“Explore your town,” an offscreen narrator suggests, as a car zips past an array of shops on Front Street. “Plan a quick getaway.” The voice continues as the endless pastoral green of Interstate 40 floods the screen before showing images of the beach, Basilica and Battleship. Such sights—likely familiar to encore readers—serve as a glimpse of what Cape Fear offers to a distant television audience. “You don’t have to make elaborate plans to do something,” the narrator quips as the title screen fades in. “Just get in the car and go.”
“Get in the Car and Go”—a new television show from Bits and Peaces Productions and the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship—focuses on local businesses across the country, what they offer and how they interact with their communities. Wilmington, NC, will be showcased as its debut. Though it’s the first collaboration between Bits and Peaces Productions and UNCW CIE, it is not the first professional outing for either group. UNCW CIE has been assisting local entrepreneurs since 2010 by offering low-cost media production and hosting forums, such as Hackathon and Three-Day Startup.
The brainchild of Brian Todd Barnette—whose professional focus shifted to writing after a long career spent in VIP-relations for Disney—Bits and Peaces Productions started with publishing his book “Stone Upon Stone.” Soon after, he began writing screenplays. Among them was a short film, “Canonize Me,” which was shown at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Today, however, Barnette has his sights on illuminating the hidden treasures in small town USA.
To help realize his idea, Barnette reached out to UNCW CIE who gave him the production team he needed. The result is a 20-minute exploration of Wilmington’s hidden gems. Among people and places profiled is Derek Markey, owner of Betsy’s Crepes, who recalls his unique method of building the restaurant’s eclectic menu. Similarly, Patrizia Andreani discusses myriad inspirations for her unconventional retail shop Planet, as well as how local artists designed Planet’s distinctive apparel. By profiling business owners as personalities, the show focuses on highlighting aspects of a community that may go unnoticed by the average tourist.
After returning from Miami to his old college haunt (having previously studied psychology at UNCW), Barnette was awash in fond recollections of the place he once called home. “I hadn’t been back in 25 years,” he recalls, “but Wilmington stayed unique, even though it got bigger. It maintained its charm surprisingly well despite its growth.” Barnette attributes the appeal to many local, one-of-a-kind startups peppering the town as brick and mortars.
“There are always people doing something worthwhile here,” he exclaims. “This is what I feel is fantastic about the area. By working on ‘Get in the Car and Go,’ I get to know shop owners on a personal level, share their stories and show how special their businesses are.”
Barnette aims to foster home-grown sensibilities by encouraging social-media interaction between the show’s audience and the businesses. The outcome is to help perpetuate growth. “It’s always better to find out what the locals love about their hometowns instead of only seeing the tourist stuff,” he notes. It thrives in creating a sense of community engagement and finding spots not normally on the tourist path.
“We’re unique in that we’re peer driven,” Barnette clarifies. “Engaging with the online community keeps everything refreshing. That’s how to find out-of-the-way places that may lack the economic drive to advertise.”
To this end, Bits and Peaces Productions plans to produce a weekly podcast to complement the show. The podcast will feature interviews with a host of colorful people from Barnette’s storied career, well-known and otherwise.
“We will chat with celebrities, musicians, food truck owners,” he offers. “And people who are always travelling and sharing stories. We welcome them to get in touch with us via social media and come on board.”
Even though the pilot episode was entirely self-funded by Bits and Peaces Productions, Barnette has his eye on the bigger picture. He is looking for investors to help reach success.
“Several major companies love the concept and they see its viability,” he explains. “I’ve worked on it for two to three years. Building this brand has been a labor of love, and I’m so grateful it’s going to grow and make an impact on the community.”
Wilmington is only the beginning for the series. The next step is exploring the rest of North Carolina’s I-40 corridor before moving on to connecting states. “Every state has that main road that acts as an artery,” Barnette explains. “So we’re using that as our starting point. There are thousands of stories along each highway. Let’s give them a venue to tell those stories.”