By Meghan Daniel for The Island Eye News
Although it carries the name of the barrier islands that run along approximately 200 miles of the North Carolina coast, the 2020 Netflix series “Outer Banks” is unmistakably a product of South Carolina’s scenery. Sullivan’s Islanders, in particular, can spot landmarks of their quaint beach town in the first season, which aired earlier this year, and can expect to see more of the island in season two.
The show’s cast and crew came to town in the summer of 2019 after working with Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke, Business Licensing and Permit Technician Jessi Gress and others to acquire a filming permit and settle permit fees. Before issuing a permit, Benke, Gress and other town officials reviewed and adjusted the plan submitted by Thomas Parris, the location manager for seasons one and two of “Outer Banks.” The final OK for filming came from coordinated efforts between Benke and Gress.
Sullivan’s Island Mayor Pat O’Neil explained that the permit fees associated with the filming process are used “to partly compensate the town for the impact of filming activity, which can often involve large crews and casts and nighttime shoots. The fees are based on the level of impact and the number of days [of filming]. We set those current fees several years ago, raising them from an earlier level. There was some opposition from a few people in the Charleston area who are in the industry, but, as you can see from “Outer Banks,” it hasn’t blocked industry interest in the many interesting locations we have on the island.”
Although not a hub for the film industry, the island has welcomed various production casts and crews over the past 25 to 30 years, Benke estimated. O’Neil named “Dear John,” “Don’t Tell Her It’s Me,” “Army Wives” and “Southern Charm” as a few filming productions that have used Sullivan’s Island as a scenic backdrop.
Benke cited Breach Inlet, the mound at Stith Park, Battery Gadsden and several private residences on the island as local landmarks that appear in scenes of the first season of “Outer Banks.”
While there are certainly financial benefits that are incurred through the filming of shows like “Outer Banks,” such as permit fee revenue and compensation for private property owners, O’Neil asserted that, in collaborating with production crews, town officials “always emphasize … that their activity must not impinge on our residents’ peace and quiet.”
“We are a fortunate in that we really have no need to promote the town via ‘product placement’ in films, TV, etc.,” he added.
Still, there is inevitably a certain level of excitement among residents of and visitors to the island that surrounds the filming process in a small community such as Sullivan’s Island.
“Filming allows the Island residents to get an up-close perspective of how films are made,” Benke said.
Benke explained that the extent to which Sullivan’s Island will continue to serve as a set for “Outer Banks” filming is currently unknown; he deals with the Netflix filming team on a permit by permit basis. However, since they’ve stayed in the area to film season two, it’s clear that this part of the Lowcountry is well-suited to the vision of the show’s writers and producers.