Net­flix se­ries cre­ator hopes he’ll be able to film ‘OBX’ in Wilm­ing­ton

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Arts & Living - BY HUNTER IN­GRAM (Wilm­ing­ton) Star-News

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.

KEN BLEVINS AP

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.

LISA LAUCK

The tele­vi­sion show “One Tree Hill” was filmed in and around Wilm­ing­ton for sev­eral years. It pre­miered in 2003.

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