SOUTHPORT, NC (WECT) – There's a statewide debate about film incentives in North Carolina, and it's stirred up a lot of controversy in recent weeks.
A new issues in the industry involving the cost of security during filming is raising red flags. The CBS show, Under the Dome recently started shooting its second season in Wilmington, Southport, and Burgaw; however, the price of filming is not cheap, especially when production companies want police officers to patrol their sets.
The issue started earlier this week when Under the Dome was filming on Nash Street in Southport.
Halfway through the shoot, which lasted eight hours, four off-duty Southport police officers, hired by the production company, were told to park their cruisers and continue to work on foot.
While those officers worked, not only did the production have to pay for their services, but they also had to pay for their cruisers being used as road barriers.
The city of Southport charges $21.50 per hour for the use of each police vehicle, to compensate for wear and tear and gas.
If a production company wanted to use four patrol cars for an eight hour shift in Southport, it would cost nearly $700. In the City of Wilmington, the same services would cost a production company $300.
Southport City Manager Kerry McDuffie says the incident happened due to miscommunication between the city and the production company.
The show's production company didn't agree to pay the city's fee for using patrol vehicles, so the city manager and the police chief told those officers to move their cars back to the police station.
Southport's Board of Alderman has talked about changing that fee in the past, but has not taken action.
Wilmington's Film Commission Director, Johnny Griffin said, "it doesn't make sense for municipalities to charge such a high hourly rate because production companies don't always need a vehicle."
Griffin doesn't believe it's justifiable to charge that much. He's concerned about production companies re-thinking about the number of officers they hire for security. Griffin added that it could affect companies' willingness to film in the area.
Southport Mayor Robert Howard and City Manager Kerry McDuffie both declined a request for an interview, citing that the rules were in place before they started working for the city. The ordinance establishing city film fees was enacted in 2000.
McDuffie did say he expects the fee schedule to be discussed at the board's monthly meeting on Thursday; however, the item was not placed on the agenda at the time of this report.
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