Pharrell Williams Sees New Media Industry for Virginia

Economic Development Initiative to Promote Content Manufacturing

Monday, June 25, 2018

​Pharrell Williams and wife Helen hosted more than 70 state and regional leaders to discuss Virginia's opportunities to capitalize on the expanding global demand for content and media technology. Williams — a globally-acclaimed Virginia-born musician, producer and entrepreneur — seeks to bring specific transformative business opportunities to the Commonwealth.

"We are on the map, but now it's time to put our rich landscape, our people and their passion to work to make the Commonwealth a global destination," said Williams. "This is my mission for Virginia, and I am not alone in seeing the vastness of this opportunity."

Williams also met with Governor Northam and delivered a letter from several major studios and media companies expressing interest in Virginia opportunities. Companies included Netflix, Illumination Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Endeavor and 20th Century Fox.

Williams co-produced the Oscar-nominated film, "Hidden Figures," the true story of three female mathematicians from Virginia whose computations enabled NASA and John Glenn to orbit the earth and return safely. "When I visited the set, I could sense the energy. There was so much vibrant, productive enthusiasm being harnessed by the team to tell an important story. I saw a beautiful cross section of people — young, old and diverse. I met kids fresh out of film school getting their start. There were single moms providing for their young families. Their focus and teamwork and often unspoken language felt like a glimpse into a beautiful, collaborative future workplace. It's clear to me that this generation is passionate about a new type of manufacturing for the modern era. This generation manufactures content, and it's just as noble as anything before it. Their final product informs, inspires, motivates and promotes empathy. But the work itself is powerful enough to forever shift the economic trajectory of an entire state. As I stood on set among all of this positivity and productive energy, I asked myself: Why were we telling a Hampton Roads' story in Atlanta?"

"These are the types of jobs in advanced manufacturing and technology that we want to grow in Virginia," said Virginia Beach Economic Development Director Warren D. Harris. "These jobs create transferable skills into defense, medical, A.I. and autonomous technology."

Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office said, "The dream of every film office is for a successful entertainment entrepreneur to leverage his or her global success and bring opportunity back home. We share, and are grateful for, Pharrell's vision for the winning role Virginia can play in the innovative and lucrative new media and content manufacturing sector."

The content manufacturing industry includes film, television and new media production. The industry serves the rapidly-growing global demand for content across multiple technology and media platforms. As American manufacturing industries have moved off-shore, and high-wage, middle-class jobs become harder to find, competition to attract this lucrative content manufacturing industry is fierce. Currently 34 states have tax credit or grant programs to recruit film production.

In order for this initiative to move forward, the Commonwealth would need to enact favorable business and tax policies common in this industry.

About Virginia Film Industry
In 2016, Virginia's production industry had a total economic impact of $696.8 million, provided 4,287 high-paying, full-time equivalent jobs to Virginians and contributed $27.1 million in state tax revenue. Virginia created a modest film tax credit program in 2011. Every $1 Virginia has invested in content incentives has returned $11 to Virginia's economy — plus significant tourism added-value deliverables.

Some recent Virginia-filmed projects include:

Larger features/series:

Wonder Woman 1984 (currently filming); Homeland (Season 7); Turn: Washington's Spies; Mercy Street; Loving; Big Stone Gap; Captain Phillips; Lincoln; John Adams; A Haunting (TV show; and Legends and Lies (TV show)

Sampling of indies:

All the Animals Come Out At Night (Filmed in Hampton Roads, wrapped, distribution plan not yet announced); Affairs of State (filmed in Hampton Roads, in theaters now); Art Show Bingo (Hampton Roads); Tri; Permanent; Juanita; Burning Sands; By the Grace of Bob; and Imperium 

The mission of the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development is to attract and retain national and international businesses to stimulate capital investment and create jobs. The Department of Economic Development received re-accreditation through the International Economic Development Council in 2016 and is one of only 50 economic development organizations in the world to have this recognition. Virginia Beach was named America's #1 best big city to live in by wallethub.com. For more information, visit www.yesvirginiabeach.com.

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Photo: Virginia Film Office Director Andy Edmunds and Pharrell Williams

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