During the height of the recession in early 2011, Rick Parris was deeply concerned that H&S Lumber, a Charlotte family-owned business for the past 76 years, was in danger of closing.
Parris, H&S’ general manager for the past 22 years, couldn’t recall when business was so poor and knew that with local home building and construction down, his fate as a supplier was closely aligned with the economic downturn.
As his worries deepened, Parris got a call from a member of the production team of “The Hunger Games,” the full-length feature film that shot extensively in and around Charlotte in the spring of that year. They needed materials to build sets: everything from plywood to lumber, rope and steel, and hardware such as nails and various fasteners.
H&S Lumber is an example of the range of small businesses and entrepreneurs – from dry cleaners to electricians to carpenters – who are realizing significant benefits from the variety of television and film work being produced in the Charlotte region.
Parris said after five months of supplying materials to “The Hunger Games,” his revenue jumped, and business turned an important corner. He said word of mouth about his work and customer service led to other gigs.
He landed business as a supplier of building materials for Fox/Showtime’s “Homeland,” the television series filming in Charlotte. He also supplies “Banshee,” the Cinemax series.
Parris estimates as much as 30 percent or more of his revenue comes as a direct result of the local TV and film industry business, and he has dedicated personnel on staff to work with their film industry clients.
And his good fortune also helps other local businesses, Parris said. “I know in our case we spend money on more material and services as a result of the added business we get from the industry,” he said.
“I had to spend $2,000 getting new tires for a truck used specifically for hauling material to support these clients. The ripple effect of the spending is like throwing a rock in a pond, it just keeps going.”
Demand for local services
Major movie and TV show producers are drawn to North Carolina for the state’s film industry tax incentives, which have provided film and series producers with millions in cash payments in recent years.
Critics of the film subsidies say movie projects don’t create enough long-term jobs to make them worth the state’s investment. Backers say productions can make a big impact on local economies.
“Charlotte has the right stuff for filmmakers,” said Aaron Syrett, director of the N.C. Film Office, a division of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
“Many things about the region are attractive, especially the airport, which offers direct flights from the coast. Charlotte has great urban locations and it offers close by rural and suburban settings and there is an established and growing infrastructure of support personnel and services offering labor and talent pools rivaling anywhere in the country.”
Current TV/film productions underway in the Charlotte region include the third season of “Homeland,” and Season 2 of “Banshee,” now in post-production.
Other productions in the region within the past year include TV movie “Saving Westbrook High,” reality TV show “The Ruckers,” independent film “Careful What You Wish For,” TV movie “Shuffleton’s Barbershop,” and the TV pilot for “Sleepy Hollow.”
“There is an amazing economic multiplier involved with these productions,” Syrett said. “The demand for local products and services extends to hotels, ice providers, electricians, carpenters, copy services, transportation, draperies, costumes and clothing, building materials, food and much more. All these products and services need to be provided locally.”
Post production niche filled locally
Concentrix Music and Sound Design in south Charlotte has been providing original music and audio post-production for the film, TV, advertising and multimedia industry for the past 22 years. Husband and wife co-owners Fred and Becky Story have established a niche as a place where national production crews can get quality and professional sound and Foley (sound effects) work done locally.
Fred Story said that a significant percentage of their business comes from the TV and film industry.
“One project we’ve had with ‘Homeland’ since their second season is their automated dialog replacement (ADR) work,” Story said. “This is where the actors come into our studios and re-record dialog that is needed to replace the original recordings which may be problematic.”
Story has worked on “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” and “A Short History of Decay,” which was actually filmed in Wilmington but had audio post-production work done at Concentrix.
“This industry is very heavy on referral and word of mouth for repeat business,” Story said.
“When we were referred to the producers for ‘Homeland,’ they sent Mandy (Patinkin) over for some re-recording. I know he was checking us out and I know his approval was important for our landing the business. It is very convenient saving both time and money to have local service like ours for the industry; we fill an important niche and are pleased to be here for them.”
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