No More 'Dome'

Photo: Chris White

SPECIAL NOTE: Please contact your N.C. General Assembly representative(s) to tell them how important the film industry is to this state.

Well, the moment I dreaded has finally come true: the North Carolina-filmed series “Under the Dome” will most likely not return to film in the state if renewed for a fourth season.

It all started as rumors but Sheila Brothers of The Wilmywood Daily has confirmed from her sources that it’s a only matter of time before this becomes reality. When this happens, North Carolina will lose yet another 300+ jobs. A domino effect has been taking place in the past year since the N.C. General Assembly replaced the state’s highly successful film incentives program with a grant program that has provided little in the way of sustainability for the industry. Despite the grant program, “Under the Dome” stayed in the state for its third season.

The news doesn’t come as a surprise and has upset many people, including yours truly. As you know, I’m a big proponent of the film industry here in North Carolina and I see the positive effects it has on the economy. In addition to providing jobs to thousands of people, film crews utilize local products, film employees spend their wages in the towns in which they reside for filming and the industry makes filming locations tourist destinations. Look no further than the Southport, N.C.-area where several locations from hit shows “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” still attract film enthusiasts from across the globe.
The effects on the industry were felt immediately after the General Assembly passed legislation to gut the film incentive program in 2014. Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, was quoted in an article by The Daily Tar Heel, saying that, in the Wilmington region alone, productions spent $170 million locally for goods, services and wages in 2014. Griffin predicts that figure will be less than half that – a mere $40 to $50 million – in 2015. Griffin also noted in the article that he saw “an immediate reduction in filming” and a loss of 4,000+ permanent jobs once the grant program was put into place. What many opponents of the film incentives fail to realize is that a thriving industry provides permanent jobs not only to film crews, casting directors, etc. but also to local manufacturers and businesses that provide services to film productions. Several productions have moved out of the state just in the past year, including: “Banshee,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Secrets and Lies” – with numerous others passing up on the state altogether.  Now, it looks like “Under the Dome” will be added to the list.
It infuriates me that this state’s leaders gutted a perfectly fine incentives program while other states are reaping the benefits. Take Georgia, for instance, whose leaders actually recognize how valuable the film industry is. Leaders enacted a competitive incentives program that, in turn, has generated a whopping $6 billion just during fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) for the state’s economy, according to WJCL. Meanwhile, leaders in North Carolina continue to sit on their hands. There has been talk of increasing the film grant amount but nothing has been set in stone yet.
On a personal note, it’s also frustrating for me to see that most of the posts I write about this issue – whether on this blog or otherwise – go ignored. This is about real people and real jobs. It’s the exact same as with any other industry. Let me give you a real-life, in your face example. Vanessa Neimeyer, an extras casting director who has worked on several productions including “Under the Dome” for each of its three seasons, announced on Facebook shortly after The Wilmywood Daily article was posted that she is moving to the Atlanta-area, leaving Wilmington which has been, according to her, home since 2001. And Neimeyer is just one of many who will be leaving the state in the coming months because there’s simply no work here. Like I said, real people and real jobs, folks.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how the grant program has negatively effected a once thriving industry and realize that something must be done to get it back on track. If something doesn’t happen – and soon – the industry that brought you Bull Durham, The Color Purple, Patch Adams and so much more may very well be reduced to just a memory.

In case my words are still not enough, here’s a video from Star News 47 featuring some of the “Under the Dome” cast members themselves talking about the film industry in North Carolina.

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