SPRING HOPE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Filming is underway on a new, sci-fi thriller in Spring Hope, Nash County. It's the first film to be shot there with Ascent Studios, which broke ground last month on a new, state-of-the-art space that will serve as the location for future movies there.
Mayor Kyle Pritchard says it's been amazing to see the town of 1500 transformed.
"It's surreal to get in there and feel like you're actually in another part of the world inside the set. And it's exciting to know that that's happening right here in Spring Hope," Pritchard said.
The movie is "Renner", a futuristic, AI thriller set to be released in 2024. Renner's star is Knightdale native Frankie Muniz, who got his acting start in Raleigh and said it's like a homecoming being back in the area.
"I'm thrilled to be here, and I think what Robert's doing in Spring Hope with the studio and getting to film the movie here is amazing for the area, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it," Muniz said.
Pritchard hopes it's just the start for towns like Spring Hope. He's been a vocal advocate for House Bill 301, which would provide greater tax incentives to small, poorer counties to attract film projects in North Carolina.
"It really would afford all of the rural, poor counties and communities in North Carolina to tap into this massive economic engine, the film industry," he said.
Meanwhile, Renner's already having an impact on the local economy. At Peach Tree Hills Country Club, just north of downtown Spring Hope, they say they've seen an uptick in business.
"It's great for businesses, it's awesome for businesses. You know, we want people to be out here, we want people to know where we are. So it's exciting," said Terri Griffin, who works at the course.
Renner will film in Spring Hope for another week.
"When Ascent Studios is completed in late 2023, it will include five production stages and total 170,000 square feet, making it the largest film studio in North Carolina. Renner director Rob Rippberger, filmmaker Devin Keaton and Nathan Edwards founded the studio.
Renner is the first film to be shot with Ascent Studios.