Local film production crew begins shooting documentary at Outer Banks

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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A local film production crew began shooting a biographical documentary about aviation entrepreneur Francis Rogallo on the Outer Banks from April 8 through April 11. 

Producer and writer Clay Johnson of Tryon, videographer Erik Olsen of Columbus and audio and production assistant Andrew McElvery of Greenville, SC, shot seven interviews with key people associated with the Rogallo story and captured supporting footage for the documentary. It’s the first phase of the production and was made possible by a grant First Flight Society received from the Rogallo Foundation. 

“This shoot allowed us to capture most of the interview sound we will need for the documentary,” says Johnson, who is the former documentary producer for Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Company and a contributing producer at PBS NC, the statewide public television network. “It’s a major step forward in getting the entire documentary produced.”

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The documentary will profile Rogallo and chronicle his development of the flexible wing which laid the foundation for aerial sports like hang gliding and kiteboarding. The production crew shot in Nags Head, Southern Shores and several locations in between capturing interviews with Rogallo biographer and historian Billy Vaughn, Rogallo’s daughters Carol Sparks and Fran MacEachren, Rogallo friends Ralph Buxton and Bruce Weaver and others.

Johnson, who won Emmys for his work at CBC, will produce and direct the documentary. FFS is acting as a fiduciary sponsor, helping manage funds for the production. The project has been endorsed by PBS NC, which will likely premiere the program and help distribute it nationally through PBS’s broadcast and streaming platforms. Johnson became interested in the Rogallo story while producing a segment on Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School for the PBS NC show “North Carolina Weekend.”

Rogallo worked with NASA to develop his flexible wing, which later was used to create the first hang glider and led to the development of the controllable canopies used by skydivers and kiteboarders. Rogallo retired to the Outer Banks in 1970 and was honored with the National Air and Space Museum Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was also inducted into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at the Wright Memorial. He is also in the NC Sports Hall of Fame.

Submitted by Debra Torrence