WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Coming off one of the most successful years in history, North Carolina's film industry has the attention of the rest of the country. The success of projects such as Iron Man 3, Safe Haven, Revolution and others are some of the big reasons for the increased notoriety.
There is also talk about the state's film incentives program, strengthened in 2010 and modified in 2012, which many credit with helping to lure new projects to North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Film Office, the industry spent $376 million in local communities in 2012. But, a bill introduced in the General Assembly earlier this year proposed changing the incentives program to more of a tax credit as opposed to a tax refund. Another bill introduced in a House committee attempted to end the incentives earlier than the current deadline of January 1, 2015. While neither bill passed, local film leaders did raise concerns about the message lawmakers efforts would send to the film industry.
"I was at a seminar in Los Angeles last week, and was given a piece of paper which was an update, a bulletin if you will, on the latest happenings across the country regarding incentives programs," said Johnny Griffin, Director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. "Right there, under the bullet for North Carolina, was 'a bill was introduced this spring to basically make the tax credit where it is ineffective for production'. So that's being handed out to people in Los Angeles, and people are seeing that."
Griffin says despite the efforts of some in Raleigh, he is confident that members of the local delegation know how important the incentives are to the industry not just in Wilmington, but in North Carolina.
"Our job is to make sure they (prospective clients) understand that things appear safe for now, that we are okay," Griffin said about the incentives. "But just the mere mention of those things make our clients start to question whether this is a friendly place to do business. Whether or not if they commit to do a project here, that could spend 40 or 50 million dollars here per year if it's a television series, are they going to be here for a year or two years and all of a sudden have the rug pulled out from under them? If so, they may make not make the decision to come here in the first place. We are faced with that, and our job is to make sure they understand that at least for now, that we're good for another year and a half based on the way is written."
Griffin said his office is monitoring several possible opportunities to bring productions to town. "Right now there is a push for projects that want to be completed by the end of the year," he said. "They (producers) are trying to get them wrapped up by Christmas, so it's June or July as far as when they need to start those projects. We've got several projects right now that are in that timeline, and we are cautiously optimistic that this month we could have a couple more announcements on projects that are on the way in."