WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - One of the General Assembly's leading film industry proponents says she was blindsided by an announcement from industry officials and Wilmington-area leaders Thursday.
During a press conference at EUE Screen Gems Studios, representatives from the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, the movie studio and the regional film commission said they agree that expanding the state's new $10 million film grant fund is the best legislative strategy.
They said there isn't enough backing in the General Assembly to reinstate the tax credit program that ended last month.
"We can't find anybody at this point in time to really support the credit," said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.
The press conference came one week after Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-Wilmington) introduced a bill to reinstate the tax credit.
"I consider this announcement today to be premature," Hamilton said. "It sort of puts the actual legislator in a difficult position."
Hamilton said the announcement is inconsistent with legislative agendas she received from the city and county as recently as last month.
"I'm concerned and confused that right here at the beginning of session, the industry - seemingly without the support of the crew around the region - has taken this kind of position so early on in the process," Hamilton said. "We've barely even started session at this point, so why now?"
Saffo said local leaders felt they needed to announce a unified message because of feedback they received from lawmakers.
"We were getting some comments from legislators that were telling us they were still getting mixed signals," he said.
Saffo said House and Senate leaders indicated they would support expanding the grant program, but it's unclear how much the incentive could grow.
The mayor said he thinks a $40-60 million fund would keep the industry competitive while $80 million would allow it to grow.
Saffo said local film recruiters have seen a 70 percent drop in inquiries for productions this year. He said spending in the area is expected to drop from $170 million in 2014 to $40-$50 million this year.