Netflix series creator hopes he’ll be able to film ‘OBX’ in Wilmington
A new Netflix series about the Outer Banks created as a perfect fit for filming in Wilmington could be pushed out of state due to lingering controversial legislation.
“OBX,” created by Wilmington resident Jonas Pate, follows a summer of change for four teenagers in a fictional Outer Banks town when a hurricane cuts all power and communication to the islands.
“It’s a coming-of-age story,” said Pate, who grew up in North Carolina and lived in Los Angeles for 25 years before moving to Wilmington last year. “When these lifelines for teens like phones and Snapchat are gone, it really reorients the generational divisions.”
Pate, who previously created NBC’s locally shot series “Surface” with his brother Josh, crafted the show and scenes with specific Port City locations he said would be ideal for filming. He said Netflix, which has yet to officially announce the series, has picked it up for 10 episodes with a plan to start shooting this spring.
But late last year, the streaming giant seemingly passed on the state after deep negotiations because of the remnants of House Bill 2, the bathroom bill that sparked a firestorm in 2016 and pushed production companies away because of its antiLGBTQ language. The bill was eventually repealed partially, but some pieces remain in a replacement bill called HB142.
Pate said one specific piece of HB142 – a clause forbidding municipalities from passing an ordinance excluding them from the bill’s restrictions – is a sticking point for Netflix, one of the largest and most influential media companies in the world.
The clause expires on Dec. 1, 2020, but Pate said if state legislators can push for an immediate sunset, he thinks Netflix could reconsider bringing the show and dozens of crew positions to Wilmington.
COSTING 70 JOBS
“This tiny law is costing this town 70 good, clean, pensionpaying jobs and also sending a message to those people who can bring these jobs and more that North Carolina still doesn’t get it,” Pate said.
He also noted that the production is projected to spend around $60 million in the state where it films.
Pate recently was sent by
Netflix to Charleston, S.C., to scout locations that could work for the show.
Pate wants to see his project hit the streaming service, but he is still holding out hope that shooting it in North Carolina isn’t a lost cause.
“We have a tiny window where this could be pulled out of the fire,” he said. “If I get any sense that there is any effort to move the sunset date up, I think I could convince Netflix to change course.”
Pate reiterated that Wilmington wouldn’t even have to pass an ordinance if the state were to accelerate the sunset. Simply showing that it is allowing cities to distance themselves from it would be enough.
“They just have to have the ability to pass the law,” he said.
DELAY NOT ‘RATIONAL’
Incoming Sen. Harper Peterson, D-New Hanover, said he is aware of the timely situation and would like to see it brought up at the start of the N.C. General Assembly’s session, which began Wednesday.
“That is a decision the legislature has to make and realize that it is one more opportunity we are losing if we don’t,” he said. “There is no rational reason to delay if it is already going to sunset.”
Peterson said film making has always found support on both sides of the aisle and this should be another instance of such bipartisanship.
“We have to get back and be competitive with other states,” he said. “It just hurts to see a production about North Carolina go to South Carolina.”
But Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, said it would take more than just reaching across the aisle.
“For anything to be done, it would take a joint agreement with the state House of Representatives and the Senate,” he said.
Davis was previously made aware of the aversion some production companies have to the clause, and has a few people interested in meeting with him this week to possibly discuss it. If there is support, he said he’d look into it.
“The question is always what can we do to increase the business here,” he said.
Other local legislators did not return requests for comment.
In the last year, the local film industry has hosted three projects – the feature film “Words on Bathroom Walls,” the Hulu drama pilot “Reprisal” and the currently filming series “Swamp Thing.”
Pate said he still plans to fight for his vision of shooting in North Carolina as long as there is a chance. He’s already enlisted local crew members to work on the show, meaning they would have to travel out of state if “OBX” is sent to Charleston.
AN IDEAL PROJECT
The show is, seemingly, the ideal project the state has sought to attract with its current grant program, which gives priority to a production that “features identifiable attractions or state locales in a manner that would be reasonably expected to induce visitation by nonresidents,” according to language in the film grant legislation.
“This show would be a postcard to North Carolina,” Pate said.
Crew members prepare for a scene Jan. 30, 2003, on the set of “Dawson's Creek” in Wilmington. TV creator Jonas Pate would like to film his new coming-of-age Netflix series, “OBX,” in Wilmington but might not be able to. Pate said one specific piece of HB142 is a sticking point for Netflix.
The television show “One Tree Hill” was filmed in and around Wilmington for several years. It premiered in 2003.