Beau Menetre announced on Saturday his vision of putting Polk County in view of Hollywood’s periscope.
In both the opening and closing scenes of the 1990’s American action thriller “The Hunt for Red October”, a Russian Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine surfaces along the coast of New York and quietly observes the peaceful surroundings. The film had an operating budget of $30 million and the film went on to gross more than $200.5 million at the box office.
Filming those two scenes did not require a 48,000 ton submarine deployed off the coast of New York. In actuality the scenes took place on the waters of Lake James. A crew of plenty descended on both Burke and McDowell Counties along with movie stars like Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn. With a large budget Paramount injected noticeable revenues into both counties during the short time they were there.
According to Scott Hamilton, President and CEO of AdvantageWest, a regional economic development partnership, the selection of a location today would most likely play out in the following way: Paramount Pictures contacts AdvantageWest, a regional economic development partnership. Attention would then be directed to the WNC Film Commission, a sub-group of AdvantageWest.
Paramount would then ask whether Western North Carolina has certain “products” available to accommodate a scene in their movie production. Hamilton defines “products” as assets which may be in the form of buildings, historic sites, beautiful vistas, and most importantly a local work force.
Hamilton said that all prospective opportunities handled through AdvantageWest are legitimate in potential and not empty inquiries. Following the contact, a film scout from the WNC Film Commission quickly checks their Reel-Scout database and finds that Lake James matches the criteria of the scene. The lead is then directed to the assigned county representatives where the ball is hopefully put in play.
Over the years AdvantageWest has improved and streamlined their efficient notification processes which have seen many project opportunities directed into the hands of local representatives, however it is unknown how many projects actually materialized. In recent years, films like Hannibal and The Hunger Games came to North Carolina by way of viable leads that were effectively addressed.
According to Scott Hamilton, President and CEO of AdvantageWest the film commission passed along what they refer to as 50 Reel-Scout projects in 2012 in Polk County alone. In 2013, 61 valid film projects were submitted to Polk County to try to activate. Further, in 2014, a total of seven Reel-Scout projects have already been submitted to Polk County.
In 1994 AdvantageWest, a 501(c)(3), was created by the NC General Assembly with an overall goal to recruit businesses and create jobs. One hundred counties in NC were assigned to seven regional groups of which AdvantageWest is one. “We recruit opportunities into NC that fall into the following categories: film, advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship and agribusiness,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton said that through a joint collaboration AdvantageWest has brought 42 actual projects to Polk County alone. Hamilton said that prior to AdvantageWest; companies who were considering settling in Western NC, had to talk with many contact points, but now with AdvantageWest acting like a one-stop business opportunity venue the entire process of location assessment has improved significantly.
Hamilton said that his organization’s performance is measured by the number of valid economic development projects brought forward to the candidate counties. AdvantageWest remains in a partnership role with the counties, but at the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of the county economic representatives to work hard to nurture success.
Enter Beau Menetre a local businessman who is currently developing an organization with a vision of putting Polk County in view of Hollywood’s periscope. On February 5th Menetre, Crys Armbrust and Lavin Cuddihee, a local actor/director, met with the NC Film Commission to discuss ways they could better position the local area to the industry, but most importantly how Polk County could increase their success rate once film opportunities come knocking.
Menetre, Armbrust and Cuddihee fully understand the need for a cohesive local group that would spring into action when faced with a film project inquiry submitted to them by AdvantageWest. As a result of this meeting, Menetre was also added to the LARL list alongside of Armbrust to help represent Polk County and Menetre’s organization became a viable force.
AdvantageWest has matured over the years and today offers a veritable smorgasbord of business and economic offerings. However Hamilton believes that it takes the vision and push of local representatives, like Menetre, Armbrust and Cuddihee to run these incoming opportunities to the silver screen.