Less than a year after its development, a production company born out of a partnership formed during filming of a locally-produced movie is finding success, a fact that company officials say is both humbling and gratifying.
Not only is Tobacco Road Productions, based in Clinton, assisting a number of local and area government and non-profit agencies tell their story through high-definition video, its team is gearing up to produce a reality show in early 2017.
“It’s been an amazing year thanks to a lot of good people in Sampson County and beyond,” said TRP President Monty Hobbs, who served as line producer on the movie “Tarnished Notes,” which was filmed in Sampson last year.
“People have been so receptive to our ideas, and they have been willing to give us a chance. We’ve already made magical partnerships.”
Among those partnerships is a teaming up with Clinton City Schools to produce a number of videos that highlight the educational system, its schools, its faculty, its students and its programs.
A three-minute overview of the system was aired during the opening day assembly for Clinton City back in August and won rave reviews from all those in attendance, and productions is currently under way for five more videos highlighting each of the system’s schools.
“Clinton City was our first partnership,” Hobbs said, “and it has been a good one. “We appreciate the system’s confidence in us. They took a chance on us and I hope they’ve been pleased they did. We certainly have enjoyed working with the school system to tell their remarkable stories.”
Superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount said he was excited about the new communication avenue.
“Our partnership with Tobacco Road Productions has provided us with an opportunity to share our message with a larger audience,” Blount noted. “Our videos are part of our communication plan to share the great things happening in our school system.”
TRP is also working with the Clinton Police Department to complete a recruitment video Police Chief Jay Tilley hopes will help attract the best and the brightest law enforcement officers to his team.
“We’ve just begun the process,” Tilley said, “but I believe this will help us deliver a strong message about the kind of police force we have, the kind of city we have … we want to show we are small town proud, using the video to show what a unique, special department we have. Our hope is that this video will entice others to come here.”
Even as TRP completes work for the Police Department and school system, its team is branching out into the medical and nonprofit fields, with work already under way on a second production for Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro and development beginning on a series of videos for the United Way of Sampson County.
“We have several productions under way right now, with hopes of picking up a few more as we enter into 2017,” Hobbs said. “We are enjoying these partnerships and the creative ways we are telling these stories, and we are eager to work with more and more people, meeting whatever communication need they might have.”
Ryan Risley of Digital Garden Media in Wilmington, a Telly Award winner, rounds out the TRP team which includes Hobbs and Tarnished Notes co-producer and author Sherry Matthews, along with a silent partner.
Hobbs said the team, particularly he and Risley, are always on the go. Most recently Hobbs was in Chicago with Luke Perry and the entire cast of Beverly Hills 90210, as well as Micheal Gross of Family Ties.
“TRP may be settled in a small town in the south,” Hobbs said, “but the reach spans the United States.”
With remote offices in Wilmington, which Hobbs and Risley head up, as well the Clinton home base which Matthews attends, the production company is working to expand an already growing business.
“I was just in a meeting last week with NASCAR’s Robbie Gordon, and not long ago I was with country music star Eddie Raven, and we are just getting started in development talks with a Lizard Lick launch. We can’t comment to much about things but we are very pleased with the progress of everything at this point.”
Dabbling in reality
While recruitment, training and communication videos are TRP’s bread and butter, adding to the production arsenal has always been the plan. A reality show, Hobbs said, seemed to fit the bill.
While company officials, which include Hobbs, Sherry Matthews, co-producer of Tarnished Notes and a silent partner, aren’t quite ready to lift the curtain on the reality show’s name and premise, Hobbs and Matthews both acknowledge that they believe it has “hit potential.”
“Let’s just say, this reality show will pique a lot of interest right off the bat,” Matthews said. “It’s home grown, high octane and filled with interesting characters, and I honestly believe it will have a following.”
Hobbs agrees. “We’ve already filmed several promos and I can tell you, people are going to love it, especially when they learn who we have already signed to appear in the show with several locally recognizable names.
The show is based on a Sampson County native, and will feature such well-know individuals as Ron Shirley of “Lizard Lick” fame and Byron Cherry with the ever-popular Dukes of Hazzard.
“I can’t say any more,” Hobbs said, “except maybe that Ron has already been down and filmed some of the promos for us. But that’s it, all I can say.”
Filming in earnest begins in February, and an announcement of the show’s title and premise are just around the corner.
“It won’t be too long before we can make it all public,” Hobbs promised. “I can tell you this much, it’s a burning question.”