For much of the 1970s, Grey Hodges was managing director of Jefferson Productions.

Depts | Jefferson Productions

Jefferson Productions Makes the Entire Charlotte Scene

Billboard, June 12, 1981

By Edith Simms

CHARLOTTE—Located midway between New York and Miami, Charlotte is highly regarded by people in the television commercial business. The reason is Jefferson Productions, a classy production house which prides itself less on its modern equipment—though it is unsurpassed—than on the quality of its work.

The facility sits on a tree-studded, 7-acre hill overlooking Charlotte from the west. It's a huge, handsome structure housing not only the production house but two radio stations (WBT and WBCY) and a tv station (WBTV) affiliated with the Jefferson-Pilot Broadcasting Company, as is Jefferson Productions.

"Recently," says Operations Manager Reno Bailey, "we did a Wheaties commercial where we had taped action footage as backgrounds. We had our talent skiing at Vail, rafting on the Colorado River, horseback riding in the Rockies and watching a World Series game—without ever leaving the studio—and you couldn't discern that they weren't actually at all these places."

Not that Jefferson Productions is bound to its studios. It has "shot" in Europe, Canada and the West Indies, and in almost every state in the union. One series of commercials, done at multiple sites around the country, was budgeted in excess of $400,000. Budgets range downward from this astronomical figure to about $8,000, but—regardless of the budget—the quality remains uniformly superior.

Earlier this year, Jefferson Productions shot an Arizona desert scene-30 miles from Charlotte in Clover, South Carolina, in an open-pit lithium mine. "It was so realistic," states Bailey, "that it was impossible to tell that the commercial was not done on location in the far west." I can vouch for that since I saw their reels.

"This is one of our great strengths," he says. "We have a rich variety of resources—both terrain and people, plus an ideal climate. We are only two hours from the mountains and less than four from the ocean. We have available to us tall mountains, clear-water streams, freshwater lakes, salt water, skyscraper shots—almost anything required—practically in our own back yard."

Dwiggins agrees, and says the biggest asset is the attitude of the region. "People, including our own professional staff, are innately friendly. The atmosphere here is a lot more relaxed than in a larger city. Too, it's easy to shoot here—the logistics of getting to location, for example. And acquiring locations is comparatively inexpensive. We have long green seasons, an amazingly largetalent pool for a city this size, talent agencies that are aggressive and continue to promote very, very hard."

Advertisers and agencies have long since discovered this production oasis in North Carolina—as have the three commercial networks. Jefferson Productions has produced television commercials, for regional and national use, for Ford, Chrysler, Jaguar, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Alfa-Romeo, Sure, Safeguard, Coca-Cola, Barq's, Life of Georgia, McDonald's, NAPA, The Phil Donahue Show, Mike Douglas and Time-Life Television, among scores of others.

Sports events include: The 1976 Montreal Olympics and the 1980 Winter Olympics for ABC... Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA basketball... U.S. Open, PGA, LPGA, Masters and Ryder Cup Golf ... NCAA Football.. . ABC Monday Night Baseball . . . NASL Soccer.. . Road Atlanta Road Race...professional boxing... NASCAR Motor Racing and Grand Prix Tennis, among others.

To this quantity is added the Jefferson Productions staple—quality, as evidenced by the national recognition its efforts have received. The company's quarters are lined with awards: Clio's . Emmy's . The Advertising Club... The One Show... The Art. Director's Club Annual Awards for Excellence, and numbers of local, state and regional plaques and trophies.

Jefferson Productions, when it began in 1962, was one of only a few video production houses in the nation. Film followed as the decade turned, with the company building a film unit in 1970. Four years later, its film studio complex was completed. "Now," says Bailey, "we shoot about half-and-half—half tape and half film. Some clients require film, others prefer tape. To us, it really doesn't make any difference. Our people have the same exacting requirements for excellence, no matter which is used."

A permanent staff of 40 professionals handles the expanding Jefferson Productions business. Free-lancers are drawn as needed from the fertile market of creative people available. "We have never encountered a problem in meeting a client's talent needs," says Dwiggins. "Some of our customers marvel that there is so much first-rate talent locally—just a phone call away."

The main focus of Jefferson Productions continues to be commercial production and sports events, but the company is rapidly expanding into the industrial market, doing motivational, sales, corporate image and the like for companies such as Federal Express, Coca-Cola, Ford, General Motors and IBM.

In addition to Jefferson Productions' equipment and people, which rate at the very top in any objective comparison, Dwiggins credits a large part of his firm's success to "our parent company. Jefferson-Pilot Broadcasting Company provided us our tradition, our roots if you will, when we first began. Since the beginning of the company, which started with WBT radio in 1922, a philosophy of integrity and service has permeated the company. We realize that all companies are in the service business, whether they realize it or not. We do realize it. We also realize that, without integrity, there is nothing. It may sound holier-than-thou, but our integrity is the bedrock on which we were built and from which we operate."

The capital support of the broadcast company, too, is a major asset to Jefferson Productions. As operations Manager Reno Bailey puts it, "How many companies do you know which, on the spur of the moment, could put together a $400,000 shoot? Not many, and that's one of our strengths—the financial strength of our parent company."

Dwiggins points out that Jefferson Productions also has "unbelievable back-up support from the broadcast company staff officers. We have a planning department, a personnel department, a public affairs department and a financial department—all headed by vice presidents of the broadcast company—which provide countless services to us, which free us of these kinds of necessary duties to focus on production, and which puts us in an enviable competitive position."

Reprinted from The Jeffcaster, 1981.