Wilmington is rich with talented film directors, actors, and screenwriters. But there are also makeup artists, location scouts, gaffers, prop masters. And construction coordinators. A community of these professionals came to North Carolina in the 1980s with Dino DeLaurentiis, and now, decades later, a somewhat smaller community still calls Wilmington home.
WHQR speaks with Jeff Schlatter about his career as a Construction Coordinator.
RLH: You have worked on close to 80 feature film and television productions, including Flight, Identity Thief, The Crow, Bolden, Idlewild, The Rainmaker. And of course you've lived in North Carolina throughout the decades, your entire career, you've been able to stay based in North Carolina. How did you do that?
JEFF SCHLATTER: Well, I did a lot of work here, but also had to travel a lot. I realized that I like living in Wilmington, this is where my family was. It’s where my children were. And there was certainly no reason for me to live anywhere else.
RLH: Crimes Of The Heart was one of the films that you worked on as Construction Coordinator. This is a film that's shot in North Carolina, shot in Southport in the 1980s. Where was the North film business at that point? Was it starting to boom or was it still in the early stages?
JS: We were toddlers, not infancy, but we were early into the game and we had some people from Los Angeles and other parts of the country who had come down here to work -- because I believe at that time New York City had problems and the industry was starving the city for one reason or another. And there were some art department people that had come down here to work. We had a lot of people mentoring us in other departments.
RLH: The house that the sisters lived in that is actually a house in Southport required a pretty good amount of remodeling on the inside. But there were also some additions on the outside of the house weren't there? What did you do to the exterior?
JS: We added the porch on the side. We built the three-story tower, which is on one side of the house. One of the things that we had to do to make it more symmetrical based on the designer's wishes was move the front door just nine inches to make the house more look more symmetrical from the front.
RLH: What about inside?
JS: Inside we opened up archways, took out walls. In the film, there is a shot where you see all three of the girls' beds and that was very important to them. We opened up that doorway to become a larger archway. We added a lot of faux stained glass. We added a lot of Victorian woodwork. We added tile, we built the kitchen cabinets, the hot water heater that you see in the background of the kitchen -- we had to build. It wasn't a functional hot water here, but it looked like it was. We had to completely repaint the exterior to look old. It was a major job.
RLH: You find this work really fulfilling. What is it that makes it fulfilling? Is the work itself? The people that you work with? A combination?
JS: What I get most out of working on a film or on job is -- it really is the relationship with the people that you work with and the people that you meet. Because some of the relationships last forever.
RLH: How common is it for you to walk onto a film set or walk into a new job and know a whole bunch of people that you'll be working with?
JS: It's very easy to do here in Wilmington and I found having worked in so many different locations that every two or three years you may cross paths with one or two people that you've worked with before and you'll walk into a room and it's like a high school reunion.
NC Filmmaker Series is screening Crimes Of The Heart Sunday, February 23rd at 3 PM in UNCW's King Hall. There will be a Q & A after the film with Construction Coordinator Jeff Schlatter. Admission and parking are free.