Film industry in suspence NC tax credit debate



The recent controversy surrounding House Bill 994, and the discussion it started regarding tax incentives afforded to North Carolina productions, has made industry decision makers skeptical or at least nervous. As one insider put it “why would I risk having to move my production, or scout here for locations if there is no possibility we could stay past 2014. Though the tax incentives, which allot a 25 percent refundable tax credit, don’t expire until 2014, talks of them not being renewed seem real to many. NC’s Republican-led General Assembly controls our state government; usually, they don’t agree with business incentives of any kind.

With an estimated 150 projects showing interest in filming in North Carolina a year, Wilmington established its reputation for being the southeastern answer to Hollywood. Last year, the city collected around $247 million spent by productions in 2012; this included a hunk of revenue generated by the mega-budget “Iron Man 3.” In 2013, Wilmington secured $150 million, according to Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

Those numbers have yielded a few hits at the box office recently, too, including the unexpected horror darling of the summer, “The Conjuring,” starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. A few weeks ago the dark comedy “We’re the Millers,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, debuted positively.

New companies like Studio Solutions, from China Grove, NC..  A transportation equipment provider, starting as a direct result of the of the film industry’s growth in North Carolina. I had a chance to speak with one of the 6 people on location. Pat Beaty, a long time NASCAR racing mechanic, fabricator and truck driver told me that all of the SSI staff is from the down sized racing industry, including the owner Chris Diederich.

Speaking with Chris Diederich, he informed me he has put plans on hold for a second industry support company using technology from DWI, Dragon Wave Inc. Providing LTE network data in and out from where no cell network is available, “All-outdoor portable cell solution that combines a high capacity packet microwave technology.”  Diederich explains.

Currently, the city still bustles with activity. Wilmington provides a home for the FOX TV show “Sleepy Hollow,” starring Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie (set to premiere Monday, September 16th). The next few months will prove critical in determining the show’s longevity. Those involved will watch ratings and play the waiting game to see whether or not the network orders the back-nine episodes of the season. If the show is picked up, Griffin anticipates production will continue to be facilitated in Wilmington.

Looking toward 2015, Griffin says the North Carolina film industry “hopes to demonstrate positive impacts of [our] economy, including the taxes generated for the state by the expenditure of millions of dollars in North Carolina towards labor, goods and services.”

Local film enthusiasts can look forward to business as usual for 2014; however, they will have to wait and continue to rally and protest until next spring to see what the future will hold.