RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - The man who led North Carolina's film office for seven years before leaving his post last month is speaking out for the first time on the future of the industry in the state.
Aaron Syrett said he expects an "exodus" of television productions because lawmakers replaced the state's expiring 25 percent film tax credit with a $10 million grant program.
"You're going to see a lot of people, a lot of productions, go away quickly if they can't get it fixed," he said.
In an interview Wednesday, Syrett said the best-case scenario is that the three television shows filming in North Carolina will finish their series here.
Later in the day, WCNC reported that Banshee, a Cinemax series filmed in the Charlotte area, would move production to New Orleans.
"I do not have specific knowledge that [television series] are leaving, but I'm certainly hearing a lot of conversation from the companies, from those that are impacted by it, that they are analyzing that decision right now," N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker said Wednesday morning. "It's going to be very, very challenging to retain them."
Syrett praised Decker, his former boss, but criticized comments made earlier this year by Richard Lindenmuth, interim CEO of the North Carolina Economic Development Partnership – the non-profit that will soon take over much of the state's business recruitment functions from the Department of Commerce.
"Unlike a lot of other industries, [in] the film industry, most workers are under contract and they come and they go, so the incentives aren't quite as successful in that area," Lindenmuth told WECT in January during his first on-camera interview. "We have a beautiful landscape. That's a wonderful incentive. We have friendly people,"
"Those comments proved he had no idea what he was talking about, at all," said Syrett, who was at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah when Lindenmuth's interview aired. "I came home. I met with him first thing, and tried to explain to him how this industry works. Whether he listened or not, who knows."
Syrett said he was offered a position working for Lindenmuth at the partnership but was given less than three days to make a decision as lawmakers were still debating the future of film incentives.
"I needed to know the tools I was going to have to do my job well, and if I can't do a job well I don't want to be just sitting around and doing nothing," Syrett said.