NC film industry hopes state budget brings more funding

Posted July 3, 2015 6:29 p.m. EDT

— People in Wilmington hope the proposed state budget will breathe new life into the area's film industry. The TV series, "Under the Dome," is in production in Wilmington, but several other shows have left the state as tax incentives dried up.

Those credits expired last year, but the proposed House budget calls for $40 million in funding for the film industry. The Senate's budget allows for $10 million.

Film recruiters in Wilmington say the industry has such a strong history, that the state needs to do what it can to keep it there.

For film construction foreman Jesse Williams, a father of four, he says he saw Wilmington as a family-friendly town. But when film jobs went away, he had to go on the road, seeing his kids on Skype.

“Now it’s a whole conversation, ‘Do I go back on the road and watch my kids from a computer again?’ It’s going to be really hard,” he said.

The TV series, “Under the Dome,” keeps him home now, and it keeps the money home. Lumber used on the show is from Wilmington.

“A lot of these companies, they thank us all the time for how much we send on just materials alone,” Williams said.

In the 1980s, North Carolina basked in the Hollywood spotlight. Outside California and New York, it was the hottest state for shooting TV shows and movies. But by the 90s, Canada began dandling tax incentives.

“Projects do not get made unless an incentive is part of the funding equation for the project,” said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

The state joined the film incentive contest in 2005 but closed the curtain at the end of last year. It replaced the credits with a $10-million grant for the first six months of this year. Since then, Griffin says, inquiries from producers have dropped 75 percent, and shows like “Sleepy Hollow” have skipped town.

“North Carolina has a strong history in this industry. Just to give all that up and throw it all away. I think it’s time to dig in our pockets a little bit and see what we can do to retain it here,” Griffin said.