Film productions dry up with loss of NC tax credit
Posted January 20, 2015 6:13 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2015 8:19 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Five movies shot in North Carolina will hit theaters this year, but the head of the state film office said Tuesday that no new movies are in production or currently planned anywhere in the state.
Guy Gaster, executive director of the North Carolina Film Office, said productions are taking a "wait-and-see approach" after the General Assembly decided not to renew a state tax credit for film, television and commercial productions.
Since 2010, productions have been able to claim a 25 percent refund on qualified spending on a production, up to $20 million. Producers applied for $62.2 million in credits in 2013, the most recent information available.
Film projects brought more than $316 million to North Carolina last year, filming in more than three dozen counties statewide, including Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Franklin and Cumberland counties. The tax credit filing period is still pending, so it’s not clear yet how much production companies will claim in credits for the year.
Gaster said a single movie can bring hundreds of jobs to the state and pump millions of dollars into local economies, from restaurants and hotels to lumberyards and shops, such as an antique store in Concord where the "Hunger Games" producers shopped a few years ago.
"The shop owner said that they did over half of their year's business in that one day because (the producers) needed just different trinkets and things to set up a market kind of look on set," he said. “They’re building the set, so that’s where they’re getting their equipment and materials – locally.”
Lawmakers let the tax credit expire at the end of 2014, replacing it with a grant program that has $10 million available for the first six months of 2015.
While no movies have confirmed plans to film here so far this year, Gaster says several have expressed interest in the state if they're awarded a grant.
Donald Bryson, state director of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that lobbied for the end of the film tax credit, called the program "a corrupt government policy."
"When corporate welfare winners begin to lose taxpayer support along with political connections, they attempt to hold a state hostage by threatening job losses and closures," Bryson said in a statement. "Any economic decision should take into account how the money could otherwise be used – and the better decision is in the hands of North Carolina taxpayers, not as special interest handouts."
"Under the Dome," a CBS series that is will begin production of its third season in March near the North Carolina coast, is expected to take close to half of the $10 million in the program. Three reality TV shows are the only other productions now filming in the state, Gaster said.
Producers of the Fox series "Sleepy Hollow" recently said they would shift production of a third season from North Carolina to Georgia.
“It’s tough to hear that," Gaster said of the show's defection. "But you know, we’re going to continue to focus on what we have available for productions and continue to move forward. I think North Carolina still has a lot to offer for productions.”
He cited the production technicians, from set builders to electricians, and vendors who continue to live in North Carolina.
"We’ve been building that (base) for 30 years. These folks will still be here to help out," he said. "It would be foolish to say that it’s just going to stay here regardless, but I do think, for now, we still have opportunities to show that North Carolina is a great place to continue filming.”