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Jonas Pate, co-creator of ‘Outer Banks,’ talks show inspiration, filmmaking career



CHARLESTON, S.C. Local — Jonas Pate, co-creator of the hit Netflix series ‘Outer Banks’ spoke at the Charleston Library Society on Thursday, sharing what inspired the story and offering tips for aspiring filmmakers.

The teen adventure drama premiered April 15, 2020, at the height of the pandemic and immediately took the streaming world by storm. Season 2, which premiered in July, was no different, raking in 2.1 billion views during its premiere window.

Pate shared some inside scoops on what inspired the story and how the show actually came to be made.

Pate and his twin brother, Josh, grew up on Kiawah Island, S.C., but spent much of their time hanging out with kids on a different island, Johns Island. As Pate would describe it, this is the inspiration behind the “Kooks” and the “Pogues.” In fact, some of the characters in the show were inspired by real people the Pate brothers knew.

“We cherry-picked a lot of things that happened to us in high school and put it in the show,” he said. “There are lots of scenes that were very inspired by things that we did.”

After college, Pate moved out to Hollywood, marking the start of his fruitful filmmaking career. He worked on various films that made it into illustrious film festivals like Sundance and the Venice Film Festival, working with actors like Renee Zellweger and Tim Roth. But then, Jonas decided he wanted to move back to the east coast and settled in Wilmington, North Carolina.

It was then that Pate and his brother began thinking up the idea for a story that would later become “Outer Banks.” Inspired by the legends of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure and the surroundings they had grown up in, the brothers began working on the screenplay. Pate gave the audience a glimpse into the writing process for the show, noting that they write about 600 pages per script before pairing it down.

Pate attributes some of the show’s initial success to luck and shared a fun anecdote about when they pitched the show to Netflix. Turns out, one of those executives was actually from Columbia, S.C., so he knew the landscape and the environment where the show was set.

Then, came time for filming. Originally slated to film in North Carolina, Netflix decided to halt production in the state due to the controversial anti-LGBTQ HB2 law and instead opted to film in South Carolina. Pate said this turned out to be a blessing.

“I was thrilled because I love Charleston and it’s been fun to watch it grow and change,” he said. “I got sent back to all these coastal eddies that I hadn’t hung in in 30 years, so it was like visiting all your old haunts from high school.”

Pate also shared a glimpse into how the cast was chosen. He emphasized that the creators wanted “relatable” kids to play the characters, so they looked through social media profiles and for actors that took chances during their auditions. Fun fact: Pate said they saw over 600 actors vying for the role of John B.

Pate also offered advice to budding filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors in the audience telling them to take chances and write scripts as much as they possibly can.

Lastly, he shared the positive reaction and warm welcome he received from Charleston locals during filming and in response to the show.

“Mostly it’s been so positive because people like the show and it’s fun for them to see places that they recognize, so it’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s hard to shut down pieces of Charleston, so we were just super thankful.”

Anne Cleaveland, Executive Director of the Library Society, said they are hoping to present more programs that will have an appeal to a young demographic.

“There is so much going on in the world that engaging a younger audience and exposing them to more critical thinking, cultural, and intellectual curiosity is going to be very important in the future.”

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