Lights, camera, OBX!

By on December 3, 2023

Why showbiz likes this isolated sandbar

Every November, Dare County GIS (Geographic Informational Systems) releases a fun, interactive map in celebration of GIS Day to demonstrate allow users to create, manage and analyze the world around us by connecting the “what” to the “where.”

Last month, they released an “OBX Unscripted: A Pop Culture Journey” interactive map that gives users an opportunity to explore various locations along the Outer Banks that have appeared in various entertainment platforms such as movies, music, books and television.

Dare County GIS Analyst Kristen Stilson, who created the map, tells the Voice that while she did do some internet research, a large part of what she found came through talking with friends and co-workers. There were the popular examples that most people would be familiar with, but there were a few that surprised her.

The more widely known Outer Banks close-ups include the Andy Griffith lawyer series, Matlock, the 2008 film Nights in Rodanthe, Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, National Geographic’s Wicked Tuna reality fishing show, and the hit Netflix show The Outer Banks. Then there’s our claim to fame, the 2019 comedy/drama film Peanut Butter Falcon, co-written and directed by hometown hero Tyler Nilson.

“Out of everything on this map, this one, to me, shines far above the rest,” reads the blurb Stilson wrote on the map, referring to Peanut Butter Falcon. “Not only does it feel like home when you watch it, but it was written and directed by someone who calls this place home.”

But there are some brushes with fame that people may have not heard of, like the appearance of a hat from the now closed Outer Banks bar Mex-econos atop the head of musician Dave Grohl in a famous Nirvana picture. Grohl used to frequent the bar in the 90s and fill in for the door man. Then there’s the heavy metal band. Kill Devil Hill, featuring members from Pantera, Black Sabbath, Ratt, and Moth, whose music features tales of pirates, ships and seas.

One image that surprised Stilson was a picture she found of Bradley Nowell and Bud Gaugh of the rock band Sublime standing in front of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the 90’s just one year before Nowell passed away. Stilson, who was in high school at the time and was a super fan of Sublime, never knew they came to the Outer Banks until the creation of this map.

The references on the map touch on just a fraction of all the pop culture references and film and movie moments that have occurred on the Outer Banks. Gaye Morris, curator of the Outer Banks Film Society, divides the artistic allure of the Outer Banks into three categories. The first is the rich history, from The Lost Colony to the Wright Brothers.

“It has an amazing story, of, you know, the early English settlers and the mystery of the [Virginia] Dare child and the people who disappeared. And of course, we have our own blockbuster production that we put on every night during the summer that attracts people from all over the world who come to see that,” says Morris. “But then the other thing, of course, is the Wright brothers. And, you know, that is a connection to history that a lot of people would know.”

The second reason Morris mentions is the scenery, with the sheer beauty of the Outer Banks drawing the film industry here as a backdrop. She gives the example of Nights in Rodanthe, one of the many films based of the romance novels of author Nicholas Sparks.

“I have a funny quote from him. He said about people who read his books [that] they’ll know that there will be a love story, and that it will be set in North Carolina,” says Morris.

The third thing that she says attracts Hollywood to the Outer Banks is The North Carolina Film and Entertainment Grant, which offers a 25% rebate on qualifying expenses and purchases made by productions for those who makes films in state.

According to Morris, in 2022, there were 90 film projects across the state of North Carolina, which created more than 16,000 jobs. Morris explains that if you look at North Carolina Film Office website and you put in Dare County, it lists 61 different locations in Dare County that are being marketed as places that you could make a film.

But what makes the Outer Banks attractive to the performers and artists themselves? Michael Basnight, co-owner of the Pioneer Theater in Manteo, who hosts performers and celebrities around town when they come to play music or screen movies at the theater says it’s combination of the elements, the isolation and the hardy history of the Outer Banks that attracts them.

Speaking of popular country singer Jake Owen, who was on the OBX this summer, Basnight says, “Jake Owen was here at the theater and did a charity function, and we kicked off his music video. But in talking with him, he was like, ‘my God, I just love this place.’ It shouldn’t be here. You feel like you’re in a place where you shouldn’t be,” recalls Basnight, “Literally geographically, you’re roughly 20 miles out in the ocean, a bunch of sand islands and we shouldn’t really be here. But we are. And we have been since 1584. It’s a story of survival…there’s something magnetic about it.”

But Hollywood’s attention to the Outer Banks isn’t always received with welcome arms by locals. Gaye Morris notes that “There are families that have been here for hundreds of years. And they are known as the foundation of this area, of this community. So I think we don’t like people to get it wrong. Because we’re pretty proud of what this is.”

“I mean, it’s not perfect,” she adds. “But there are so many people who come here during the tourist season, and so they must be coming because we’re doing something right. And so I think it’s just we get annoyed and offended if people don’t get who we are.”

Link here to view Dare County’s GIS  “OBX Unscripted: A Pop Culture Journey”.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


See what people are saying:

  • Obxserver

    Does Brainstorm count? Natalie Woods last movie before her tragic death at Avalon ( not the one on Hatteras Island!)

    I found my love in Avalon beside the bay, I left my love in Avalon and sailed away. From the song “Avalon,” made popular by Al Jolson.

    Tuesday, Dec 5 @ 8:49 pm