Tammy Hopkins, the executive director of the Transylvania Arts Council, has always had a love of the movies.
As an actor, director and producer, she knows first-hand what it takes to turn a script into reality.
For years, Hopkins has taken on the unofficial role as the local film consultant whenever a film or television production came to town. Now, she is making it official.
Hopkins recently launched a new website and consulting company named Film Brevard N.C.
The website, which was created as a joint venture between the Arts Council and Think It Studio, provides detailed information on how film and television productions can get permits, where they can find location scouts, view photos of the area and learn how to apply for state tax credits for filming.
The goal, Hopkins said, is to continue to help lure films to the area.
On Tuesday, with Triple Falls as her backdrop, Hopkins described a scene from “The Hunger Games,” which was partly shot in the county, to a group of journalists and photographers who were in town for one day as part of a five-day media tour organized by the State’s Department of Film and Tourism.
Hopkins described how one of the characters in the film, Peeta, was camouflaged so well that Bruce MacDonald, the assistant forest supervisor at DuPont State Recreational Forest who was present for most of the filming, did not even realize he was there.
“Apparently, he was there all day, and I didn’t even know it,” MacDonald told the group Tuesday.
MacDonald said that after a few hours of filming, Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta in the film, stood up from a small, rock crevice and he noticed him for the first time.
Hopkins went on to regale the group with stories from the filming of the movie, describing how cables were rigged to allow the film’s main character, Katniss, to safely run across the top of Triple Falls.
Hopkins said for years her job has been to promote the area as a hub for creative endeavors.
“Right now, as part of my duties as the director of the arts council, I’m trying to prove all of the ways that arts have an economic impact in our community,” she said. “I’m doing Film Brevard N.C. as part of my job, but eventually I’d like to see it become a full-time job.”
Hopkins partnered with Katy Rosenberg of Think It Studio and the Arts Council last fall before launching the website and project this spring. Her goal is to keep the film and television industry coming back to Brevard in the future.
“You have to really build up your community reputation in order to keep people coming back,” she said.
The Hollywood star first shone on Transylvania County back in 1958 when “Thunder Road,” a tale of moonshining in the mountains of North Carolina that starred Robert Mitchum, was filmed on the county’s winding country roads.
Since then, more than 17 productions have been filmed in the county.
Hopkins said she felt it was time to really start catering to the film industry needs in order to keep them coming back.
One way she believes the county can successfully do that is by making the process as easy as possible.
“We want to try and make sure we really take care of them as soon as they arrive to help them get their permits and make the process so easy,” she said. “You’ve got to have people from the area where you’re filming who know people, and we’re able to do that.”
James Suttles, a local filmmaker who has worked with Hopkins on a number of projects over the years, said he believes Hopkins’ service is invaluable to the community.
“Brevard is a great place, and with what Tammy and everyone is doing it just goes to show that there is a culture that is willing to give and help the process,” he said. “That’s something you don’t find in a lot of communities.”
Suttles said that a lot of different people in the area have been willing to pitch in to help out during the recent productions, and he believes that in doing so the potential economic return will be big in the future.
“I think Brevard has a lot of things going for it and as long as it becomes a center of support in Western North Carolina, it can really receive a lot of attention,” he said.
While Suttles said the reasons that each of the films chose Transylvania County as a filming location are different, he believes they all share at least one common element.
He believes what lures film productions to the area is the same thing that draws tourists to the area: the natural beauty.
“Tourism and film almost walk hand in hand,” he said. “You can’t go anywhere else that has such easy access to such an abundant number of waterfalls.”
Hopkins said that while the natural beauty of the area has drawn in a number of films, the state’s efforts to provide tax incentives has made filming in the state much more appealing than it was before.
“I think the state’s film office has had a big impact,” she said. “They fought to get a tax credit, so that now, when these big productions come here they get a discount for spending money in the state.”
Other states in the South that also offer tax incentives include South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana.
If a film production company spends $250,000 in the state, for instance, they will get a 25 percent return.
That incentive has been a big boost, she said. But she believes the impact of seeing the area on the big screen will catapult the area’s rising star even higher.
“As soon as ‘The Hunger Games’ hits and ‘The Healer’ comes out, and people see our beautiful scenery, it’s going to just skyrocket for the next five years,” she said.
MacDonald said the Forest Service is anticipating an increased number of people who are likely to visit DuPont State Recreational Forest in coming years as a result of “The Hunger Games” and other films.
“We have to balance that so that people can still think they can come here and go see the waterfalls and not have to put up with some project going on that limits their access,” he said.
A year ago, MacDonald said he had never heard of The Hunger Games. That quickly changed as the hype surrounding the movie began to build.
“When the filming was done, we thought, ‘That wasn’t so bad,’” he said. “Now, it just keeps going. So we are just trying to keep a grip on that and look ahead and see what is coming down the line. I never dreamed my job would entail going to IMDB.com (The International Movie Database) to learn about movies, but that’s become a big part of what we do now.”
MacDonald said that he believes the increased exposure will bring additional visitors, but not all of those visitors will be ready for what they will experience in the forest.
“We want to get a waterfall safety message out and make sure that the people who are coming are ready,” he said. “Most people will have to walk a couple of hours to reach some of these locations, so we just want to make sure they are ready for that.”
For Hopkins, the recent boom in interest by the film industry in the area is something she believes can have a big impact on the local economy.
“The neat thing for us is the trickle-down effect,” she said. “All of the money that is spent locally just goes straight into the local economy.”
For Josh Schaffer, a reporter with The Raleigh News and Observer who was visiting the area for the first time as part of the media tour, the experience was truly unique.
Following the brief hike to Triple Falls on the tour, he said he was very impressed with the area’s natural beauty.
James Suttles, a local filmmaker, looks through his camera during a recent commercial that shot at various locations in Brevard, including this shot outside Quotations Coffee Shop. Suttles worked with Hopkins and Film Brevard N.C. to arrange filming locations, actors and scheduling for the production.
“These are waterfalls you always see pictures of in all of the coffee table books,” he said. “So it’s pretty cool to be right next to them for the first time.”
He said that he thinks the movie will be a huge benefit to not only the counties where the movie was filmed, but to the state of NorthCarolina as a whole.
“A little bit of my state pride flashes knowing that someone else picked these locations and saw just how special it is and is going to be showing it to everyone else,” he said. “I’m excited.”
For Hopkins, MacDonald and the others on the tour, the wait for DuPont’s latest moment to shine on the big screen draws ever closer, as the movie is scheduled to premier on March 23.
For more information on Film Brevard, N.C ., visitwww.filmbrevardnc.com.
Article was written by Eric Crews, Staff Writer for the Transylvania Times