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Wilmington new home to Sleepy Hollow Studio passes over Salisbury as main filming location for financial, creative reasons

SALISBURY — Wilmington has become the new Sleepy Hollow, beating out Salisbury as the main location for 20th Century Fox’s upcoming supernatural TV series.
Although the studio filmed extensively in Salisbury this spring for the pilot, executives chose to locate the series in Wilmington for financial and creative reasons, said Aaron Syrett, director of the N.C. Film Office.
Syrett said in his detailed discussions about location, the studio never mentioned Salisbury business owners who were upset about losing money and customers when downtown streets were closed.
“That was never brought up to me,” Syrett said. “Not once.”
Salisbury was in the running to be the hero location, or the main location for “Sleepy Hollow” that ties the whole story together. In fact, the odds were pretty good, Syrett said.
“It was a high possibility because they’d used it once already,” he said. “They felt Wilmington gave them the best chance to produce the show within their budget and time constraints.”
He said 20th Century Fox also chose Wilmington for fast and easy access to crew.
Scripts and story points are not complete for the thriller that will air on Fox this fall, so it’s not clear yet where exactly crews will film, Syrett said. “Sleepy Hollow” will film as much as possible in Wilmington to save time and money, he said, but scouts are looking for additional locations now.
“It’s very possible they could branch out further,” he said.
For example, “Revolution” was based in Wilmington but filmed scenes in Raleigh, he said. If “Sleepy Hollow” needs continuity, the studio could decide to return to Salisbury.
Crews filmed here in March, transforming the front lawn of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church into a Revolutionary War cemetery where Ichabod Crane awakens from the dead and does battle with the Headless Horseman. The Bell Tower, Confederate monument, East Innes Street and other downtown locations provided backdrops for car chases, gun battles, pyrotechnics and more that are expected to appear in the pilot.
Beth Petty, director of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission, said 20th Century Fox is not scheduled to return to Salisbury, but she would not rule it out.
“You never know,” Petty said. “You don’t know creatively where the storyline is going to go.”
“Sleepy Hollow” has moved into offices and soundstages at EUE Screen Gems Studios, off of 23rd Street in Wilmington, with production of 12 episodes expected to begin in late July and run through December, according to the Wilmington Regional Film Commission and the N.C. Film Office.
The series will create about 150 full-time jobs in North Carolina, as well as untold secondary and tertiary jobs, Syrett said. “Sleepy Hollow” will use lumber yards, gas stations, dry cleaners, hotels and more, he said.
“Money will flow all over the state,” he said.
Twentieth Century Fox spent about $8 million shooting the ambitious pilot. “Sleepy Hollow” then looked across the nation for a hero location and landed in North Carolina.
“It’s a testament to the North Carolina film industry that we continue to bring high level shows here, and that we can handle so many at one time,” Syrett said.
“Sleepy Hollow” joins North Carolina-based TV series “Homeland” and “Banshee,” which are based in Charlotte, and “Eastbound and Down” and “Under the Dome,” both based in Wilmington.
Television series based in one location often film in other communities, Syrett said. To people who are disappointed that “Sleepy Hollow” didn’t choose Salisbury, Syrett said don’t give up.
“There is still hope,” he said.
The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce launched an effort last month to “bring back ‘Sleepy Hollow,’” asking business owners to share positive experiences they had during filming of the pilot.
The city has pledged to meet with downtown merchants and restaurant owners who said they lost hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the city closed roughly a 12-block area for five nights and most of a Saturday. Some city officials attended the Downtown Merchant Association meeting last month, where a restaurant owner and a retailer volunteered to serve as liaisons and work with the city on how to protect merchants during future film projects.
“I think the community did a wonderful job supporting the film industry in Salisbury,” city spokeswoman Elaney Hasselmann said.
“Sleepy Hollow” is from K/O Paper Products in association with 20th Century Fox Television. The series is co-created by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove and Len Wiseman (“Hawaii Five-0,” “Underworld” and “Total Recall”).
Wiseman directed the pilot.

“Sleepy Hollow” will air at 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox beginning this fall.
In this modern-day retelling of Washington Irving’s classic, Ichabod Crane, played by British actor Tom Mison, is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers.
Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman, who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Bound to the Headless Horseman by a blood spell cast on the battlefield of the American Revolution, Ichabod realizes that stopping the villain is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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