How do local filmmakers feel about the big news that Governor Ralph Northam announced earlier this week? “A new pilot episode of a major upcoming streaming series produced by Imagine Television Studios and CBS Television Studios is set to film in Central Virginia this summer.”
William R. Coughlan, president of TIVA and founder and CEO of Tohubohu productions responded to Fairfax County Times when reached by email, “As always, whenever we can get new productions in the area, it's a potential boon for the local industry. That said, it remains to be seen how much they end up depending on local talent versus imported.” He ventured a guess: “I'd say it's likely that a lot of the above-the-line talent and department leads won't be local hires. But there's still a lot of room for a talented crew to get work (and some actors to get at least supporting-role or background work). And if it gets picked up to be a full series (and production stays local to Virginia), then that could be a real benefit. Virginia has historically not placed a lot of emphasis on offering tax incentives for production, so Governor Northam's statement is a welcome change (as is the indication that the specific incentive is dependent upon the number of local hires). I know casting agencies have put out a call for specific parts, so that's a promising sign.”
According to the Governor’s press release, “The pilot is eligible to receive a Virginia film tax credit and grant. The exact amount will be based on the number of Virginia workers hired, Virginia goods and services purchased, and deliverables including Virginia tourism promotions.”
Is it “Swagger”?
Andy Edmunds from the VA Film Office did not reveal the name of the series, as “Due to the confidentiality requested by the client, these are all of the details they wish to publicize at this time. However, suffice it to say that given the nature of the story, the pedigree of the filmmakers and companies involved, and the year after year employment that episodic content can provide...this is a project that any state would be happy to host.”
According to reports, it could be “Swagger,” a drama series that was picked up earlier by Apple for its streaming service. The Hollywood Reporter stated that “NBA star Kevin Durant has scored a series pickup from Apple for a drama about youth basketball that will air on the tech giant's forthcoming streaming service. The Golden State Warriors forward and two-time NBA Finals MVP will executive produce ‘Swagger,’ a show inspired by his own life as a top hoops prospect in Washington, D.C. The project comes from Durant and Rich Kleiman's Thirty Five Ventures, Imagine Television and CBS TV Studios.”
Location of the production
“For now, it looks like most of the operations will be in the Richmond area, but who knows where actual production will take place?” wondered Coughlan.
According to the VA Film Office, “While all of the locations are not locked, filming will be primarily from Caroline to Dinwiddie, and Cumberland to James City ... with many big-city locations as a key palette.”
How successful is Apple with its new streaming service?
“They're coming in late to the game, and so far haven't exactly overwhelmed the industry with their pitches; their big announcement of the AppleTV+ service was really dependent on personalities rather than content. They do have the advantage of deep pockets, but even so, I wouldn't expect them to keep throwing money at any project that isn't working. So whether this particular pilot keeps running as a series is far from certain,” shared Coughlan.
“One major difference between Apple and some of their competitors in the streaming-TV world is that in Apple's case, they can afford for their AppleTV+ offering to be a bit of a loss leader — after all, they're really in the business of selling the associated hardware. Just like movie theaters aren't in the business of selling movie tickets, but in that of selling concessions (for which the ticket is just the way to get you in the door), Apple can afford to lose money on the service, so long as people buy the devices. In this respect, they're comparable to Amazon's Prime service — which is really about getting you to shop on Amazon.com — as opposed to Netflix, which really does just have the service as its primary offering.”
Local casting is currently underway and can be found on this hotline, at www.filmvirginia.org/hotline.