We wish North Carolina didn’t have to play the incentives game to lure businesses here. But as long as other states are playing, we can’t afford to be on the sidelines.
So we are pleased that the N.C. General Assembly’s proposed budget provides more than $30 million in film incentives for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Even better: It’s a recurring item, meaning production companies can count on it in future years.
Those are solid victories, and we can thank our local delegation for fighting for a clean industry with good-paying jobs.
But it wasn’t all we might have wished for.
North Carolina would have benefited from a more generous program and a return to the old tax-credit structure.
The more generous the program, the more likely it is to lure major film and TV projects.
In 2012, North Carolina awarded $80 million in tax credits for film productions, including $20 million for the blockbuster “Iron Man 3.”
The Fox TV series “Sleepy Hollow” filmed its first two seasons in Wilmington, but moved on to Georgia after North Carolina changed its incentives program.
TNT’s series “Good Behavior” is filming its second season in Wilmington, the only major-studio production in town.
Setting the level around $30 million — it’s $33.6 million this year, $31 million in future years — might support a more modest film industry. But it’s unlikely to attract big blockbusters like “Iron Man 3” or the “Hunger Games” movies, the first of which was filmed in the western North Carolina communities of Asheville, Barnardsville, Black Mountain, Cedar Mountain, Charlotte, Concord, Hildebran and Shelby before production moved to Georgia.
When the GOP-dominated General Assembly sharply scaled back the incentives, it also changed their structure. Production companies found the old tax credit program easier to use.
Lawmakers say the predictability of the new grant program makes budgeting easier. But the tax credits — whose levels weren’t capped — were only paid after money was spent in North Carolina, money that now goes elsewhere.
The HB2 controversy also may be affecting our film industry.
When the lawmakers enacted House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill” was seen nationally as discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Various film production companies expressed reluctance to bring business to North Carolina. The legislation that repealed it was not viewed as a complete repudiation of the sentiments that prompted its passage.
Many local film workers have moved to other states, following productions that are following the incentives.
We’re not big fans of incentives, but they are a fact of life. We can’t afford to sit out as other states use them to their advantage.
We’re rooting for the film industry and are happy to see a commitment to its future here. But we’d still like to see it improved in the sequels.
— The Wilmington Star-News