How J.J. Abrams and Paramount Pictures
Chose West Virginia
for Filming “Super 8”
The timeline below barely scratches the surface of the behind-the-scenes action at the West Virginia Film Office (WVFO) in its success to recruit Paramount Pictures to film the highly secretive J.J. Abrams film “Super 8” during the fall of 2010. What it does provide is a good overview of the process and speed necessary to respond to a prospective client’s constant needs – and not just for projects the size of “Super 8,” but for any prospective client the WVFO works with every day. The timeline offers some of the key highlights in working with Paramount representatives from the first phone call to the theatrical release.
The WVFO cannot be successful without enormous support it regularly receives from countless business and community leaders, government leaders of all levels, and private citizens. For a brief list of “credits” of agencies, organizations and businesses that provided incomparable assistance to the WVFO to recruit “Super 8,” click here.
06/02/10: Resnick provides feedback and asks for more photos of "farm land and flat and open as a contrast to the rolling hills, small mountains and forest" already scouted. He also asks for a contrast of additional areas in the southern areas with mountain farms, etc., in addition to other areas he has yet to see. WVFO sends more photo packages for selected areas in Barbour, Braxton, Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hardy, Harrison, Jefferson, Mason, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Morgan, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Summer, and Upshur Counties.
06/03/10: WVFO learns from Resnick that the creative team particularly likes Sutton, Glenville, Shinnston, Cairo, and Belington. He and Whist will arrive in WV on June 3 (fresh from scouting in the state of Ohio) and will focus on the central region of WV. They need to see photo packages ahead of time. WVFO quickly transmits photo packages for those areas.
06/04/10: WVFO continues sending photo packages of Jefferson and Berkeley Counties in anticipation of arrival of Whist. Interesting quote of the day: "If we found Philippi or Ronceverte without the trees and mountains and WITH openness, we'd hit the jackpot."
06/04/10: While in Los Angeles on an already scheduled trip for an industry trade show, WVFO meets with Paramount executives to further discuss the tax incentive program and the progress of this particular production.
06/05-06/10: Resnick and Whist arrive in WV and head in different directions – Resnick goes solo to central, western and northern regions and Whist meets WVFO and a local crew guide for scouting in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. WVFO learns that they are also scouting locations in Connecticut beginning June 8 and they will be meeting with the director the following week to present the most promising locations.
06/07/10: Whist requests a more detailed scout by WVFO of Berkeley and Jefferson Counties to include: small town police stations, small town colleges, middle and high schools with large yards, cemeteries, working class residential streets with an industrial element, streetscapes of business districts. Whist also seeks 1970s photos of Charles Town, Martinsburg and Shepherdstown as well as crop reports and foliage expectations for Jefferson County in Aug-Oct.
06/08/10: Resnick reiterates Whist's request for more Berkeley and Jefferson Counties and adds: more neighborhood houses, individual store fronts, especially diners/coffee shops ideally with a parking lot across the street, country roads through rural farm areas, interiors of the Roundhouse in Martinsburg, houses on rural edge of town, and baseball fields for 12-14 year olds.
06/09-10/10: WVFO scouts Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. During the scout, a request was added to look for wide open, rural roads running through farmland.
06/10/10: WVFO learns that Weirton, St. Marys and Jefferson County have risen to the top of the list, but additional scouting is now needed in the Northern Panhandle. WVFO contacts the Wheeling-Ohio County CVB and the Brooke County Economic Development Authority to seek immediate assistance for someone to help scout for and photograph farmland using reference photos provided by Resnick.
06/11/10: Resnick indicates that, for WV, it has been narrowed to the Northern and Eastern Panhandles because of their proximities to major cities, airports, and production hubs (i.e., Pittsburgh, D.C., and Baltimore). The top locations in several states will be presented to the director at the beginning of the next week and the following details are needed by the end of the day: distances to major cities, airport and production hubs; identity of production resources available (crew, grip and lighting equipment, soundstages, etc.); hotel options for above-the-line and below-the-line talent and crew; contacts for local unions; pluses and minuses of each region, and much more.
06/11/10: WVFO submits the additional details requested as well as the photos and data obtained from the scouts conducted by the Wheeling CVB and Brooke County EDA.
06/18/10: WVFO learns that Weirton is the likely choice. One of the producers, Udi Nedivi, will join Whist and Resnick on a detailed scout of Weirton with the WVFO. An extensive list of needs is submitted to WVFO, including the importance of connecting with representatives of ArcelorMittal. WVFO also learns that an application to the tax incentive program is likely imminent — a good sign.
06/19/10: Detailed planning and compiling data continues by the WVFO and contacts are made with a few business leaders in Hancock and Brooke Counties for more thorough, local assistance.
