June 06--Television and movie productions like "Army Wives," "The Prince of Tides" and "Forrest Gump" have pumped millions into South Carolina's economy and could do the same for the Upstate, according to a state film industry official.
Dan Rogers, senior project manager for the South Carolina Film Commission, said luring major productions like those begins with keeping an inventory of more than 9,000 locations in the Palmetto State that are suitable for filming. But inventory isn't enough: Landing a series or a movie, or even a few scenes from "Forrest Gump," takes cooperation from state and local officials. It's a lot of work, Rogers said, but when it comes together, the payoff is big.
"The film community is small and they talk," Rogers said. "So if they like a place, they are going to tell others about it and they are going to come back themselves."
Rogers spoke to the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday during the group's monthly breakfast meeting. He said he relies, in part, on residents to let him know if there is a spot that the state film commission should add to its list of potential film backdrops.
He said going after films and TV shows is like courting economic development. Filmmakers who are willing to spend $1 million or more in South Carolina and who aren't making reality shows are offered tax breaks on some wages, supplies and even accommodations. But Rogers said counties and the state don't have to pay the same kinds of infrastructure costs that they do when they are trying to lure and keep large companies like BMW, Michelin or First Quality Enterprises.
"All you need to recruit the film industry is open arms," he said.
"Army Wives," a fictional TV show that followed the friendships of several women with ties to the military, filmed in South Carolina for each of its seven seasons. Those connected to the show spent $140,000 a day for each of the 203 days that the series was in production, and at least four of the actors in the cast bought homes in the Charleston area, Rogers said.
One of the last major productions to come to the Upstate was "Leatherheads," a 2008 sports comedy starring George Clooney and Renee Zellweger. Some work for the movie was done in Anderson.
"Radio," the inspirational movie about Anderson County's own James "Radio" Kennedy, was filmed largely in Walterboro because the town had a school and a football stadium that had the 1970s look producers wanted, Rogers said.
But even smaller productions can have a big ripple effect on the county, officials said.
Jennifer Norman, the county's executive director of Visit Anderson, said outdoor-gear retailer Cabela's recently spent two days at Sadlers Creek filming a 15-second to 30-second commercial.
"Sometimes, we have people here and others don't even know it," Norman said. "They didn't even get incentives. They just liked the area."
Rogers said that for every dollar South Carolina invests in the film industry, it gets $4 back.
"What would you pay to have 3 million people looking at South Carolina for an hour every week?" he asked. "That kind of thing pays dividends."
Follow Nikie Mayo on Twitter @ NikieMayo.
(c)2014 the Anderson Independent Mail (Anderson, S.C.)
Visit the Anderson Independent Mail (Anderson, S.C.) at www.independentmail.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services