While no one can say that Hollywood isn’t a great place to be as a moviemaker, with its star power and extensive history, it’s not necessarily the only place to be. In fact, in the past few decades, the thriving film community of Wilmington, North Carolina has been giving Hollywood a run for its money. There may not be a Grauman’s Chinese Theater or Walk of Fame, yet what Wilmington lacks in legendry it makes up in its hunger for independent moviemaking.
From Friday, June 27th through Sunday, June 29th, the moviemakers of Wilmington will be satiated when the inaugural Wilmington Inside the Film Industry Film Conference brings a chunk of Hollywood to the east coast.
Whether you have a polished movie in need of distribution or a great idea that seems impossible to convey on paper, the WiFi Film Conference has something for everyone.
The conference kicks off on Friday with the Screen Actors Guild’s 75th anniversary celebration at the WiFi “Gilded Nights” Gala. On Saturday, participants will have a full schedule from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon as they attend an array of sessions from “Distribution, Financing, Attaching Actors, Oh My!” to “Adventures in Storyboarding: Getting Paid for Doodling in Meetings,” lead by industry professionals. The conference will begin to wind down that evening with the “WiFi After Glow” soiree, and come to a close with Ken Rotcop’s “Practice Your Pitch Breakfast” on Sunday morning. The conference will also feature more than 30 vendors (MM among them), giving participants the opportunity to mingle with various talent agents, WGA writers and production companies.
MM spoke with Sheila Brothers, co-founder of the conference as well as the independent production company We Have No Life Productions, to find out more about the first-ever WiFi Film Conference.
Lauren Barbato (MM): What inspired you to create the WiFi Film Conference?
Sheila Brothers (SB): Being fully involved in the independent filmmaking community, I have seen so many extremely talented filmmakers bring their projects to fruition (which is a task in itself) and then throw it up on YouTube and a couple of film festivals—and they think that is as far as they can go. Getting to the next level seems to be an impossible dream. Many filmmakers limit themselves to the creative side of film, leaving out the most important side of show business—business! They have no knowledge of distribution, financing, how to attach big-name actors, budgeting, development, etc. But it’s not their fault. There was no information hub on the east coast. My main focus is to get these filmmakers to the next level, get them the information they need from the best of the best, help them to realize their dreams and bring their projects to the big screen.
I have the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles year after year and build relationships, line up meetings and learn from the best. I want our filmmakers to have the same opportunities right here in our hometown.
As for Wynter Davis, my partner for the conference, her main goal was to bring awareness to the crew base here, to let production companies know they don’t need to fly in an entire production crew. Wilmington, NC has a large and extremely qualified crew base in every facet of filmmaking.
MM: Even though this is the very first WiFi Film Conference, you have an impressive list of guest speakers, with nearly every facet of the film industry covered, from producing to storyboarding to talent management. How were you able to attract these guest speakers and vendors to such a new venue?
SB: I am blessed to consider many of these guest speakers personal friends. Since 2008 is the inaugural year for the WiFi Film Conference, I knew the personal relationships I have built over the years with some of the most talented experts in their field would help to get the WiFi Film Conference off to a credible and amazing start. People such as Tim Hodge, Suzanne DeLaurentiis and Ken Rotcop—when I set out to do something, they trust it will be done successfully. And having a partner such as Wynter Davis really adds prestige to the conference. She has signed on guest speakers for WiFi that really support the independent filmmakers as well. All 12 feature guests have one main thing in common: They want to pay it forward. They remember persevering, working countless hours as they climbed their way up to the top, trying to learn everything they could.
MM: What’s the film community like in Wilmington?
SB: People call Wilmington “Hollywood East” for a very good reason. Wilmington is a remarkable filmmaking hub when it comes to production. If you’ve read past articles in MovieMaker Magazine, you would know that I am Wilmington’s biggest “cheerleader.” The locations are so diverse, offering beautiful beaches to luscious forest areas and charming neighborhoods. The crew base here is top-of-the-line and the soundstages are in abundance. We also have excellent tax incentives and I would personally welcome and encourage filmmakers to consider Wilmington as the location for their next film or television series. The filmmakers and the actors who live in this area have at one time all worked together on one project or another. They are very supportive, all doing what they can to help make filmmakers’ visions come alive.