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Film Incentives Likely Cut; Will Industry Walk Away From State?

Courtesy of EUE/Screen Gems

It’s been more than 24 hours since Speaker Thom Tillis and Senator Pro Tem Phil Berger announced a budget deal was all but done.

Senator Berger said the document would be printed – and published online for all to see late Tuesday night or sometime today.

That still hasn’t happened. Which means there are scant details on just how the General Assembly will pay for the teacher raises and other new spending they announced yesterday afternoon.

One of the few cuts we do know about - a dramatic decrease in the amount of money used to lure TV shows and movies to film in the state.

We know money for the film incentive program is on the chopping block because it was one of the few cuts Senator Berger talked about yesterday, "I don’t see us extending the current credit program. I think the grant program is what we’re working on."

Under the current program, when a production company for a TV show, commercial, film or documentary spends at least $250,000 in the state they get 25 cents back for every qualifying dollar spent on things like salaries, rentals and supplies.  

The most any production can receive under this current system is $20 million. And the state pays out around $60 million a year in film incentives.

Supporters of the program say it’s helped build an industry that now employs some 4,200 North Carolinians and pumps around $240 million a year into the local economy.

Under the proposed grant program, the state would have just $10 million to lure or keep productions in North Carolina in total. "It's rather disappointing to see a level of funding so low. To see such little support for the industry," says Johnny Griffin, the Director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. "By only having
$10 million statewide, you’re essentially only able to support $40 million in business. Where this year the state is already claiming $268 million in business." That’s just in the first half of this year.

Without competitive incentives, Griffin says actors and crews will simply go to other states that offer more attractive terms. Both Senator Berger and Speaker Tillis say there’s a chance more money will be available for film incentives.

If not, well there’s a term in showbiz circles called “fold and hold.”

It’s what TV shows do when their filming season wraps up. They put everything in storage and wait to see whether they’ll return to the same location for the next season.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.