five to 10 years years because the state came up with an incentive program," said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional FIlm Commission. "Wilmington is different. It is a community that cares about the industry. There is a great civic pride among the people."
For years, the best way for visitors to tour prominent filming locations required a Google search for online resources, many of them built by the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau. But a network of physical markers or a digital trail formed by the city could be the area's large-scale effort to walk the footprints of the film industry.
Conversations about the potential program could start soon, but nothing is on the books yet.
"Film is something this area is generally proud to have in here, and anything we can do to continue to promote that certainly makes Wilmington an even more unique community," Griffin said.
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