A decade of film in Charleston 

On Location

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Chucktown isn’t the best place to live if you’re a starstruck Southerner — not with a mighty movie studio on the wrong side of the North Carolina border, in Wilmington. But keep your eyes peeled and you might see a box office idol or two.
The City of Charleston likes to ensure that visiting movie companies have a low impact on the Peninsula, so life doesn’t grind to a halt whenever a production comes to town. Blink and you’ll have missed visits by the likes of Jodie Foster (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, 2002) or Will Smith and Matt Damon (The Legend of Bagger Vance, 2000). There are plenty of movie lovers around, though, catered to by Charleston County Library’s Film Movement and American Film Festivals, various locally-produced short film fests and one arthouse cinema (The Terrace).
Since South Carolina introduced a tasty tax incentive last year, TV has been the most common form of production in town. But with the increased acceptance of digital video as a movie-making medium, it’s the independent filmmakers who’ve really been keeping the local end up.

A Decade of Film


Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, and Sidney Poitier star in The Jackal, shot in Charleston, Dorchester County, and Summerville.

The 5th annual WorldFest Charleston International Film Festival is also its last.


The College of Charleston presents its first French Film Fest, still going strong today.

The Carolina Film Alliance (CFA) is formed “to improve the opportunities for the filmmaking industry in South Carolina.”


South Carolina sees an estimated $115 million total economic impact from the motion picture industry.

Locally shot movies include The Hunley, made for TNT and starring Armand Assante.


The In Crowd shoots in Charleston; The Legend of Bagger Vance films in Beaufort, Charleston, Hilton Head, and Kiawah Island; and The Patriot seems to be all over the place (Edisto Island, Charleston, Cypress Gardens, and Middleton Place). Seven years later, local reenactors still grumble about the Mel Gibson epic’s historical inaccuracies.
South Carolina’s Independent Film Festival (SCiNDY) is founded as a pro-independent replacement for WorldFest. It’s a collaboration among the S.C. Film Office, the S.C. Arts Commission, SCETV, the Office of Cultural Affairs, Charleston County Library, the Charleston Film Salon, and the CFA. My Sister’s Wedding by local filmmaker Sharon Jungreis Bowers plays for a packed audience.


O rolls into Charleston. Apart from some Spanish moss shots, this tale of a basketball-wielding Othello lacks a true Charleston flavor (it’s set in “Palmetto Grove Academy.”)

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Cold Mountain indicates the growth of a film industry in Charleston. But in the same year, Louisiana passes the most generous tax incentive package for film production companies in North America.

The Arcade and Garden Theatres are closed for good; the American Theater is renovated.


Thanks to those pesky tax incentives, movie producers spend an estimated $184 million in Louisiana, compared to less than $8 million here.

Local Kat Hendrix spins off her brother’s New York AsiaMania film festival, screening a slate of Pacific Rim films in Charleston for $5 each.


The Notebook outdoes The Patriot for location-hopping: Boone Hall, Charleston, CofC, Cypress Gardens, Edisto, North Charleston, Mt. P’s Old Village, and Wadmalaw Island all get the Hollywood treatment. Throw a stone in this town and you’ll probably hit someone who was a Notebook extra.

SCiNDY breathes its last but on a smaller scale; the first Folly Film Festival treats Piccolo audiences to an international slew of short films; a cult fest at the Main Library called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly shows some of the worst films ever committed to celluloid.


New tax incentives are improved, attracting production companies to the area. Touchstone films a pilot called Army Wives, helmed by Boiler Room director Ben Younger.

The first Charleston Documentary Festival (ChasDoc) plays all over town. The Association of Independent Film and Video Makers (AIVF)/Charleston Film Society Film Salon goes out of business.


Warner Bros. TV pilot Reinventing the Wheelers stars James Brolin, Mary Steenburgen, and Alyssa Milano. The pilot is not picked up for series.

A production fund established by the South Carolina Film bears its first fruit — the Charleston-made short Song of Pumpkin Brown.


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