Charleston goes Hollywood with permanent film studio

Harald Galinski stands in the hangar at his movie studio West of the Ashley on Tuesday. The so called hangar has a 40-foot ceiling and is 20,000-square-feet. The whole facility is 95,000 square feet, with 70,000 square feet dedicated to producing movies.

When Harald Galinski arrived in Charleston in 2008 with producers to film "Dear John," they had to search for a facility that would serve as a hub for stage settings and production offices.

They decided on a nearly 100,000-square-foot vacant warehouse in West Ashley, but they had to absorb the upfront costs of setting it up with telephones, electricity, water and retrofits to make it work.

When filming ended, so did everything that went into transforming the facility on Dobbin Road, off Savannah Highway.

Galinski helped out with another, much smaller production in 2010 and they had to go through all the set-up costs again at the same building. By then, though, he had moved to Daniel Island and called Charleston home, but he itched to set up a permanent film studio in Charleston.

"That has been a missing link in the production world here," Galinski said. "Producers love Charleston. It's one of the most wanted places in the Southeast, but it's hard for a bigger production to go to a state that doesn't have a facility in place."

On May 12, Galinski will raise the curtain on the former warehouse as Studio Charleston, a film production facility he will own.

The $3.7 million investment will include a studio with offices, copy center, high-tech conference room, dedicated production areas and moveable walls.

It also will include a major attribute that film studios look for -- high ceilings. The rear portion of the building includes what Galinski calls the hangar because the nearly 20,000-square-foot studio has a 40-foot ceiling.

"We will be available for everything from a small photo shoot to a full-scale production," he said.

Galinski, the new studio manager, said people in the industry called him crazy because they didn't know if South Carolina lawmakers would renew film incentives each year.

"The incentive issue is in almost every state," he said.

It becomes political because legislators look at film jobs as part-time, but in the end they are jobs and the film industry pumps money into the local economy, Galinski said.

He will start with five employees at the new studio, but he plans to hire more as production merits.

When "Dear John" was filmed here, they hired 250 people and about 200 of them were local, he said.

"We plan to bring as many jobs as possible," Galinski said.