Director Jerry Dalton shares his story, from growing up out west as a homebuilder’s son to building his new movie studio in Loris
“I do have an immense love of art and beauty, nature’s beauty, food – especially pastries – building, such as high-end custom woodwork to unique structures. They all fall into the realm of art leaving something hopefully filled with taste, function and beauty,” says Dalton. “In order to fulfill a desire to be surrounded by such things, I believe it’s necessary to not only be on the reciprocal side of art but to immerse yourself in the endeavor of creating the objects and landscapes in many forms, which helps to develop the environment the way you would like to see it.”
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, he honed one of his first talents of building homes. Dalton’s dad was a custom homebuilder, but not in the traditional sense. He explains that every three or four years, the family would purchase land to build a house and farming operation at the same time. They’d hand clear the land, dig footings and a basement with heavy equipment, and build the house from the ground up – a process that usually took about a year.
During land clearing and construction, he says his parents would live in a 16-foot travel trailer, while Dalton and his brother would sleep in a tent, then move into a tool shed or garage once those were finished, and finally into the completed home.
It’s during this ambitious home-building cycle that Dalton first fell in love with films around 9 or 10 years old.
“I fell in love with films watching movies on television,” he says. “I really, really fell in love with films when I went to watch movies on the big screen in the theater.”
That first brush in the theater was all Dalton needed to know that motion pictures was his passion. But it wouldn’t be until later in life that he’d follow that career path. One of the family’s building ventures took them to his father’s native state of Ohio, where Dalton went to high school.
After he graduated, he set his sights on film school, but it wasn’t in the budget, so he paid his own way through culinary school. Turns out, good food is Dalton’s second love – and he was good at making it, especially with baking as a pastry chef. He also dabbled in creating health-conscious foods during his time as a competitive bodybuilder, opening Hard Body Cafe inside Gold’s Gym in Myrtle Beach.
The plot twists and turns for Dalton continued, as he bought, ran, then sold a bakery, and reverted to his homebuilding skills. Over the next decade, he built several homes and commercial buildings throughout the region, including in the Pine Lakes area of Myrtle Beach.
“If possible, I like to become part of the process and work hard in a big way, creating an environment filled with beauty and good things,” says Dalton. “Although it can be daunting, exhausting both physically, emotionally and financially, the reward is incalculable.
“I think that having a varied path in different disciplines helps to create a formidable dynamic to your perseverance and character, which helps you endure what must be endured and tackle projects that are much bigger than yourself,” he continues. “I was picking fruit from age seven for farmers that supplied large brands, smelt pouring molten steel for Westinghouse at age 18, and other things.”
But his diverse disciplines would all come full circle to return to his first love of filmmaking. In 2002, he bought video, sound, lighting, editing suites, and still frame equipment and founded Dalton Pictures. Dalton didn’t waste time upon his debut in the industry, filming two full-length feature movies, one of which ran in 37 states and in more than 150 theaters.
Dalton Pictures’ last production, “A Carolina Christmas,” opened in theaters nationwide in 2020, including IMAX theatres. The opening sequence and some of the interior production was filmed in Loris, Pawleys Island, Myrtle Beach, and Conway.
“Motion picture, to me, is the ultimate form of art, where you get to create the world as you wish inside of a framework that others can join in for the ride,” says Dalton. “It truly is larger than life and the vehicle that allows others to experience a moving art form. … And, with any luck, others bring to light what you may have missed in meaning during the creation. They see something that you never imagined inside your art, which allows you to dig deeper into your own self and explore.”
Dalton’s passion is contagious, proven in the success of the annual Myrtle Beach International Film Festival (MBIFF), which he founded and continues to promote with the City of Myrtle Beach. Held at the Grand 14 in The Market Common, MBIFF is a two-time nominee by Movie Maker Magazine as one of the top 50 film festivals to submit to in the world.
Dalton Pictures has produced feature-length films and media content in the public and private sectors for cinema chains, government agencies, the European Union, television, corporations, and travel and tourism agencies. On the distribution end, they have distributed more than 30 films for theatrical release. As an all-inclusive integrated media company, it houses all the disciplines of media production under one roof.
His latest venture to support the growth and success of Dalton Pictures is the renovation and construction of his new movie studio in Loris, due to be open for business at the end of 2023 or early 2024. Construction of the 20,000-square-foot space has been a two-year, practically round-the-clock process. The facility, located on Main Street, is comprised of multiple buildings that will be a new, state-of-the-art build.
“As of to date, the new Dalton Pictures movie studio has to be one of my crowning achievements,” says Dalton. “It is happening. As for what’s next, I have some plans. … I have many thoughts and visions of things I would like to see. The problem is, I have thoughts of large dreams, I tend to take them on, and that can present obstacles! … Inside a project like this, there are a lot of moving parts. If all goes as planned, really cool things are, as they say in the motion picture industry, ‘Coming soon!’”
Tours of the Dalton Pictures movie studio will be offered during filming for a true behind-the-scenes experience. Visitors on the tour may even wind up in the production if extras are needed. Dalton also has plans to include on the tour lunch from a local restaurant. For more information and updates, visit Daltonpictures.com