Film Business Brings Big Business to Virginia


February 26, 2013

Whether it’s the tale of a big ark, a historical treasure hunt, or the story of the nation’s most influential presidents, more and more movies are filmed in Virginia.

And the Commonwealth gets more than a little notoriety out of the deal. There is also a huge economic boom anytime a film crew hits the state.

“Evan Almighty”, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”, “Dirty Dancing”, and most recently “Lincoln”. These are just a handful of many movies with Virginia scenery in the background.

“It's remarkable we are bringing in these high end films,” said Jody Kielbasa of the Virginia Film Festival. “It's driving so much money into the economy here in the Commonwealth. I think it's a great industry to support and bring in.”

And it's big money, too. Take “Lincoln” for example; in 53 days, the total economic impact came in at just over $64 million. 410 Virginians were on the job, and were paid over $6 million in wages.

“What's great about it is when film makers come in from out of state they come in and they are like super tourists with a payroll,” said Andrew Edmunds with the Virginia Film Office. “They spend money in every part of the economy, from buying paper clips and office supplies to renting helicopters and staying in hotels restaurants.”

Clearly Virginia has what it takes to provide a great backdrop to any movie you want to film, but there is a new benefit these days. The movie business is also boosting the tourism business.

“The Virginia Tourism Corporation has set up a ‘Lincoln’ movie trail where people can visit actual sites where the crew had dinner or filmed a particular scene,” said Edmunds. “People can plug it into their phone and figure out where they were and enjoy an experience those restaurants and hotels and see the locations where they were and see the sites.”

With this kind of benefit, the competition to lure in film crews is fierce. States, and countries, offer deals and incentives to try and seduce production companies. And to keep up, Virginia has to do the same, but it’s not limited to deals from the government.

“We need the public to be on board, because often we're knocking on their door, can we use your house for a movie, you mind if we take up parking in your neighborhood for a couple days so the public cooperation assistance is vital to the actual production of the film to make Virginia a film location.”

The better the experience for the crew, the more likely they will return. For example, Steven Spielberg told Andy he will be coming back to the Commonwealth.

“The best advertising is word of mouth of course, and Spielberg being here and telling colleagues what a great experience he had while filming here certainly helps, and it has made the phone ring to other projects we are working on right now.”

With all these movies made in the Commonwealth, is there any chance something like this will be seen on the Blue Ridge Mountains?

“In reality Hollywood is where it is for a reason, and I think that's good and I think the Commonwealth would up in arms if we became Hollywood East, on so many different levels. What's good is to have them come visit, and leave a bunch of money here in the Commonwealth, and then go home, and I think that's a good thing.”

A good thing from northern Virginia, to Richmond, to the Blue Ridge and all the way to the silver screen.

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