Expiring movie tax credit worries Piedmont filmmakers

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Things are beginning to change for the people behind the scenes of some the Hollywood movies filmed in North Carolina.

Instead of seeing new projects being set up in the Piedmont this fall and winter, Jennifer O’Kelly is being told she’ll have to follow the work as it leaves the state.

“I know that there are two films that I was slated to production design that have already left town for Georgia and I may or may not get to do those jobs,” said O’Kelly, an art director and production designer.

O’Kelly is one of many film professionals in the Piedmont upset by expiring tax credits that will no longer reimburse production studios up to 25 percent of the cost of making a movie.

The tax credit has allowed the state to attract big productions over the last few years like Ironman 3 and The Hunger Games.

Film industry advocates in the Triad say they see movies come into town and give the economy a boost.

“The producers are really focused on building a crew that's from the Triad area because hiring local is key to that film incentive,” said O’Kelly.

Law makers will replace the tax credit with a $10 million grant fund that many feel will only draw movies with a modest budget.  Senator Phil Berger said it doesn’t make sense to subsidize companies for the cost of doing business in North Carolina when other industries don’t get the same advantage.

“There have been a number of analyses about the benefit or lack of benefit of the film tax credit program in North Carolina,” said Berger.

“We felt that it was more appropriate for us if we're going to have a film program where the government provides some kind of funding for film to have a grant type program as opposed to be a tax write-off program,” said Berger.

But film industry advocates say the grant program will translate into fewer movies coming to the state and many feel the talent pool that’s developed in North Carolina over the last 30 years will migrate to other states that offer tax credits for movie productions.

“Pretty much every person that I know that works in production is already looking and thinking, ‘Alright, where do I move to?’” said Dan Kelly, a producer and production assistant.

Movie companies have until the end of the year to complete work in the state to take advantage of the tax credit. In Greensboro crews are gearing up to shoot “The Disappointments Room.” Some fear it could be the last movie the Piedmont hosts for a while.

“They're very excited to be working but they're already wondering what do we do in 2015, when there are not many productions?” asked Kelly.