35 years ago, NC exploded onto the movie scene

May 11, 2019

Thirty-five years ago, the sci-fi thriller “Firestarter” exploded onto the movie scene and ignited an industry in North Carolina.

The movie turned Wilmington, and North Carolina, into a popular setting for movies and TV shows.

“Firestarter” came because the mossy mystique of Orton Plantation sparked the director’s imagination, and he thought it perfect to blow up.

“It definitely had a massive impact and a lot of rippling effects, as this industry grew from it,” said Hunter Ingram.

Ingram covers the film industry for the Star News in Wilmington and produced a podcast about the making of “Firestarter.”

Director Dino De Laurentiis built a studio in Wilmington, which is now a hub of television and film production.

The state’s film tax credits ended in 2014, and the legislature replaced them with a grant program - $31 million allotted each year.

″[It’s] based directly on what they spend in the state,” said Guy Gaster, director of the North Carolina Film Office. “That, of course, has resulted in fewer productions being able to make advantage of it, but nonetheless, it keeps us in the conversation for recurring new projects.”

Back in 2012, filmmakers spent $377 million in the state. By last year, the amount plunged to $55 million.

So far this year, spending stands at $116 million, much of that courtesy of “Swamp Thing,” a show debuting this summer on the streaming service DC Universe.

State lawmakers are working now on a budget that includes $31 million for film and television grants for the next fiscal year.

The amount is capped at $7 million for each feature-length film and $12 million for a television series.

Correction: This story has been edited to correct the film grants’ status in the the state budget.