06/20-21/10: Based on the "needs" list received from production, WVFO scouts Weirton in more detail to prepare for the client's arrival.
06/21-22/10: Numerous connections with locals in preparation for the client's visit, including Marvin Six at the Business Development Corporation, and Dennis Jones at the Weirton Museum & Cultural Center, both of whom became critical connections for the client and the WVFO.
06/23-25/10: WVFO meets with Nedivi, Whist and Resnick to conduct detailed scouting of Weirton region, including visits to many lodging facilities between Wheeling and Newell. Gas stations and convenience stores have been added to the list of locations to find as well.
06/25/10: WVFO and Tourism Commissioner introduce clients to Mayor Mark Harris and others at the city building.
06/27/10: WVFO contacts executive at Paramount about tax incentive program application.
06/28/10 and forward: Paramount hires local scouts to begin daily scouting for specific locations with specific details.
06/29/10: Production asks for detailed weather reports from the Weirton area for the last five years during Sept-Oct as well as the region's road paving schedule for Sept-Oct.
06/30/10: WVFO obtains support letters from the Governor's Office and the Weirton Mayor's Office to submit to Paramount decision-makers.
06/30/10: While still not 100% certain that Weirton has been selected as the filming location, Paramount submits an application to the tax incentive program for a project with the working title "Darlings." The WVFO continues its daily work on recruiting the project, including working with many locals, to ensure no stone goes unturned and that Weirton remains the only choice possible.
07/02/10: Producer states that Weirton's likelihood as the hero location continues to hover at the top of the options.
07/02-12/10: Based on round-the-clock requests from production, WVFO continues to compile local, detailed data for the greater Weirton region. Local housing is being sought for some of the potential above-the-line personnel. A search for warehouse space that can double for soundstages and the building of sets begins in earnest for the next several weeks.
07/06/10: Interesting note of the day – a flurry of email activity involves more than 160 email communications, as well as dozens of phone calls, between WVFO and production. WVFO confidence is growing. Paramount has brought in more scouts and scouting is being conducted around-the-clock to be certain all necessary locations can be found in the region. Requests for military equipment, armories and wardrobe from the 1970s become important additions to the search. Also added to the location needs are police stations and a roadway setting with specific gradients and other elements.
07/08/10: The Film Credit Development Committee meets to review recent applications to the tax incentive program, one of which is Paramount's. The application is approved to participate in the program.
07/10/10: With the help of the Brooke County EDA and the Wheeling CVB, WVFO arranges for a Brooke County Commissioner and a CVB employee to scout during the week of July 12 with Paramount scouts in rural areas for particular sites that could only be known by or discovered with the help of locals.
07/12-18/10: The week of July 12 brings a huge amount of scouting activity and work behind the scenes.
07/14/10: Then-Governor Joe Manchin speaks with Paramount executive to reinforce the state's support of Paramount selecting West Virginia as a place to conduct business.
07/14-16/10: WVFO in Weirton for numerous meetings with clients and local city, county, community and business leaders. WVFO is confident this is a done deal, but it has not been made official by Paramount.
07/16/10: Production seeks inventories of wardrobe facilities in the Northern Panhandle. WVFO compiles data and responds.
07/19-23/10: Pre-production continues heating up with new contacts from Paramount's accounting department seeking extensive details about tax incentive program, labor laws, and other data relating to doing business in West Virginia. Other production personnel from the west coast begin seeking contact info for vehicles from the 1970s as well as contacts for in-state workforce. The production designer and his key support personnel return to the area for additional scouting. Discussions begin about air travel and vehicle rentals for large groups of production personnel with ability to handle constant itinerary changes on a 24/7 basis.
07/23/10: WVFO scouts Top Kicks Military Museum in Petersburg to identify and photograph inventory of military equipment, props, and wardrobe for possible use in production.
07/26/10: WVFO receives request to begin search for a specific type of 1970s school bus. Extensive search begins.
07/27/10: Discussions begin among the client, WVFO and Division of Highways regarding potential for miscellaneous road closings, intermittent traffic control and related issues.
07/28/10: Plans begin to materialize for a visit by the director, producers and key department heads sometime between Aug. 4-6.
07/28-30/10: WVFO in Weirton for meeting with the clients and Weirton's Mayor and other city officials in preparation for director visit. WVFO continues assisting in extensive search for housing rentals for certain production personnel.
08/04-06/10: WVFO in Weirton for meeting with director, producers and key department heads. Numerous meetings with clients and city, county, business and community leaders. WVFO also arranges for producer to meet with several hotel managers.
