Movies N Charleston SC

Actress Mena Suvari, a former Charleston resident, will star in a new television series,Actress Mena Suvari, a former Charleston resident, will star in a new television series, "South of Hell." She plays a possessed demon hunter in the paranormal thriller. file/Rick Rycroft/ap

Is this a sign of things to come?

Another television series has begun shooting in the Charleston area, this one called "South of Hell, " a paranormal thriller starring Mena Suvari, a former Charleston resident and Ashley Hall School alumna.

Suvari, who catapulted to fame when she appeared in the 1999 feature film "American Beauty, " plays Maria, a demon hunter possessed by her own special monster, Abigail.

It's a dangerous way to make a buck, this hunting for demons, and Maria discovers that the more successful she is exorcising evil from others, the more imperiled she becomes. Evil, it turns out, is good fiend food.

The show is produced for WEtv by horror veterans Jason Blum ("Oculus, " "Ouija") and Eli Roth ("Hostel, " "Cabin Fever"). Mostly it's being shot at the North Charleston soundstage that was all decked out by CBS for its recently cancelled show "Reckless." But the "South of Hell" people have been South of Broad a couple of times, according to Scott Watson, director of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs, which is responsible for film permits and some logistics management.

The crew got started with the first of eight episodes in late October, spending time at the Battery and on Montagu Street, and pumping fake fog onto the cobblestones of Chalmers Street one night.

"But they're not planning to be downtown with the frequency that 'Reckless' was, " Watson said. The city's only issued four days of location permits so far. It's probably easier to shoot demons in the dark indoors. That might be why the Hellsters recently occupied the abandoned Charleston Naval Hospital and spent a while behind bars at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center. It's all so spooky!

It's also good for the local economy, Watson said. Already, hotel rooms have been booked, short-term leases signed, restaurants frequented.

"It's great for the state, " said S.C. Film Commission manager Dan Rogers. "When you've got a structure that's already outfitted for that - and we've got two in town (Studio Charleston in West Ashley and SOH Productions/Sonar Studios in North Charleston) - that only offers filmmakers choices and gives them the comfort level that this has been done before."

It's a lot easier for a film production team when it's not starting from scratch, Rogers said.

The state's film incentives help. South Carolina offers cash to qualified film productions in the form of wage and supplier rebates (when state residents and providers of goods and services are employed), as well as tax exemptions and fee waivers for location shooting on state properties.

Rogers provided a frame of reference. One season of "Reckless, " 13 episodes, cost the state about $7.5 million. In exchange, the "Reckless" project generated nearly $18 million in direct spending (17, 300 hotel room nights, 861 job opportunities, 835 local suppliers used).

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