Entertainment

Film boosters fight to retain NC tax credit

Posted June 12, 2013

The Showtime television series "Homeland" filmed scenes in downtown Raleigh on June 3-4, 2013.

— Although North Carolina's film tax credit won't expire for 18 months, battle lines are already being drawn over whether to extend it.

Lawmakers barely lost a chance to take it off the books last week in a House committee debate over legislation to overhaul the state tax code.

Ironically, the debate came on the same day the Emmy Award-winning series "Homeland" was filming scenes for its upcoming third season in and around the State Capitol.

"This show would not even have looked at North Carolina if it weren't for the tax incentives that are here," said David Brightbill, co-producer of "Homeland," which is usually filmed in Charlotte.

Two years ago, the state juiced up its incentives to film and television production companies, offering a tax credit of 25 percent of what they spend in North Carolina, up to a maximum of $20 million.

In 2010, the year before the new credits took effect, the film industry spent $78 million in North Carolina. Film and TV spending in the state jumped to $228 million in 2011 and soared again last year, to $376 million.

The credits have helped attract blockbuster moves such as "Iron Man 3" and "The Hunger Games," as well as TV series such as NBC's "Revolution," CBS' "Under the Dome" and Showtime's "Homeland."

"It means everything. It's the whole reason this show is here," Brightbill said of the tax credit.

Many lawmakers see the credit as corporate welfare and are loathe to extend it beyond its January 2015 expiration.

"What you're doing is you're picking winners and losers," said Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, who unsuccessfully tried to kill the film credit this week.

Homeland filming in Raleigh Backers want film credits to keep rolling in NC

"You're saying, 'I prefer the film industry over the building industry. I prefer the renewable industry over another industry,'" Hager said. "So, what you're saying is they're more important to me. It's more sexy, you know. It feels good."

He argues that the $69 million North Carolina paid out to 30 production companies last year would have been better spent on teachers and State Highway Patrol troopers.

Film boosters are already sounding the alarm over the potential loss of the credit.

"The incentive goes away, the industry goes away," said Aaron Syrett, commissioner of the North Carolina Film Office.

Syrett said producers need certainty before they invest money.

"Let's say, this session, they don't extend anything, and right after the session is over, you'll see a migration of this industry to Louisiana and Georgia," he said.

"It's easy to imagine picking up and telling stories in a new place. It happens all the time," Brightbill said. "If the incentive goes away, the switch will be turned off."

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  • UNCfan1981 Jun 13, 2013

    "Maybe they can do an up close documentary series on all the Democrat politicians in North Carolina state government that have either been indicted, served time or both. There might actually be enough for an entire season."

    The same can be said for Repubs.

  • wayneboyd Jun 13, 2013

    Why not, every Monday on the evening news I see the tape running across the bottom of the screen on my tv telling how many millions Americans are wasting on movies each weekend, so evidently North Carolinians have the money to afford to give the industry any amount they might demand. After all according to figures and polls Americans keep up with the Hollywood crowd better than they monitor those who are driving the country into oblivion.

  • yankee1 Jun 13, 2013

    Maybe they can do an up close documentary series on all the Democrat politicians in North Carolina state government that have either been indicted, served time or both. There might actually be enough for an entire season.

  • Six String Jun 13, 2013

    Yet another dumb move by our legislature.

  • CarZins Jun 13, 2013

    JustAName: SC incentives are not on the fence. They did not want uncertainty.

  • JustAName Jun 13, 2013

    "Since NC is on the fence with incentives, the producers said 'screw you, we'll just go to Charleston'. And they did. The jobs simply will not exist her without the incentives." - CarZins

    South Carolina's incentives aren't as good as North Carolina's, so I doubt that was the reason.

  • Lamborghini Mercy Jun 13, 2013

    I think the film industry in NC has made has huge strides over over the past few years. I think it's an long-term investment that could potentially bring more productions here which will generate revenue, and attract millionaires to live here which again will stimulate the economy. Some of the benefits from production is that it generates revenue to hotels, building contractors, restaurants, and gives NC citizens a chance to be apart of some of the scenes.

  • mep Jun 13, 2013

    I believe it is wrong for the govt to pick and choose which industries or businesses receive tax breaks, and which ones dont.
    The problem lies in the fact other States offer up these "incentives"... and to be competitive, we must do the same. But it goes back to the govt offering breaks to some, and not others.... so much for equality or even equal treatment under the law.

    I have worked with a local business in Wilmington that manufactured various props for the movies being shot there... so yes, money does flow into the local economy.... but at what cost? Fairness.

  • CarZins Jun 13, 2013

    The guys in government don't get it... You aren't spending money to give tax incentives to the movie industry. You would only be spending the money if they stayed here without the incentives. THEY WON'T. Case in point. There is a BIG televion show that wsa going to film in Wilmington, which would have involved a large aircraft carrier being brought in as part of the set. Since NC is on the fence with incentives, the producers said 'screw you, we'll just go to Charleston'. And they did. The jobs simply will not exist her without the incentives.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 13, 2013

    This may be one of the few industries where tax credits make sense. Films can be shot pretty much anywhere. I find it amusing though, this industry is very leftist and as is typical they do not want to pay for the cost of Big Government that they love.

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