Netflix’s ‘OBX’ Series Could Film in N.C. (But Probably Not)
A new Netflix series set on the Outer Banks, OBX has been picked up by Netflix for 10 episodes, with filming set to start this spring, though the production is likely going to South Carolina rather than North Carolina, due to the lingering remnants of the controversial HB2 “bathroom bill” of 2016.
Created by Wilmington resident Jonas Pate, OBX is a coming of age story about four teenagers in “a fictional Outer Banks town” when a hurricane cuts all power and communication to the islands, according to Star News.
After deep negotiations last year, Netflix reportedly passed on bringing the production to North Carolina because of the remnants of House Bill 2, the infamous “bathroom bill” that pushed numerous production companies away because of its anti-LGBTQ language. The bill was eventually partially repealed, but some parts of it remain in a replacement bill called HB142, including a clause forbidding municipalities from passing an ordinance excluding them from the bill’s restrictions, which is a particular deal-breaker for Netflix.
The clause is already set to expire on Dec. 1, 2020, but Pate believes if state legislators can push for an immediate sunset, it may not be too late for Netflix to reconsider bringing the show and its dozens of crew positions to Wilmington. Pate says the production is projected to spend around $60 million in whichever state it films.
“This tiny law is costing this town 70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs and also sending a message to those people who can bring these jobs and more that North Carolina still doesn’t get it,” Pate said.
This past weekend, Pate was sent by Netflix to scout locations that could work for the show in Charleston, S.C. (where last year’s Halloween was filmed by a couple of friends who met while studying film at UNC and who used to film make their hit HBO show Eastbound & Down in North Carolina). That’s where OBX will be shot, unless something changes drastically pretty fast.
Pate is apparently still hoping that it could be filmed in North Carolina. “We have a tiny window where this could be pulled out of the fire,” he tells Star News. “If I get any sense that there is any effort to move the sunset date up, I think I could convince Netflix to change course.”
Incoming Sen. Harper Peterson, D-New Hanover, tells Star News that he is aware of the timely situation and would like to see it brought up at the start of the N.C. General Assembly’s session, which begins today (Wednesday, Jan. 9). “That is a decision the legislature has to make and realize that it is one more opportunity we are losing if we don’t,” he said. “There is no rational reason to delay if it is already going to sunset.”
Peterson said film has always found support on both sides of the aisle and this should be no different. “We have to get back and be competitive with other states,” he said. “It just hurts to see a production about North Carolina go to South Carolina.”
In the last year, the Wilmington film industry has hosted three high profile projects, including the feature film Words on Bathroom Walls, the Hulu drama pilot Reprisal, and the new DC Universe streaming series Swamp Thing, which is currently filming, executive produced by James Wan (Aquaman, Saw, Insidious), who previously directed The Conjuring in Wilmington.
OBX is exactly the kind of show that should be the ideal project the state has hoped to attract with its current film grant program, which gives priority to a production that “features identifiable attractions or state locales in a manner that would be reasonably expected to induce visitation by nonresidents,” according to language in the existing film grant legislation.
While it would be great to have the series actually filmed here on the Outer Banks, the real tragedy would be for it to leave North Carolina completely, as Wilmington has a well-respected 30-year-old film industry infrastructure firmly in place, albeit struggling these days, while Dare County has none (yet).
As Pate said, “This show would be a postcard to North Carolina.”