Wilmington film industry booming, but lacking in extras

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The film industry is breaking records in 2021, both in North Carolina as a whole and in Wilmington specifically. However, the industry is currently struggling in one area.

“Everything we’re hearing is that Wilmington is the place to be,” said Wilmington Regional Film Commission director Johnny Griffin. “Wilmington is extremely busy.”

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There are currently four projects filming in the Wilmington area, employing approximately 925 people not including cast members or extras. There are three additional productions that are in preproduction.

“Probably we’ll end up somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe $350 million that productions will spend this year,” he said. “That’s more than the last five years combined, and that’s greater than any year ever in the past 37, 38 years of filmmaking in the Wilmington area.”

Griffin attributes that success to both the governor’s incentive program and circumstances brought on by the pandemic.

“When COVID started, we had lower numbers here, it was a place that people felt like they could come and get away from big cities and big crowds,” Griffin said. “Also during the pandemic people were burning through content, so these companies are trying to produce more and more.”

The pandemic has also presented some unforeseen challenges when it comes to casting.

“We are experiencing difficulties currently finding fully vaccinated folks to work on the Netflix series ‘Echoes,'” said casting director Kimmie Stewart.

Stewart’s company ‘Kimmie Stewart Casting’ is casting background actors for two Netflix productions currently filming.

Netflix requires everyone on set to be vaccinated and to take a COVID test 48 hours before filming begins. Stewart says this has made the hiring process difficult, especially among young adults.

“For every probably 10 submissions I get for the younger crowd, only one is fully vaccinated,” she said.

According to Stewart, it isn’t just the productions requiring vaccinations that are having a hard time hiring extras. She says the industry isn’t immune to the nationwide worker shortage.

“You know, everywhere is hiring right now and we’re just having a difficult time trying to find folks that would like to come work on set,” Stewart said.

Extras are guaranteed $80 for a day of shooting up to eight hours, and $15 per hour for each additional hour. Stewart says productions like ‘Echoes’ are offering an additional $80 for getting the required COVID test before filming, meaning extras could earn double pay for a single day of shooting.

If you’re interested in applying for extra work through Stewart’s company, you can find out more information here.

TW Cast & Recruit is also looking for extras.