The show, set in North Carolina but filmed in the Charleston area, spent $31.4 million in South Carolina in 2019 and employed 1,305 residents, said Dan Rogers, senior project manager at the S.C. Film Commission.
Outer Banks, which was the No. 1 show on Netflix three weeks after it debuted in May, features a teenager and his three friends as they search for a treasure linked to his father’s disappearance. The series films throughout the Lowcountry in locations like the Old Village and Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant and the Hunting Island lighthouse (even though the Morris Island Lighthouse is shown in the trailer).
It’s economically advantageous for South Carolina to host a TV series over a feature film, because production takes longer, which leads to more money being spent locally. For comparison, Rogers said 2018’s Halloween shot for 25 days, while Outer Banks filmed for 101. That accounts for more than 21,600 room nights in Charleston-area hotels.
Currently, the state has two TV shows — along with Outer Banks is HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones, starring Danny McBride, who co-wrote Halloween and helped bring that production to the region.
Rogers said that in addition to room and board, other local expenses include meals and catering, rental cars and furniture, dry cleaning needs, printing supplies, outdoor toilets and bottled water from grocery stores — the list goes on.
“The bulk of the jobs come from the state, and this is new money that wasn’t there before,” Rogers said.
Over the past five years, South Carolina’s film industry has brought in nearly $338 million in direct spending and accounted for 19,718 hires, Rogers said.
Part of the draw to film in South Carolina is that the state offers $15 million a year in incentives to recruit new projects. A portion of the money each production spends in the state — it must be more than $1 million — is returned in tax credits, Rogers said, pending audits by the Department of Revenue.
With The Righteous Gemstones’ large budget and Outer Banks receiving $7.2 million in rebates for season one, most of that $15 million is quickly depleted. It’s a small budget when likened to Georgia’s unlimited tax credits, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Film productions have spent $2.2 billion in the Peach State so far this year, the department said.
In 2019 alone, Rogers said the S.C. Film Commission turned down 29 potential projects because the state ran out of incentives. “The Southeast is so well-respected that people always want to come shoot here. We have great weather, great crew and great locations,” he said.
While the coronavirus has created question marks for the entertainment industry worldwide, Rogers said the main impact in South Carolina has been delayed production.
The Righteous Gemstones originally hoped to resume filming this summer, but production has been pushed back until early 2021 because of the pandemic.
“There’s big money being spent and we all want to make sure it’s done safely and right,” Rogers said.
To maintain a safe environment for Outer Banks’ production, crew members will be tested multiple times a week and will work in zones while on set, Rogers said. Only a few people will be in the center with close contact to the actors and cameras. And 90% of Outer Banks is filmed outdoors, rather than on a sound stage.
“It shows that it can be done, given the precautions that everyone needs to take. There’s big money being spent and we all want to make sure it’s done safely and right,” Rogers said.