WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The film industry in Wilmington suffered after state lawmakers got rid of an incentive program and replaced it with a grant program in 2014.
U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, who served as the North Carolina Speaker of the House when the decision was made, said they made the wrong choice.
"We seriously diminished the impact that the film industry had on this part of the coast," Tillis said after a policy roundtable in Wilmington Wednesday morning.
In 2013, Tillis told WECT he believed lawmakers would vote to extend the incentive program. When it appeared the program may be on the chopping block, Tillis said he spoke out on the house floor against the change.
"It was difficult for the legislature to appreciate the project-oriented nature of the film industry," Tillis explained. "I do, because I worked in the trade industry and I understood how trades catering, makeup artists come together to support a project."
In the fiscal year 2017-18, just two film projects have applied and been approved under the state's grant program. Feature film Words on Bathroom Walls, which is currently being filmed in Wilmington, was approved for $2.35 million. Five Home Depot commercials have also been greenlit for grant money.
"The same way that Georgia and others provide more accommodating incentives, all we need to do is work on a more balanced policy and the next production could be as likely in Wilmington as it could be anywhere else," Tillis explained.
The state's new program puts a cap on the amount of money a project can receive in grant funding. Television series can earn $9 million per season while feature films can earn $5 million.
Under the previous incentive program, Iron Man 3 pulled in $20 million of state tax incentives when it filmed in Wilmington in 2012.
Guy Gaster, director of FilmNC, said many projects applied for the grant program but were turned down because of the new restrictions. Projects must spend the following amounts "in-state" to be considered for grant money:
- Feature Films: $5 million
- Television Series: An average of $1 million per episode
- Commercials: $250,000 per commercial.
According to Gaster, any of the unused $31 million in grant money set aside by state legislatures for this fiscal year will be added to next year's budget.