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Changes To NC Film Incentives Bring Questions And Possibly Fewer Productions

Courtesy of the North Carolina Film Office

The director of North Carolina’s film commission is in Park City, Utah, to attend the annual Sundance Film Festival. He’s there to convince directors, producers and executives to shoot their productions in North Carolina. But it’s a hard sell due to the state’s scaled back film incentives program. 

Guy Gaster’s pitch to executives still starts the same way. "Our crew base is second to none," and he brags about how North Carolina can look like just about anywhere. But he has had to rewrite his script to add, "We do have funding still available for productions with our new film and entertainment grant."

On December 31 the state retooled its tax incentive program for television shows and movies that shoot in North Carolina.

Under the old program a production could qualify to get 25 cents back for every dollar they spent in the state for things like crew salaries, catering, set construction and the like. The maximum payout per show was $25 million $20 million. And every production got the same deal as long as they spent at least $250,000.

Under the new grant system just $10 million in total is available statewide, no matter how many productions come to the state, or how much they spend here. And the max any single production can get was dropped to $5 million.

Those changes are having an effect on North Carolina’s film industry. Two television series, Banshee which was shot in the Charlotte area and Sleepy Hollow, based in Wilmington, have packed up and left.

Credit Courtesy of EUE/Screen Gems
The CBS series 'Under The Dome' could qualify for half of all incentive money in the state.

As for movies says Gaster, "We do have one feature film that is currently shooting and it's shooting in the Wilmington region." And 10 or so other productions, a mix of TV shows, movies and commercials, that are considering North Carolina. But at this point last year, Gaster says, "There were 8 to 10 projects that we knew for sure would be filming in North Carolina."

One piece of good news for North Carolina’s film industry is the CBS show 'Under The Dome' will continue to shoot in the state. But that news comes with a possible downside. The sci-fi drama spends enough to qualify for the maximum $5 million grant from the state. That leaves just $5 million available for all other productions to split.

The state will officially begin accepting grant applications on Monday.

Correction: The maximum payout under the old film incentives program was $20 million per production, not $25 million as originally reported.