MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The majority of settings for a television series titled “The American West,” which is set to air in June, might appear familiar to tri-county residents since most of the filming took place in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
The premier of AMC’s 8-part series “The American West,” which spans the years of 1865 and 1890 in the aftermath of the Civil War, will air June 11 at 10 p.m.
Laura Gassler, Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s executive director, said there have been six filmings in Berkeley County over the past three years, and those filmings helped the area economy.
“Basically, it’s an economic boost to the area because it’s money coming in from outside the area that is going to stay in West Virginia,” Gassler said in a Monday telephone interview. “When the (film) crew is here, they become part of the community. It’s just another form of economic development that you don’t think of.”
Gassler explained that members of the film crew eat locally, stay locally, and spend money in other ways throughout the area, which gives the Eastern Panhandle a lift. Most notably, Gassler said there have been approximately 10,000 hotel rooms booked in Berkeley County over the past three years because of filming taking place in the area.
Pam Haynes, director of the West Virginia film office, said the Eastern Panhandle area was picked for the filming of the series for a variety of reasons.
“The diversity of locations in the area allowed the crew to find places for these types of period pieces,” Haynes said in a Monday telephone interview. “Another predominant reason was our tax incentive program, which is designed to encourage the hiring of West Virginia labor.”
The film tax credit program was enacted by the legislature in 2007, and the program contains a statute that encourages the hiring of West Virginia’s workforce.
Haynes also echoed Gassler’s words pertaining to economic development.
“Not only (is the crew) earning wages in West Virginia, they’re spending their money locally as well,” Haynes said. “It is definitely a way to assist the economy because these film companies are spending money immediately on lodging, food, vehicle rentals and other things.”
Some of the locations used during filming in Berkeley and Jefferson counties include the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport in Martinsburg, the Essroc concrete facility in Martinsburg, a private residence in Shenandoah Junction, the Martinsburg Roundhouse, the Martinsburg Art Center, Bellevue in Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry Visitors Center, a private residence in Charles Town and Peacemaker National Training Center in Gerrardstown.
Haynes said filming taking place in West Virginia helps increase the state’s visibility and potential.
“In the case of this particular series, putting West Virginia locations on a big screen or a little screen showcases the fact that we’re a viable location for filming and that we have what it takes to make these types of productions successful,” Haynes said. “It sends a message to the film industry that productions of any level can occur here.”
The television series will tell stories of the transformation of the United States in the wake of the Civil War, as well as feature anecdotes of Western legends like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull.
Furthermore, the series will include interviews with the stars of classic Western films such as Robert Redford, James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Harmon and Ed Harris.
Robert Redford, Laura Michalchyshyn and Stephen David worked as producers for the series.
Emmy Award-winning David of Stephen David Entertainment has worked with the West Virginia film office for the past four years, and the Eastern Panhandle has particularly benefited from the economic impact from the partnership, according to Haynes.
The series also used Prickett’s Fort State Park in Marion County for parts of the filming.
For more information on the series, visit amc.com/shows/the-american-west.
Staff writer Emily Daniels can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or twitter.com/emilykdaniels.