On Aug. 20, North Carolina lawmakers decided to replace the state’s current incentive program — which is providing 25% tax credits on more than $300 million in production coin spent there this year — with a grant program that will cover just $40 million in 2015. The move followed pressure from the Tea Party to do away with tax credits.
North Carolina has been home to some 800 productions, including “Under the Dome,” “Iron Man 3” and “The Hunger Games,” over the past three decades. Backers of retaining the credit assert that the industry provides regular employment for more than 4,000.
“It’s a shame,” said Chris Cates, president of 15-year-old C3 Studios in Charlotte. “We’ve built up a crew base. The state has a lot of attributes, but producers are not going to shoot here with a subpar (incentive) program.”
Cates is weighing whether to close or to move operations either to Georgia or South Carolina, the latter less than a dozen miles away. “They do have incentives in South Carolina,” he noted, “but there’s not much of a crew base, and the major cities don’t have the variety of locations that there are in North Carolina.”
There’s still hope for the current program in North Carolina, according to Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat who’s battled to keep the incentives. She noted that Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is under pressure to reconvene the legislature no later than the end of September to support several imperiled economic incentive programs. “The shame of this is that we had positioned ourselves to be the home to a lot of series TV, which will probably go to Georgia now,” Hamilton noted. “But I’m an optimist, so I have not given up.”
The state of Georgia recently announced that film and TV productions generated an economic impact of $5.1 billion during its fiscal year 2014, with 158 productions spending $1.4 billion during that time. Nearly 23,500 people are directly employed by the industry in Georgia. Projects include “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 & 2,” “Insurgent,” “Taken 3,” “Fast & Furious 7,” “The Walking Dead” and “The Vampire Diaries.”
Louisiana, meanwhile, trails only California and New York in film and TV production. Some recent projects: “American Horror Story: Coven,” “True Detective,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Jurassic World,” “The Fantastic Four,” “Terminator: Genisys” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” Chris Stelly, exec director of the state’s film office, said he could not comment on the North Carolina program, or lack thereof, but noted that Louisiana has come a long way since it launched its incentive program in 2002.
“The film production tax credit program has been very successful at helping to create and sustain a thriving industry in our state,” Stelly said.