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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington has played host to more than 300 feature films, TV movies and mini series, beginning with “Firestarter” in 1983. Lately Hollywood East has been trying to revive itself, and a couple of locally-shot projects could show a trend in that direction.

The independent film “Jailhouse” was written, directed and produced locally. Last year, the movie ran for about a week in more than 20 theaters around the US. Wilmington native Billy Lewis directed the movie, and next month “Jailhouse” will make its television debut.

“If i sit down and think about it, it makes me really happy,” Lewis said. “It’s a big accomplishment to think that a little independent film that we did in Wilmington, NC, is going to be playing in 40-million homes in the United States.”

“Jailhouse” was shot in 2008 right up the road from the Port City in Burgaw. The entire crew that worked on the flick was from Wilmington.

Lewis says with the recent improved film incentives in North Carolina, those who worked on his film will have more opportunities come their way.

“The cast and crew that worked on my film will continue to work on bigger projects and actually make a living on what they love doing,” Lewis said.

“Jailhouse” producer Heath Franklin is a UNCW grad and has lived in Wilmington for more than a decade. He started a company after college and since has made numerous feature films and commercials.

Franklin says that unlike major cities where many films are shot, Wilmington offers a refreshing getaway for movie production.

“You can’t replace the fact that we’ve had 300 or 400 films shot here,” Franklin said. “Nobody else outside of a couple locations can claim that. So now that we have the film incentive coupled with what we already had in place, I think we’re going to do really well.”

Increased tax incentives for film projects have been slow to pay off in our area, but a major motion picture, “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” is in production right now in Wilmington.

The psychological thriller “Jailhouse” will premiere February 4 on the Chiller Network at 10 p.m. That’s channel 625 on Time Warner Cable and channel 257 on DirecTV.


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