As state legislators continue to hammer out the budget, citizens of all political persuasions are awaiting word on the fate of this region’s bustling film business. And that’s why this morning, a contingent of officials and residents from the Wilmington area gathered in Raleigh’s legislative building to plead with lawmakers to extend the current film incentive tax credits—instead of switching to a grant program, which they say would eliminate jobs. But rather than demonstrating film’s bona fides within the Cape Fear region, local lawmakers focused on its statewide benefits.
As they currently stand, North Carolina’s film incentives aren’t quite as generous as Georgia’s or Lousiana’s—however, this state has a reputation for having the Southeast’s top filmmaking crews and infrastructure. This is according to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who also notes that—more than just benefitting this area’s vendors and small businesses—the film industry furthers Governor McCrory’s stated objective of creating permanent jobs and private investment across North Carolina.
"And I see an opportunity, a grand opportunity, to continue to make those investments. Not only for EUE/Screen Gems, but also for production companies that may want to locate in the Charlotte or in the Asheville area. Because as I’ve said many times before, a production may come into Wilmington, but they may go out to Wallace, they may go up to Charlotte or Asheville, or Raleigh for a big-city scene."
Opponents of film incentives say they generate a net loss for the state. But Representative Susi Hamilton says critics might respond to an economic impact assessment conducted by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Program Evaluation Division.
"But what you have to do to get a true evaluation out of this is extend the credit for one year, so that it continues to function the way that it’s been functioning, and in that twelve-month process, to do the study."
Before the legislative session ends, Saffo and Hamilton say they’d like Governor McCrory to come out to Wilmington to get a firsthand look at the benefits of the film industry.