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UPDATE: This story was updated to reflect corrected information shared with CinemaBlend by a source associated with Swamp Thing's production.
This has already been a hell of a rough day for everyone who worked on DC Universe's Swamp Thing, as well as any viewers who had any inclination to get obsessed with the murky hero's latest small screen iteration. Swamp Thing's sudden cancellation came out of nowhere like a ton of bricks, but one possible reason for the swift axing has come to the surface. It's almost definitely a money issue, although it's not so clear where the problems started.
Swamp Thing filmed its first season in Wilmington, North Carolina, with the location choice influenced heavily by the state's entertainment tax rebate plan, which is a common motivation for TV productions these days. Wilmington's Star News reported that North Carolina's film grant program suffered a massive error in accounting and communication concerning its annual film fund, leaving the state with only a fraction of the millions that were previously reported to be accessible by Swamp Thing and other projects filming there. But that apparently wasn't the case at all.
Here's the rundown. North Carolina's film grant gets $31 million in funding annually, with excess money rolling over to the next year, total. Projects aren't allowed to access the rebates until after production is completed, and after an official audit, so there are many times when extra rolled-over funds are already pledged to in-development projects. So it looked like there was around $67 million just sitting around not getting used, which caused a minor bit of confusion, though the funds were already spoken for.
It was reported that the film fund kerfuffle ended up costing DC Universe and Warner Bros. TV's Swamp Thing some of its promised grant money, but that wasn't the case. Swamp Thing, one of three projects that was approved for funding to film in North Carolina, first applied for around $4.99 to partly fund its Len Wiseman-directed pilot episode, which was approved, and the show then applied for an additional $12 million to fund the rest of the season, which was also approved.
It was erroneously reported that Swamp Thing attempted to get upwards of $16 million+ in grant funding, even though $12 million is currently the most that any TV show can apply for. The rebate is for 25% of a project's budget, with $48 million being the maximum for a TV series, though pilots obviously get their own distinction.
So as far as the tax rebates go, Swamp Thing is likely to get everything it asked for, equalling around $17 million in rebates for a season that possibly got more expensive than the producers and studio execs bargained on. I mean, Derek Mears' Swamp Thing prosthetics alone looked budget-breaking, and the actor told CinemaBlend that the suit was of the highest caliber. This could be a rare situation where an overt focus on quality doomed the show.
The first signs of behind-the-scenes problems came when Swamp Thing's production order suddenly got reduced from 13 episodes to 10 episodes. It's unknown if there's any causation or correlation with the film fund situation, but it can be inferred that whatever finance- or production-related issues led to Swamp Thing's cancellation were not the result of any problems directly involving the North Carolina Department of Commerce's film grants.
It's reported that local crew members found out about the cancellation on Wednesday through an email from the local producers. It can be gleaned that the decision was made to announce Swamp Thing's cancellation this early as not to keep cast and crew members contractually tied up on a project that wasn't going to get enough funding.
Production on Swamp Thing finished in early May, with the cast and crew returning after a short break to film a necessarily rewritten ending for will now be the official series finale. As unfortunate as it is that DC Universe had to pull the plug on Swamp Thing, the silver lining is that co-developers Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden got to reformulate how the season could come to a close, as opposed to just ending the show on a confusing note.
All fans have gotten to see so far is the pilot, which was well-received among critics and viewers alike. Unfortunately, this sounds like one of those situations where fan fervor isn't going to get this project back in motion, unless such fan fervor had very deep pockets, considering the high quality of the first season's eps.
Among other projects, North Carolina's film grant will also be funding Thor Freudenthal's feature adaptation of Julia Walton's novel Words on Bathroom Walls, as well as the upcoming Hulu series Reprisal, which already shot its pilot and will return to Wilmington in late June to film the rest of Season 1.
Swamp Thing stars Crystal Reed (Gotham), Andy Bean (Power), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th), Virginia Madsen (The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair), Will Patton (Shots Fired), Maria Sten (Channel Zero: The Dream Door) and Henderson Wade (A Million Little Things). It's partly based on the comic book character first created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, though Season 1 also dips into Alan Moore's legendary run.
Until it doesn't have anything left to air, Swamp Thing will definitely drop new Season 1 episodes every Friday on DC Universe. Be sure to watch to see if someone can be convinced that this awesome show needs to come back for more!