08/04/10: Interesting note of the day – The evening the director and his team are scheduled to arrive, a severe storm hits Weirton (including a reported tornado) and knocks out electricity around 3:30 pm. The director and his team are scheduled to arrive between 8-9:00pm expecting to eat dinner at Undo's at the Holiday Inn next door to where they are staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites. Without electricity, the general manager of the Fairfield (Barb Owens, whose picture is destined to appear in Webster’s beside the definition of “hospitality”) and her staff jump into high gear. They contact restaurants throughout the panhandle to see who has electricity and find success with Froehlich's Classic Corner in Steubenville. Barb and her staff arrange for a candlelit, catered dinner for 15-20, along with the glow of the emergency lights, in the hotel lounge area — all before the director arrives! J.J. Abrams and his team walk in and are immediately greeted with a wonderful meal. For backup, the producer asked the WVFO Director to find alternative lodging for the group in case the electricity remained off. After an hour of frantic phone calls to hotels between Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Steubenville, and Newell as well as calls to power company personnel, power was restored at 11:00 pm. It was an amazing evening — one of those key moments when you know something special is in motion.
08/09/10: It's official! Paramount Pictures has chosen West Virginia, and particularly the Weirton region, for filming "Super 8" (then known as working titles of Darlings and sometimes Wickham).
08/11-13/10: WVFO in Hancock County assisting with continued scouting of various locations as well as attending meetings with city and other officials about issues involving pyrotechnics, among other things.
08/16-20/10: Production Office personnel and other crew members begin to trickle into the area to begin pre-production in earnest. The Extras Casting Director begins compiling enormous amounts of data for the hiring of local extras as well as a more extensive search for vehicles from the 1970s. Upon request of the newly arrived production personnel, the WVFO provides contact info for IATSE and Teamster locals as well as an extensive list of WV crew available for hire.
08/19/10: WVFO issues a press release announcing Paramount's selection of West Virginia for filming.
08/23-25/10: WVFO in Weirton for numerous meetings with producer and other production personnel as well as city, county, business and community leaders. Upon request, WVFO shares data it previously compiled of vendors and services around the state that may be useful for production personnel. More production personnel arrives, including the director of photography, the gaffer and key grip, as well as members of the visual effects department.
08/24/10: WVFO and WV State Tax Department officials meet with producer and production accounting personnel about particular details of the tax incentive program.
08/29-31/10: WVFO in Weirton to continue assisting with various details and to welcome arrival of large contingent of production personnel. Begin tracking down key contacts at various gas companies that have numerous lines running to an important location.
09/01-02/10: Director returns to area with more than three dozen key production personnel to conduct the "tech scout" – WVFO invited to participate. A tech scout involves the production team visiting every planned filming location site to determine the logistics of each with extensive diagrams and maps, ensuring clearance of locations (location releases, permits, etc.), mapping out where dozens of production vehicles will park, anticipated camera angles of each scene, and much more.
09/06-19/10: Production personnel continues arriving en masse.
09/19/10: WVFO attends Paramount's kick-off reception for all production personnel at the Fairfield Inn & Suites.
09/20/10: The first day of principal photography in West Virginia begins!
09/21-24/10: Filming continues.
09/27/10 – 10/01/10: Filming continues.
10/04-06/10: Filming continues.
10/06/10: Weirton Downtown Business Association invites WVFO Director to give presentation to its members about Paramount’s selection of Weirton for filming.
10/07-09/10: Filming continues.
10/11-12/10: Filming continues.
10/12/10: WVFO hosts dinner in Weirton for producers and other key production personnel with various business and education leaders to discuss future of the state’s film industry, with specific focus on business and workforce development issues.
10/13/10: The Weirton-Wellsburg Credit Union invites WVFO Director to give presentation to its members about Paramount’s selection of Weirton for filming.
10/13-16/10: Filming continues.
10/17/10: Last day of filming in West Virginia, but director and small production team to return in early February for pick-up shots that include winter weather conditions. Key production personnel leave for Los Angeles for continued filming through mid-December.
11/19/10: Remaining production personnel leave Weirton.
12/16-17/10: Last day of filming in Los Angeles region.
02/01-02/11: Director and small contingent of production personnel return to Weirton for pick-up shots that include winter weather conditions.
06/09/11: Weirton area special advance screening of "Super 8" at Carmike Cinemas, Fort Steuben Mall, Steubenville, Ohio.
06/10/11: Official theatrical release!
The list of persons who assisted the WVFO in helping make the filming of “Super 8” in West Virginia a reality is long. Here, we express our deep gratitude to many of the businesses, organizations and agencies that provided an amazing amount of support to the WVFO: