The film industry in North Carolina represents a $300 million dollar business. Earlier this year, a new grant program was announced to attract filmmakers to our area. It is awarding $10 million dollars to a select number of in-state productions. Sarah Finch spoke with North Carolina Film Office Director Guy Gaster about the grant recipients.
From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the pristine coast, North Carolina has been the setting for many popular movies and TV shows, including Dawson's Creek, Sleepy Hollow, Iron Man 3 and The Hunger Games. But many of the film production companies shooting films decided to leave the state after a film incentives program ended late last year. In an effort to reduce state-spending, North Carolina Film Office Director Guy Gaster says the North Carolina Department of Commerce switched from the refundable tax-credit program to offering grants.
“Previously we were averaging about $60 million dollar payouts to productions that came on the back end of all their spending. Now the state will be paying $10 million dollars this year. So you’re talking about a difference of $50 million dollars.”
Despite the shift in funding, new shows will begin production this fall in the State. They include the TV series Under the Dome, Good Behavior, Love It or List It, and the Untitled Jody Hill Project in Wilmington. The projects are expected to have direct in-state spending of more than $61 million dollars. There’s no mention yet how many positions will be available from these productions, but last year, the state film industry boasted nearly 19 thousand job opportunities for North Carolinians. Gaster says it’s not just the local on-screen talent that will benefit.
“More importantly for us, its what’s going on behind the camera. It’s the individuals that are working to bring these shows to life, or bring these movies to life. And really are kind of the unsung heroes.”
Film companies receive no money up front and must meet direct in-state spending requirements to qualify for grant funds. Gaster says that change came about as there were state-wide discussions on tax reform.
Although the State legislature has changed how the industry is funded, North Carolina still has appeal to movie-makers. When it comes to filming in the state, Gaster says we have a lot to offer the entertainment industry besides the beautiful scenery.
“We’ve had a grand tradition of film-making in our state. And enough can’t be said about our crew-base and our infrastructure. We’re starting to see third generation film-workers, particularly around the Wilmington area.”
Movie-producers enjoy the convenience of filming in one state, where they have mountains, seashore, big cities and small towns all within close proximity to each other. And each unique project that comes along, presents a chance to establish long term relationships, showcase our state’s quality of life, provide job opportunities and highlight North Carolina’s natural beauty and talented residents.
“They’re your neighbors, especially there in the east. They’re the ones who are sending their kids to school with your own kids, they’re the ones that are sitting next to you at the restaurants. They are the ones that we are working for, and helping create opportunities for.”
The four projects that received grants this year will be shooting this Fall in Asheville, Raleigh-Durham, and Wilmington. As the industry constantly changes and evolves with new Netflix shows, Amazon movies, and video streaming on big and small screens, North Carolina is set-up to play its part.