The Case For N.C. Film

Photo: Chris White

UPDATE: The Cinemax show “Banshee” – which was filmed in Charlotte – has already decided to move production to Louisiana. The move was not for creative purposes, rather, the current state of the N.C. film incentives program.

*Please (nicely) contact the senator in your area regarding keeping the current N.C. Film Tax Incentive.*

Bull Durham, Dirty Dancing, Forrest Gump. All three films changed American culture. All three were shot, at least in part, in N.C. Do you watch “Under The Dome” or “Sleepy Hollow?” Those hit shows are filmed here in NC as well.

Now, imagine if Bull Durham had not been filmed at the Durham Athletic Park but, rather, in another state and how the city of Durham’s history would have been altered. Picture the famous lift from Dirty Dancing not being filmed in beautiful Lake Lure. Had it not, the town would never have its annual Dirty Dancing Festival (coincidentally being held this weekend) which promotes the local art scene. Ever been to Forrest Gump Curve at Grandfather Mountain? If it had not been for a scene from that iconic film being shot at that location, it would never have the significance it does today.
The current tax incentives program in North Carolina – which is set to expire at the end of the year – is one of the most attractive in the country. With the program, production companies can receive a 25 percent credit up to $20 million on qualifying expenses. Under this program, the state gave $61.2 million in credits in 2013. That was enough to lure big time productions such as Iron Man 3 and The Hunger Games – both top-grossing films – to shoot in the state. The incentives allowed for big time television productions – such as hit shows “Under The Dome” and “Sleepy Hollow” – to film in the state as well.

The new program switches from incentives to grants and offers a total of $10 million. A mere 13 percent of the 2013 incentives and about half of the Iron Man 3 budget, according to WRAL. Opponents of the current incentives program – primarily Senate Republicans – say the state simply cannot afford to give away money like that to the film industry. But Senate Republicans appear to have no problem setting aside an anticipated $20-30 million in incentives to lure manufacturing companies to the state.

NEWS FLASH: not everyone in the world wants a technology or manufacturing job!

“The film industry is a thriving, clean industry that has captured the charm of Wilmington for over three generations now. It directly employs over 2,000 people locally, over 4,200 people statewide and directly benefits over 500 local North Carolina businesses,” said Elizabeth Redenbaugh, candidate for the District 9 seat in New Hanover County, in an article in The Wilmywood Daily. “A Supply Chain Study of the Economic Impact of the North Carolina Motion Picture & Television Industry,” conducted by Robert Handfield from the N.C. State Poole College of Management, provided some important facts regarding the industry as reported by the Citizen-Times. They are as follows:

– The film and television industry within North Carolina spent $9.11 for every dollar of the credit issued.

– The tax incentive provided 4,259 jobs at an average wage of $66,000.

– If the production incentive is allowed to expire, the industry’s tax contribution to the state would decrease to $4.3 million. There would also be a loss of more than $164 million in business revenue to more than 1,000 small businesses in North Carolina.

– The state collected an estimated $170.3 million as a result of film and television productions from 2007-12 and the film and television industry brought $1.02 billion to North Carolina in the same time frame.

If the new grant program passed by the N.C. General Assembly holds, the industry as we know it will disappear. Not to mention, you can forget about big time Hollywood productions like Iron Man 3 or The Hunger Games choosing N.C. for production. You can forget about hit shows like the aforementioned “Under The Dome” and “Sleepy Hollow” choosing our state as well. Along with that? Thousands upon thousands of good paying and valuable North Carolina jobs will either move to other states or be eliminated.

As an avid television and film fan, I’m appalled that North Carolina is throwing this amazing industry away like a spoiled sandwich. I’m always ecstatic to watch a film or television show that is shot in North Carolina. Not to mention, these films and shows bring countless opportunities for people like me to become extras. For example, I applied to be an extra in The Hunger Games during its filming in North Carolina. With this new grant program, I’m sure most of those opportunities will go out the door along with the industry. This loss will impact all of North Carolina whether the folks in Raleigh want to believe it or not. You may not think this is a big deal but people’s livelihoods are at stake. Take Vanessa Neimeyer, for example, head of the casting department for “Under The Dome” and the 2013 Nicholas Sparks film Safe Haven. Here’s what she had to say:

“…Unless a miracle happens tonight with the Senate. I will be doing a lot of crying as I realize how much my life a long with my state’s address is about to change. Thank you to everyone who tried and fought so hard for all of us! Thank you for not giving up! Like Shelia Brothers said who knows what will happen till the final gavel has swung. I am still trying to have hope for a miracle.”

You know what will also go out the door if the industry goes? My vote for any lawmaker, Republican or Democrat, who supports this grant system.

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