Bills would add $50 million to NC Film Grant Fund
RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Several Wilmington-area lawmakers are proposing a major boost to the new Film & Entertainment Grant Fund, which replaced the Film Incentive Tax Credit in North Carolina at the start of 2015.
Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) and Rep. Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) are two of the primary sponsors of HB 171, along with Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln). Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) introduced a similar SB 193 in the state Senate.
The bills propose to put $66 million of recurring funds into the grant fund, starting July 1, 2015. By comparison, Gov. Pat McCrory's budget plan unveiled Thursday includes $10 million for the grant fund in each of the next two years.
Davis said afterwards that he is encouraged by the fact that lawmakers introduced the bills at the same time, and they can move forward together without having to worry what one chamber or the other might do "down the road". He is also realistic about the proposal to put $66 million into the fund that currently has $10 million.
"I know it will be something we will have to deal with in the budget to get the $66 million we are asking for," Davis said. "We certainly want to do everything we can to get as much money as possible in a grant program that will be palatable enough to pass both chambers of the legislature, and will keep the film industry alive and well in North Carolina."
If the bills become law, the secretary of commerce would be able make commitments of up to five years with productions. Lee said that change is indented to attract television series, which help sustain the Wilmington region's workforce.
"When you have a major motion picture, usually they come in, they shoot the film and then they leave," Lee said. "So they don't really have that multi-year commitment to our area."
The bills would also cap the grant amounts awarded for specific film and television productions. According to the text of the bill, the funds are reserved for production companies of a feature-length film with $1 million in qualifying expenses, for a video or television series with qualifying expenses of $1 million per episode, or for a theatrical or television commercial with expenses of $250,000.
The bills also caps the amount of any grant at no more than 25 percent of any production, with limits of $10 million for any feature-length theatrical film, $2 million for a made-for-television film or an episode of a television or video series, and $250,000 for theatrical or television commercial.
"We have a really good shot of passing the bill," Lee said. "I'm not sure about the amount. We're hopeful that the amount stays the same but we can't be sure until we see what the revenue picture looks like in mid-April."
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