Throwing Rocks at Big Stone Gap

Does this stink, or what? The little town of Big Stone Gap in the heart of Virginia’s Appalachian coalfields finally has a shot at national recognition. New Yorker Adriana Trigiani, who grew up in the old coal mining town, has written a series of novels set there. And now, Storefront Pictures wants to make a movie, “Big Stone Gap,” which Trigiani would direct. And where will the movie be filmed?

South Carolina!

Explains the “Film Big Stone Gap in the Gap” website:

Production developments could shift the filming to another state, except for the shooting of a few local scenes. The problem centers around generous financial incentives offered by the state of South Carolina, which is aggressively seeking to expand its attraction as a site for film making, versus modest incentives offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Virginia Film Office.

A flurry of publicity occurred about a year ago — and I missed it. No one in the Richmond media appears to have picked up on it. At the beginning of the year, coalfield politicians were mobilizing to raise money to best South Carolina’s offer. The Tobacco Commission approved a $300,000 grant, and the Wise County board of supervisors beseeched the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority to kick in another $500,000. Del. Brian Moran, D-Alexandria, promised to do what he could to help.

Big Stone Gap is unique. I have vivid memories of the place, which I drove through often during my stint covering the coalfields for the Roanoke Times. I can’t imagine that any site in South Carolina would do it justice. But, then, I’m not really sure that subsidizing the film production to the tune of $1 million is the best way to invest scarce economic development dollars for the coalfield region.

Is anyone up to speed on this project? Where does it stand?

By the way, Big Hollywood movie producers, whatever happened to artistic integrity?

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8 responses to “Throwing Rocks at Big Stone Gap”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    simple calculation – are you better off with or without them?

    pays your money and make your choices.

    Personally one stinkin film is not worth giving away the store and if someone else wants to .. go for it.

    but HEY.. turn about is fair play – some of the scenes from Dirty Dancing.. obstenibly in Penn/NY.. were shot in Va… so THERE!

    Permanent jobs.. not that’s another critter.

    I’d like to see Big Stone Gap put out a RFP for new companies.. and see what happens…

    and when I say RFP, I do mean RFP, companies could say .. exactly what BSG would need to do to attract a company.

    Brutal – yes… get the truth out – and then let BSG and/or the State of Va LEARN from the experience.

    Yes.. the manufacturing jobs are not as ubiqutous as they used to be – but some still exist and so do other jobs… including the ones that are outsourced.

    Why not have Virginia embark on an entreprenurial journey for places like BSG.

    From my point of view.. I’d much rather know that my taxes for economic development are, in fact, targetted per real-world feedback from those companies that do have jobs.

    And if the answer is that BSG does not have. .and probably never will the environment that companies want – then learn from that also – and realize that the kids in BSG must 1. get an excellent education and 2. go to NoVa for a job.

    Some might think that we have to pay “bribes” to attact businesses.

    I say.. it’s not about bribes, it’s about whether or not you really are going to get in the game.. or just whine from the sidelines.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    If we can outsource to India, why not Big Stone Gap?

    It is pretty crappy though, it would be like filming Jaws on Nantucket.


  3. Groveton Avatar

    Depends on the type of outsourcing but …

    I think Big Stone Gap has about 4,500 people. Wise County has about 40,000.

    That’s a tough outsourcing location.

    Just not enough people from which to draw.

    If a company wanted to look at outsourcing in SW Virginia – Roanoke, Salem, Balcksburg area would be a better choice.

    Far more people.

    Top notch university.

    Definitely would cost more but there are cheaper places than Big Stone Gap (India, China and Vietnam for example).

    And … median family income:

    Wise County – $32,898
    Roanoke County – $56,450
    Blacksburg – $51,810
    Spotsylvania – $62,422
    Fairfax – $92,146
    Northampton – $35,034
    Accomack – $36,763

    Northampton and Accomack represent a real possibility for outsourcing. Cheap. Limited population but a reasonable chance of building bayside communities for the “creative class”.

    Virginia’s Eastern Shore is poor while Maryland’s Eastern Shore is middle – wealthy trending to wealthy. Why?

    If I wanted to get the “creative class” to a poor part of Virginia, I’d start at the eastern shore.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Reminds me of the movie “Cinderella Liberty” back in the 1970s. When Hollywood wanted to film a version of the anti-Navy diatribe novel, they rejected Norfolk, where the novel was based in favor of the Seattle area. Why? Seattle was deemed more “nautical” looking.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Artistic integrity. Hollywood. What laugh. Be thankful they aren’t going to CGI the mountains in (maybe they are.) Considering how often the state capitol is used to pass for Washington, we can’t be too picky about location fraud….

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    “Virginia’s Eastern Shore is poor while Maryland’s Eastern Shore is middle – wealthy trending to wealthy. Why?”

    I’d suggest one reason is the difference in personal property tax on boats. The Maryland side is teeming with marina, restaurant and resort complexes, but on the VA side, almost nothing. Same for the Potomac River.

    It can cost several thousand dollars a year more to own a boat in Virginia.


  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: ..At 11:47 PM, Groveton said…

    … named some things that would need to be done.. to attract business…

    I would like to see Virginia consult the major business/industries and ask what it would take… to put Va localities “in the game”

    .. and then for the state to develop a strategic plan based on this feedback..

    .. and it could well be.. that Wise and BSG will never be big enough.. but jobs for those folks in Roanoke rather than NoVa would be a GOOD THING to shoot for.. and of course.. having GOOD Community Colleges to prepare SW Va Kids so that they could actually get those jobs….

    and I suspect.. that the folks in NoVA who are getting ripped off – would be more inclined to support some of their tax dollars going for EFFECTIVE efforts to develop “more places” .. in Va.. other than NoVa.

    A first start is to honestly receive feedback from businesses.. especially the kind along the lines of ..

    “there is no way in hell, we’d locate there…. BECAUSE”

    … and then pay attention…and point your ED plan in that direction.

  8. Just an update, now its going to be in NY

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