Friday at 6 p.m. the N.C. Museum of History will host a talk with Earl Owensby, the filmmaker who produced a host of low-budget action films in the ’70s and ’80s and made Shelby the birthplace of the state’s film industry.

This profile from the News & Observer reveals quite the character.

For Owensby, who will turn 80 in September, part of it has always been about selling a product.

“If I hadn’t made a lot of money (with ‘Challenge’ [his 1973 revenge drama inspired by ‘Walking Tall’]), I wouldn’t be in the business,” says Owensby. “To me, sales is sales. You have to be convinced that what you’re selling, someone would buy.”

Owensby had a number of things going for him. He did his research, learned the business and surrounded himself with local film pros. He was also a shrewd negotiator, who, because of his good ol’ boy demeanor, was occasionally underestimated by the people he was dealing with.

“If (people) came in expecting this is a country bumpkin and I can rip him off, he would pull an ace out of his sleeve, and say ‘here you go,’ ” says Manning. “Those who went in and honestly wanted to have a partnership, those were the relationships that stuck around.”

No one ever accused Owensby of making art. And he’s the first to admit that even though he starred in a number of his films, he was never much of an actor, although he did have screen presence. And it wasn’t like the string of prison, horror, car chase and action films he churned out called for serious thespian chops.

Because the state’s tax-subsidized film incentive program began about a decade ago — nearly two decades after Owensby’s final movie, “Rutherford County Line,” was distributed by Universal — Owensby produced all his films by risking his own money. And as the profile points out, he earned enough to buy the abandoned nuclear power plant in South Carolina that James Cameron used as part of the setting for his blockbuster movie “The Abyss.”

As my colleague Jon Sanders pointed out, in a WUNC survey of listeners’ favorite movies made in North Carolina, 14 of the 17 were produced before the incentive program existed. (And none of Earl Owensby’s were on the list.)

Moreover, Dino de Laurentis built his studio in Wilmington before the state film credit program was established.

Whether you’re producing high art or “Rottweiler” (“Jaws with paws”), the film industry doesn’t need taxpayer support to survive. Just risk your own money and make movies people want to watch.