W.Va. Film Office wants workers here ready for ‘Action!’
HARPERS FERRY – Pam Haynes is on a mission to help Eastern Panhandle residents who want to get a foot in the door of the film industry.
Haynes, director of the West Virginia Film Office, recently traveled to the Eastern Panhandle to scout out a location for a workshop aimed at training productions assistants for future Hollywood projects.
Haynes called the two-day seminar set for Aug. 23 and 24 at Quality Inn and Conference Center in Harpers Ferry “a key component to building the state’s film industry workforce.”
“It’s important for West Virginia to have a skilled labor pool with a strong understanding of the unique needs of the film industry.”
During the hands-on workshop put on by Los Angeles-based company Production Assistant Training Seminar, would-be production assistants will learn basics such as set etiquette and terminology as well as tips on how to find work in the industry, Haynes said.
“Working on a film or TV productions involves some specialized know-how,” she explained during her recent visit to Jefferson County. “For instance, a production assistant has to know what’s part of his or her job and what is the job of someone else,” she said. “The workshop goes over production paperwork, script breakdown, scheduling, walkie-talkie protocol, film set ‘speak’ – all the basics they’d otherwise have to learn on the job.”
When Haynes’ office held its first Production Assistant Training Seminar in Huntington last year, the workshop was filled to capacity – and then some, Haynes said.
“Initially, the limit was supposed to be 50, but we had such a response we asked the instructors if they could handle 60 and they agreed,” she said. “We reached that number pretty quickly and ended up having to cut off the workshop at 70.”
The workshop in the Eastern Panhandle is a potential blockbuster, Haynes and Lisa Wells, industry relations coordinator for the film office, told business leaders at a by-invitation informational session held July 11 at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown.
“The Eastern Panhandle is prime for this type of training program, particularly because of the increase in production activity anticipated in the months to come,” Haynes explained during her visit.
She said that two miniseries will be filmed in the region this fall and her office – part of the Department of Commerce, established in 1992 by then-Gov. Gaston Caperton – is working to recruit two television programs as well.
Haynes said West Virginia is getting national exposure thanks to recent Emmy nominations for the TV miniseries, “The Men Who Built America” and “The World Wars,” both of which filmed in the Eastern Panhandle.
Conservative lawmakers in North Carolina are mulling ending incentives to bring filmmakers to that state, Haynes said, and business that might have gone there soon could be up for grabs. She called that good news for the Mountain State.
Following a worker trainer such as this one, decision-makers from out-of-state companies eyeing the area for films, television programs, commercials and other work find West Virginia more appealing because they know they can hire locals rather than having to bring in specially trained workers, Wells said.
“Our goal is to identify the most effective ways to assist West Virginia residents who want to get started in the film industry,” she said. “We also want to hope those currently working in the film industry who want to learn a new skill set, anyone who wants access to outstanding training opportunities.”
Next month’s seminar is open to anyone from high school seniors to senior citizens, according to Haynes said. West Virginia residents who complete the training can earn spots in the film office’s online crew directory, she said.
Wells describes Production Assistant Training Seminar, also known as PATS, as one of the nation’s leading traveling training programs. The company’s lead instructor is Gary Fiorelli, a member of the Directors Guild of America whose feature film work includes “In the Line of Fire” and “A Few Good Men.”
Haynes stressed that she expects the workshop here to fill up fast. College students and high school seniors can attend for $15 and the cost for others ranges from $25 (for current members of the film office’s crew directory) to $45 for newcomers. Those who sign up before Aug. 5 get a discount.
During the workshop at the Bavarian, Haynes also urged more Panhandle businesses to connect with her office for possible film work. “Too often, business owners think if they aren’t in the business of actually creating movies, they can’t benefit from partnering with us, but when a production company comes to town, there have so many needs,” she said.
For period pieces, antique shops can sell costumes and items for sets, Haynes said, while restaurants, dry-cleaners, equipment rental businesses, carpenters and myriad other retailers provide essential services for film crews.
“There are so many opportunities,” she said. “We don’t want any West Virginia businesses to miss out.”
There’s no cost for a business to be listed on Haynes’ office’s online vendor directory. To learn more, business owners should contact her at 304-957-9382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WANT TO GO? What: The West Virginia Film Office’s latest two-day Production Assistant Training Seminar Where: Quality Inn and Conference Center, 4328 William L. Wilson Freeway, Harpers Ferry When: Aug. 23 and 24 How much: Register before Aug. 5 and pay $45. High school seniors and college students pay just $15. To reserve a spot: Contact Lisa Wells at email@example.com or call 304-957-9366.