Almost five years ago, the state's first TV series was filmed in Charleston. Instead of success and critical kudos, the legacy of "Palmetto Pointe" became bankruptcy, unpaid bills and snickering headlines such as "Palmetto Pointeless."
The early buzz was that the show was in line to become the next teen hit. In the end, the series imploded with ratings so low they barely registered.
Three key players in the midst of the meltdown said that it taught them lessons about the entertainment world and that they've learned the value of persistence in show business and in life.
"The suffering makes you stronger, and you've got to be really strong in this business because there's a ton of reasons to quit every day," said Justin Nathanson, who was lead editor on "Palmetto Pointe."
Nathanson said he is still owed $5,900 for his "Palmetto Pointe" work. He moved on to start a North Charleston-based company that produces commercials. He also has plans for several TV shows, including a series he described as a dark comedy based on his "Palmetto Pointe" experience that he hopes to film at the former Charleston Naval Base. "What's The Pointe?" or "The Pointe" are working titles.
As for his back pay, Nathanson said,
"I'm never going to see it. I don't know who to go after or what. There are plenty of people owed a lot of money, a lot more than me."
John Kearns Jr., an executive producer of the ill-fated series, is focused on a career as a cinematographer in Los Angeles. He also offers his services as a production consultant and rents film lighting gear.
The problem with "Palmetto Pointe," Kearns said, was there was no one person in charge of the show. He estimated that about $1.6 million was spent on "Palmetto Pointe" before it folded after filming seven episodes. "Legally our debt has been closed because of bankruptcy," Kearns said.
Kearns' advice to would-be filmmakers? "Make sure that you have all of the money in the bank before you begin shooting," he said. After "Palmetto Pointe," he thought about whether he wanted to stay in show business. Kearns was 26 years old at the time. "It doesn't matter how many times you fall. Always get back up and try again," he said.
Tim Woodward Jr. of Georgetown was a lead actor on "Palmetto Pointe." At the time, he was 21 years old and just learning the ropes of his craft. Woodward said he eventually realized he was in over his head but that it was difficult to swallow his pride and admit he wasn't ready to be a TV series actor. He was being paid a lot of attention, and the situation had gone to his head.
Today, Woodward is an actor living in Wilmington, N.C. "Nobody walked away with their last pay check. I'm sad that it crashed the way that it did. We really thought that the show was going to be a success," he said.
"I was absolutely terrible back then. Everybody went in with the best of intentions. After 'Palmetto Pointe,' I felt like I had a lot of stuff to learn," he said.
But Woodward kept learning. He said that he is scheduled to appear in the show "Hollywood East" this Sunday on the MavTV network. "You can either fall down and quit or get back up and try to do it again and again," he said.
Nathanson was 30 years old when he arrived in town for "Palmetto Pointe" fresh from working as an editor on two HBO specials. He wanted to get away from New York and Los Angeles. He Googled the best place in America to live and found Charleston. He was told he would be working on a program here that would be seen in 90 million homes.
"I was excited that I could have this great way of life down here. I really liked Charleston. I loved the beach. I loved the warm weather," he said.
He was provided with $80,000 worth of editing equipment and staff. After seeing the first episode, doubts began to creep in. The sound was awful, he said. Still, he remained optimistic. "I saw it as a challenge," he said.
He spent 500 hours trying to improve the first show but despite his best efforts Nathanson couldn't put a shine on the amateurish acting. The premiere show landed on i: Independent Television with a thud. The series about five high school students coming of age was quickly in trouble. Seven episodes were filmed but the final two never aired.
"One day I went to work and there was a padlock on the door," Nathanson said.
Nathanson went on to start The Cut Co. on the old Navy base. Most of his business has been commercial advertising, but he has plans to produce TV shows also.
"I'd love to build a sound stage right here. I really want to make this work in Charleston," he said.
Originally, "Palmetto Pointe" was to be filmed in North Carolina but new state incentives helped lure the production to South Carolina. Since the failed "Palmetto Pointe," Charleston landed a TV success, "Army Wives," which debuts its fourth season on the Lifetime network on April 11.