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Urban Explorer's Handbook 2006 

Hollywood in Fourth Ward

It's one of Charlotte's best kept secrets, a full service film and video rental facility with studios big enough to accommodate everything from commercials to feature films. Among its credits? Shallow Hal, starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Will Ferrell's upcoming NASCAR pic.

Silver Hammer Studios was started by UNC-Charlotte grad Richard Aldridge, a director with a vision. He worked his way up from, as he says, "my front porch, to a fire station, to this building," which is on Hamilton Street directly across from the CL headquarters. The company's name is symbolic of Aldridge's quest to succeed in the film industry -- silver for the creative side and hammer for business. Under Aldridge's leadership, Silver Hammer Studios has evolved into one of the most successful production companies in the Southeast.

Upon entrance through the camera department, you might think: What's the big deal? It's just a bunch of expensive cameras mounted on platforms, which would be pretty cool if you were, say, Steven Spielberg. But inside one of the cavernous studios, everything clicks. You can imagine the lights, the booms, the crew and of course, you, center stage, reigning over the whole production: "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Aldridge." An ordinary warehouse that's been converted into an extraordinary realm of fanciful delight is perhaps the best way to describe Silver Hammer.

It began as a triumvirate: Silver Hammer Studio Rentals, Bridge Productions and Catwalk Digital Media. But in 2003, the production and post-production divisions were closed, leaving Sliver Hammer Studio Rentals as the main order of business. The facility offers equipment (35mm and 16mm cameras, grips, lights, dollies), the studios (5,000, 8,000 and 12,000 square feet), a casting studio and production offices for any project great or small.

Of course, the biggest perk of working for a production studio is the opportunity it presents to hobnob with celebrities. According to Suzanne Clouzeau, the head of the camera department, besides the current Mrs. Chris Martin, celebrity visitors include "Junior" -- as in Dale Earnhardt Jr., who hung out for a couple of hours after his photo shoot was over -- and star quarterbacks Jake Delhomme of the Carolina Panthers and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, who were around for a commercial shoot before the now infamous "Wardrobe Malfunction" of Super Bowl XXXVIII. Also, local favorite rockabilly vampire Unknown Hinson rehearsed in Studio C and shot a music video at Silver Hammer.

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