FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WV News) — Earlier this month, production started in Marion County on the second of five films set to air on Lifetime — another step toward what local producers hope will become a thriving film industry in the region and state.
Brothers Bob and Jeff Tinnell, Marion County natives, are working as producers on the new film, tentatively titled “A Rose for Her Grave,” which has been shooting at several locations in and around Fairmont for the past two weeks.
Bob Tinnell, who directed 2018’s “Feast of the Seven Fishes” — which was partially filmed in Fairmont and Rivesville — said he’s deeply appreciative to be able to bring the film industry back to his home county.
“A lot of it for me, as a kid who dreamt about getting to do this, is this landscape is the landscape of a lot of the stories I created,” Bob Tinnell said. “It’s where I first made little 8mm movies, and it would have been inconceivable (to do these productions). But now I’d turn the question around. Why not here, as opposed to Oklahoma or Vancouver? It’s gorgeous. We have great architecture and a great variety of landscapes, and we can sell that we’re a lot of different places in the country or world.”
Jeff Tinnell said several factors have played into making West Virginia a more attractive location for film productions. For one, the Legislature recently passed a film tax credit that makes West Virginia a more desirable place to shoot.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic — and the travel restrictions that came with it — forced many production companies and filmmakers to look at different places within the United States to shoot. He said it seems that now the pieces are falling into place to allow West Virginia to capitalize on a new opportunity.
“Finally, it felt like everything lined up for us to make it be our turn,” Jeff said. “The ease of working here makes it a lot easier, and it’s fun to build a business and watch it take off. … We’re not working here to take advantage of here. We’re trying to take it to where it allows us to develop these opportunities. Lifetime’s whole thing is that they want hospitals, courthouses and leafy, suburban streets. That’s all here, so it enables us to [film] that here. …
“There’s a real ease of working here, which helps a lot, and you’re kind of off the radar a little bit, which makes it nice, as well. It’s not beaten down, like being in Los Angeles. … (West Virginia) has had an extractive economy for years, and we’re not trying to take stuff from here. We’re trying to get things and put stuff back into it.”
He added that those in the 56-member crew who are from out of state enjoy being here, and the Tinnells are more than happy to bring in more productions if they’re able.
“It’s great to hear people come here from Los Angeles or New York and talk about how great the people are,” Jeff Tinnell said. “Their whole perception of the area is very different. They like it. It’s been great for us.”
During a Fairmont City Council meeting last week, the brothers spoke to city officials about their goals while filming in Marion County. They said that each project is predicted to bring in between $300,000 and $350,000 to the county, and that they want to be able to hire as many locals — caterers, security, drivers, costumers and more — as they can.
“We have to make sure that we make the constituents of West Virginia understand how we operate so that everybody has a good experience,” Bob Tinnell said. “To local people, it seems (the film industry) is like, ‘How is that something we can have here?’ What I hope is that, within a couple of years, they’re saying, ‘How can we fight to keep this here? What can we do?’”
Although no release date has been cemented for any of the five movies, the Tinnells expect them to start airing on Lifetime in early 2023.