first film as a producer was the movie Challenge
(1974) which became a hit in the U.S. and abroad. In it Owensby played the lead role of Frank Challenge, a Senate candidate that would not sell out to the mob. This was the spark that eventually led to the creation of Earl Owensby Studios
in Shelby, North Carolina.
A number of films were shot at his studios and he starred in many of them. Some of the people that were cast in his movies include David Allan Coe
(singer/songwriter) , Lorne Greene
(from the Bonanza TV series), and Paula PoundStone
There are many writers, actors, and crew members that got their start in Owensby's studios and have gone on to make a name for themselves in the film industry. One of them is Leon Rippy
, a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina
best known for his roles in The Patriot, Stargate,
and Saving Grace
who did several movies with Earl in his early days as an actor.
In the 80s Duke Power Company's Cherokee Power Station , a nuclear power plant being built in Gaffney, South Carolina was never completed. Earl bought the abandoned plant and created what was at the time the world's largest underwater sound stage. This is where James Careron's
movie The Abyss
"Earl Owensby has received numerous honors for his success and achievements. Honors granted Mr. Owensby include NC Hall Of Fame, #15 of the top 100 people in NC in 100 years, Award UNCC North Carolina, and numerous others. Many schools and Universities refer to Earl Owensby when teaching the movie industry, specifically, classes at Duke University, Gardner Webb University, as well as a section in the North Carolina History Books."
Earl Owensby Studios is still in operation and has sound stages totaling 90 thousand square feet. They have an underwater filming pool with 7 camera ports and underwater lighting, makeup and dressing rooms, wardrobe and property departments, carpentry shop, special effects, kitchen, dining, and lounge areas. Also an onsite hotel, 1570' runway, recording/mixing studio, editing and screening rooms, and production offices.
Earl Owensby Studios website: