Lights, Camera, Economic Development Action!

By: Dave Lavender | April 1, 2024

With the glory of spring unfolding, the annual feast of spring color and growing light of day brings vibrant migrations of activities and economic development in this place we aptly call Almost Heaven. 

From red birds to orange traffic cones, our world is abuzz with new energy, knowing work must get done while the sun shines.

In the past couple of years, since the passing of the West Virginia Film Industry Investment Act (which took effect July 1, 2022), we have been welcoming into the Mountain State a new energy with an ever-increasing number of film and TV productions. 

In 2023, we (at the West Virginia Film Office) logged 47 TV and Film productions during this past calendar year. Incredibly, that was in spite of the fact that for the bulk of the year both the writers and the actors unions were on strike together for the first time in 60 years. To get an idea of how much impact the new WV tax credit is already impacting our economy, according to the latest Motion Picture Association statistics, in 2020-21, with only eight TV shows (like SWV’s own “Barnwood Builders”) and independent film productions shot in the Mountain State, the industry (which includes TV media) generated $120 million in wages related to 1,980 direct jobs and 3,880 support jobs.

Dave Lavender and John Quiñones

In 2024, we’re hoping to see a lot more productions – both homegrown and out-of-state – filming in our wild and wonderfully diverse Mountain State. Already, our tax incentive is making just about everyone in the industry take a fresh look at West Virginia. 

For instance, the ABC show What Would You Do? Has been on the air for 16 seasons but had never been to West Virginia before. They shot in Charleston in 2023 and ended up featuring local hot-spots around the Capital City in five different episodes airing this spring.

While we know the Hollywood film industry has what they call the Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation, with West Virginia native creatives we call it two degrees of separation. Thus, we are asking folks like you reading this to let any of your friends in the film and TV industry know WV is back in business and that our film office would love to help them bring their project to life in the Mountain State. 

Brad Paisley and fans

We are so grateful iconic Mountaineers like Brad Paisley returned home in 2023 to shoot music videos for not one but two songs from his forthcoming album, “Son of the Mountains.”

Paisley has not been alone. Many West Virginia filmmakers such as Daniel Byers (who now lives in New York and who won Best Screenplay at the Austin Film Fest) came home to shoot their films here. Veteran Mountain State-based filmmakers like Bob and Jeff Tinnell (best known for their Netflix Christmas hit, “Feast of the Seven Fishes”) have continued to shoot multiple films a year for television. 

At the West Virginia Film Office, we have also been glowing with pride during the recent awards season. Joe Strechay, a producer and consultant on the hit Netflix limited series, “All The Light We Cannot See,” was up for an Emmy for helping produce that series. 

In early March, in Hollywood, Curren Sheldon took home the American Society of Cinematographers‘ ASC Outstanding Achievement Award for Best Documentary for his jaw-dropping cinematography for King Coal, which featured 37 different locations in West Virginia alone. 

WV-made indie films from The Red Creek Sessions, and O Pioneer to Redhead and Impossible Town are among others picking up screenings and awards at film festivals around the country and abroad. 

Dave Lavender and John Hall

Here in West Virginia, we are celebrating and supporting our own as the state boasts a dozen film fests from Shepherdstown’s American Conservation Film Festival (one of the oldest conservation film fests in the U.S.) to newly-minted fests such as The Mountain Craft Film Festival and Appalachian Film Festival.

There is also a growing number of film-related educational programs from Marshall University’s creation of the state’s first B.F.A. in Filmmaking (a program that starts in the fall of 2024) to robust video production programs at universities around the state, including WVU which is host to the 11th annual Mountaineer Short Film Festival, as well as the active WVU Film Club. 

Additionally, we have teamed up with the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild, Film Futures Foundation – and are working on a project with the Pittsburgh Film Office –  to bring a myriad of film industry training to the state. In 2023, we helped host, promote, and sponsor 8 workshops that helped train more than 160 individuals across the state in film industry specialties from grip and electric, location scouts and managers to screenwriting, SFX makeup, animation, and cinematography.

We’re also excited to see the burgeoning number of opportunities for youth to express themselves in film at high school programs around the state, and through such unique programs as the West Virginia Manufacturers Association’s Explore The New Manufacturing, which helps, and rewards, students explore the unique manufacturers in their towns by making short videos about those companies – that before may have been hidden in plain sight.

Teaming up with Film Pittsburgh’s Teen Screen program through a Benedum Foundation grant, our office has also been promoting West Virginia-made films (complete with study guide) for free to West Virginia middle and high schools. Check out Teen Screen at https://filmpittsburgh.org/pages/teen-screen-films-virtual

Renewed by the energy of spring, and by the growing kaleidoscope of colorful Mountain State creatives, our goal at the West Virginia Film Office (which is embedded within the West Virginia Department of Economic Development) is to build, grow, and support a sustainable ecosystem for the film, TV, and creative content productions. Check out our website (https://westvirginia.gov/wvfilm/) where you can log your property or business to be a shooting location. Add your business to our list of professional services, and if you’ve got industry experience, create a profile for professional crew as well. 

Dave Lavender helps run the West Virginia Film Office.

Connect with him at David.L.Lavender@wv.gov and call 304-558-2234.