Local filmmakers aim to turn region into movie-making magnet

Jessica Fuller • Jan 7, 2019 at 12:20 PM

When it comes to movies, local filmmakers say our region could be a gold mine. 

That was what Erik Kitchens had in mind when he launched his production company “30 Daze Productions” about a year ago. Along with the creativity from other professionals in the area like photographer Chasity Thompson and writer Angela Caito, the company got to work on smaller projects like promotions for local businesses.

In the long term, the crew is working on a documentary dubbed “Subculture,” which Kitchens says will examine the culture surrounding Suboxone, a drug commonly used to help with narcotic addiction. Kitchens is a survivor of addiction himself, and painted that part about himself in the name of his production company. 

“I was allowing myself to become completely crippled by alcohol and prescription pill addiction, and got away from it, and couldn’t refocus myself,” he said. “I started taking pictures again, started getting back into video.” 

Making a documentary of that scale takes a lot of time, patience and work, so the crew decided to take a break to create a short film. “Driving Shame” will be the company’s first short indie film – a psychological thriller in which a young woman and her closest companion embark on a road trip to her hometown.

The movie stars local actors Sierra Ann Ford, Dominic Peterson, Lukas Burchfield and Graci Burkett and features filming locations in several Elizabethton hotspots like The Elizabethton Star, Watauga Lakeshore Resort and Doe River Inn Bed and Breakfast as well as several Johnson City locations including East Tennessee State University and Pennyman’s Diner.

Filming on the project wrapped last week, and Kitchens said the next few weeks will be full of editing for him and the team. Then, they’ll send the film off for a musical score, and Kitchens said the team hopes to have the film premiered at film festivals this year in the region and beyond – Kitchens said he’s got his eye on festivals in Nashville as well.

“Our focus is on our area more than anything,” Kitchens noted. “What we’re trying to do is say, ‘Look what we can do here in the Tri-Cities and our area and make it a magnet for the film industry.’” 

“It also helps increase business revenue for local business owners,” Caito added. “Every business that we go into, we’re trying to show what their business looks like. If larger filmmakers come into the area they hire local staff, local production companies, local sound people. They go to our local hotels to stay and for a feature film, they’re going to book for several months at a time. It’s a good way to increase revenue in the city or the whole region.”

Kitchens grew up on the west coast in a life surrounded by movies. His parents worked for the film industry, and he moved around to several large cities before settling in the Tri-Cities region 10 years ago. 

Moviemaking was something he said helped pull him out of his addiction and refocus his life. The further he got into it, the more he realized that the area is ripe for potential as far as filmmaking goes. 


 In Erwin, there’s a full-blown movie studio there (Primordic Studios),” he said. “That is hollywood right there. There’s enough talent in this region coupled with its natural beauty.” 


Keep up with 30 Daze Productions online at 30dazeproductions.com or on social media including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

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