Film industry in NC still struggling more than a year after repeal of HB2

Myths about North Carolina's film incentives, House Bill 2, and crew availability have hurt the local film industry, leaving it to try to rebuild.

The North Carolina Film Grant Fund offers specific incentives that work for some projects, but not for others, causing the film industry to be specific in its marketing.

"It works for some clients based on their business and there are other clients it doesn't work for," said Johnny Griffin with the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. "So we try to focus on the ones that it really fits better with. We've also focused on letting them know the benefits that we've always had here as far as a local crew, stages, locations."

Governor Roy Cooper recently announced the film grant would support a feature film in the Wilmington area, and five Home Depot commercials in other parts of the state.

"But there certainly is money still there that we can use to attract other projects," said Griffin. "We're in constant talks with television series, television pilots, feature films, always looking for clients that can utilize it. Our goal is to utilize it to its maximum capability, bring in as many projects as we can."

The incentive bill is not the only thing that has slowed the industry lately. Some in the film community say HB2, also known as the bathroom bill, was a big hit for the industry and even though the bill was repealed more than a year ago, it has not left the minds of potential clients.

"HB2 is a big, big factor, I believe," said Charles Auten with Dogma Cape Fear. "The entertainment industry is done with that. They're calling themselves out. They're certainly not going to allow this stuff to continue on."

Now industry leaders are left to reconnect the dots.

"It's certainly something that brought attention to North Carolina, negative attention," Griffin said. "Anytime that happens, people read the headlines but maybe they don't follow up with the news and keep up with what's going on. So from time to time, that does come up in conversation. We try to meet with the folks, talk to them, and let them understand what the current situation is in North Carolina, and let them know that we've certainly never had any issues here with the film industry locally."

While they try to bring back a once booming industry, the film community is working together with events like a film forum hosted by Dogma Cape Fear in conjunction with UNCW and other local film groups.

"This does give opportunities for groups like Dogma and Honey Head to come in here and meet these young filmmakers and tell them there is opportunity still here for them," Auten said. "It's just going to be through different avenues than what they maybe expected coming out of school."

Those in the film industry are working to support each other and to convince clients that Wilmington still welcomes moviemaking.

"There are resources there," Auten said. "Reach out and help each other. Until we can get more help from the state, we're going to have to support ourselves through independent venture and being a little smarter."

"We try and make sure our clients understand this is a community that welcomes the industry, embraces the industry, and always supports them when they're here," Griffin added.

Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.