The film community in North Carolina is holding its collective breath while House leaders consider budget amendments.
By Thursday afternoon, the available options for continuing the film incentive were limited to three: Governor Pat McCrory’s proposal which, so far, hasn't garnered much support, Representative Susi Hamilton’s bi-partisan bill that would keep the current incentives and either extend or do away with the sunset, and the Senate’s recently-passed version that turns the program over to the Department of Commerce to be disbursed as a grant fund. Industry insiders say producers can’t build budgets around a grant. Hamilton’s bill was referred to a committee in May and hasn’t been seen since.
It was a firestorm of outrage that swept through the film community on Wednesday – after a House Finance Committee rejected a budget amendment – put forth by Representative Ted Davis. The amendment would have inserted a film incentive package into the House budget proposal.
Since then, says Hamilton, she’s been inundated with calls from constituents.
"There are thousands of people across North Carolina that are scared for their jobs. They’re afraid that they won’t be able to pay their mortgage. They’re afraid they’re going to have to leave the state in order to work in their profession. They’re afraid they can’t feed their families. And based on yesterday’s [Wednesday’s] results, they have every right to be afraid."
When Hamilton called the surprise rejection of the amendment a “double-cross” and “betrayal” of the film community, House Speaker Thom Tillis shot back – telling a StarNews reporter that Hamilton’s remarks were “borne out of emotion”.
Representative Susi Hamilton:
"I’m not going to lower myself to that level. It’s not something he would say about a male legislator in that circumstance, I'm quite confident."
Bill Vassar, Executive Vice President of EUE / Screen Gems, one of the largest private stakeholders in the film industry in the state, also expressed shock at the Finance Committee’s rejection of the Davis amendment. Vassar fired off a strongly-worded statement that ends with: “It’s clear we are not welcome to invest our company’s money, time, and talent here any longer.”
Hamilton says it’s likely that someone will put forth a budget amendment on the House floor addressing film incentives before the House budget is finalized.