Article from the Greater Wilmington Business Journal
After the New Year, Wilmington will begin to buzz with work in preparation for Iron Man 3’s arrival. Filming will primarily take place between May 21 and September 7, according to a local film industry memo. But the deal that brought the film here was a year in the making.
Before the dirty work of making the film begins, the Greater Wilmington Business Journal asked North Carolina Film Office director Aaron Syrett to explain how he helped land the state’s biggest motion picture deal. Syrett, who was the director of the Utah Film Commission from 1999 to 2007, worked with Disney, which owns Marvel Comics, on 35 films in that state. The relationships he built with Disney executives at that time, helped pave the way for this project, he said.
Syrett’s staff began to track Disney and Marvel’s projects a couple of years ago and reach out to them when they saw a new project was being developed. And in the fall 2010, a Marvel executive called Syrett to talk about filming in North Carolina in general, he said.
About six months later, the company’s inquiries had become more focused. Syrett was already planning to go to Los Angeles earlier this summer for other meetings and his contacts asked if he could come meet with them.
“There were about 10 to 12 Marvel and Disney executives in the meeting,” he said. “We spoke about specific [future] projects, North Carolina’s infrastructure (crew, equipment, stages), incentives and locations,” he said. “At the time, in Hollywood it was referred to as ‘Machine Man.’ ”
After the meeting on his way out of the studio, Syrett saw his counterpart from the Georgia Film Office entering to meet with the executives, who were also still in talks with Michigan and New Mexico.
“When you are dealing with a project this magnitude, and a very large company is going to make a substantial investment into our state, that company has to do their due-diligence to make sure they get the level of certainty to make smart business decisions,” he said.
Later that trip, Syrett attended a reception for the Producers Guild of America, where executives told him that the Iron Man 3 project was North Carolina’s for the taking. “[But,] I am sure similar conversations were being had with other jurisdictions as well,” he said.
Then in July, a Marvel Studios executive and a production creative team came to North Carolina to scout Charlotte and Wilmington.
It was the first time Marvel had come here to scout a film. Before Disney bought the company in 2009, it filmed its movies almost exclusively in Hollywood.
Syrett said sealing a deal hinges upon all of the various parts from state and local government to private industry working together.
“Governor Perdue was essential as was Speaker [Rep. Thom] Tillis in offering the certainty that North Carolina brought to the table,” he said.
“Additionally, without private industry, this deal could have never happened,” Syrett said. “North Carolina and Screen Gems gave Marvel the extra added certainty, and demonstrated they are a very successful company that can handle this level of production,” he said.