TAR HEEL VIEW: NC should restore film incentives


North Carolina’s film office counts just six TV and film productions in the Tar Heel State so far in 2016. Two of them, “Good Behavior” and “Six,” wrapped filming in the Wilmington area last month.

Meanwhile, down in Georgia, the governor’s office reports that film and TV production spending topped $2 billion in the fiscal year ending July 31. Georgia played host to 245 productions, including such top-dollar projects as “Captain America: Civil War” and TV’s “The Walking Dead.”

What happened? Not too long ago, big-budget movies like “Iron Man 3” were coming to Wilmington. Not any more.

Well, in 2014, state legislators decided to axe North Carolina’s film incentives program, which paid back bonuses to production companies based on their local spending. In its place, we now have a grant program that pays out a total of $30 million per year, compared with the $80 million in incentives that went out in 2014.

And Georgia? The Peach State paid out $925 million between 2009 and 2014 alone. Now, it’s No. 3, after California and New York, in terms of film and TV production.

The Tar Heel State once boasted being filmmakers third-favorite destination.

Hollywood expenditures in Georgia are now seven times what they were in 2008, and are up 15 percent over the previous year.

Somehow, $2 billion in one year seems like a good return on an investment.

There are those among North Carolina’s leadership who are opposed to business incentives on a philosophical basis, maintaining it’s a waste of the taxpayers’ money. Some argue that TV and film production is too transient and want to reserve incentives to businesses that are setting up shop here for a long time.

It’s funny, though. As in North Carolina, both houses of Georgia’s General Assembly are controlled by Republicans. The governor, Nathan Deal, is a Republican who’s generally considered on the rightward side of the spectrum.

Georgia’s Republican leaders, however, don’t seem to have ideological objections to film incentives when they are bringing money and jobs into their state.

In North Carolina, our leaders are choosing to save our pennies — and pennies are all that we’re getting. State officials are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that “Good Behavior” and “Six” might come back next year.

It’s no secret that many area residents who used to work at the film studio here have moved to Atlanta. Others spend a lot of time commuting there and are likely thinking about relocating.

Experience shows that film people follow the money. Georgia’s putting up the money.

In the next few weeks, a good question to ask North Carolina legislative candidates is how they feel about restoring — really restoring — the state’s film incentives program. We think it would be a big net gain for the state.

Halifax Media Services

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