Wilmington worries sun will set on film industry
Posted June 27, 2014
Wilmington, N.C. — At Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, actors and crews work side-by-side on the CBS sci-fi hit “Under the Dome." As shooting wraps up on Season 2, some workers worry it will be their last together.
"The thing around set now is 'See you in Georgia,'" said Vanessa Neimeyer, the woman in charge of casting extras for the summer miniseries.
If North Carolina lawmakers don't make a change, the tax incentives that productions such as "Dome" enjoy will end on Dec. 31, and some could move to other states in the Southeast.
"I moved here for the film industry," Neimeyer said.
"These people are my family. If you separate us, it will be a sad day."
Under current law, productions that spend more than $250,000 on qualifying services can get back up to 25 percent of the tax they would pay, up to $20 million.
In fiscal 2013-14, filmmakers spent almost $245 million and qualified for $61 million in rebates in the Tar Heel state. Figures from the state Department of Revenue released earlier this month list 33 productions – including the TV series "Sleepy Hollow" and blockbuster "Iron Man 3" – filmed in North Carolina that employed a total of almost 14,000 workers.
In a move to simplify the tax code, lawmakers last year agreed to let the film tax credit expire at the end of this year. During the short session of the General Assembly, they've discussed various means to either extend the current credit or replace it with a grant for filmmakers. So far, the sunset remains on the books as state budget negotiations near the July 1 deadline.
"We've had very good business the last three or four years," said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. "What we need going forward is to be just as competitive as we are right now."
Without tax incentives, Bill Vassar of Screen Gems worries video productions will go to other states, such as Georgia and Louisiana. Both states offer similar Southeast settings and significant film tax incentives.
"We have to keep the pressure on to let them know we have to remain competitive," Griffin said.