NC film experts worried about incentives bill

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — People and businesses who work with the film industry in the Piedmont are worried about a proposed law for film incentives.

Currently, film and television production crews spending at least $250,000 can qualify for a 25 percent incentive from the state.

A new bill, passed with a vote by the Senate last night, provides incentives to production companies spending at least $10 million and to television shows spending at least $1 million per episode. The bill will now be considered by the governor.

“The folks in Louisiana and Georgia are sipping their teas and coffees this morning saying way to go North Carolina! You just gave us some jobs,” insisted Jerry McGuire, chairman of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission. “Here in the Piedmont Triad if you go back 10 years we’ve only had two films that would be eligible for that,” he said. The two films are Leatherheads and Are You Here.

“Yet we’ve generated hundreds of different films and quite a few major productions that fall under that cap that probably wouldn’t have come here otherwise,” McGuire pointed out.

Greg Carlyle is the CEO and president of Millennium Center in downtown Winston-Salem, a popular spot for filming. They’ve had stars like George Clooney and Oprah use the 90,000 square foot event and production space.

Carlyle says current incentives are very attractive to big groups, but he worries changes could drive away filmmakers and potential revenue.

“Not just the actors, the carpenters, the electricians, the grips, the truck drivers — everyone practically that works within the film industry earns very good money. And when films come to our city, it brings revenues to our restaurants, our hotels, our convenience stores,” Carlyle pointed out.

“North Carolina is a beautiful place. But there are a lot of beautiful places in the world,” he pointed out. “We have to compete with other states and within the state.”

Even equipment and tent companies like Hauser Rental Service in Winston-Salem cash-in on film production, setting up heated or cooled structures for cast and crew to eat and relax in when not on set.

“Films are not annual events so it’s unexpected revenue, and sometimes you have to roll with the punches and accommodate that. But it’s a great accommodation!” explained Jon Stewart, Hauser’s director of sales.

They’ve landed several big movies in town, Stewart said, and the chance for extra hours for employees is always a positive.

“All of the folks behind the camera, in front of the camera, they’re mobile enough to move if they have to. But all of that economic development will go with them,” warned McGuire.

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