Film industry in NC would suffer if incentives end, insiders say

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Filming will continue Saturday at Joel Coliseum for “The Longest Ride,” a high-profile movie based on a best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. But such projects could become a thing of the past in North Carolina if the state allows its film incentives package to expire at the end of the year, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

The existing tax credit allows productions to recoup 25 percent of qualified costs in the state, up to $20 million for each project. That incentive is scheduled to expire at the end of 2014 and may be replaced by a $10 million grant program for the first half of 2015, a figure that industry observers say would not be enough to lure productions to the state. Debate continues on the issue in the state legislature.

“We couldn’t have recruited this film to North Carolina, much less the Piedmont Triad, without our current film incentive,” said Rebecca Clark, the executive director of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission. “I hope our state representatives recognize that this is not only an issue affecting Wilmington. We benefit from the incentives, as well. We have around 600 crew listed in our database who work in this region on commercials, TV segments or film productions.”

There are more than 150 North Carolinians working behind the scenes on “The Longest Ride,” she said. That doesn’t count the cast and crew that have come from out of state, she said. They also add to the local economy.

“While they are here, they are spending millions of dollars on everything from renting sites for filming, accommodations, rental cars, hardware supplies, equipment rental, support services, etc.,” Clark said. “Since the beginning of the week, the film shooting in the area already is generating national publicity. I’m thrilled and honored to have this production and this group of talent — both behind and in front of the camera — in the area working.”

She said the film commission has been working since early February to recruit the project to this area. Although part of the story takes place on the Wake Forest University campus, filmmakers could have decided to shoot it elsewhere. One benefit she expects from this film in particular is a potential rise in tourism because fans of Nicholas Sparks may want to visit places they have seen on film. Other North Carolina towns such as Rodanthe and Southport, she said, “have seen significant boosts in visits since Sparks’ films (“Nights in Rodanthe” and “Safe Haven”) have been released.”

Keith Gray, one of the paid extras on “The Longest Ride,” said that he is “terribly” worried about the possible loss of film incentives in North Carolina. Gray, 42, used to work as a video store manager and, because of his love of movies, decided to switch from a career selling movies to one of being in them. As an extra and stand-in, he has appeared in 12 films and seven TV series, as well as landing speaking roles in various commercials. He is from Wilmington, and carpooled with five other actors to Winston-Salem to play one of the rodeo sponsors in “The Longest Ride.”

“I have to move back to Georgia if I want to pursue it (a film career),” he said. “We understand how important movies are to the state, even if the politicians don’t…. Film brings in jobs; it brings money to the state. We have a huge talent pool, and crew that’s well-established and knows what they are doing. And North Carolina has a variety of locations.”

But with other states offering better incentives, movie studios may not want to come to North Carolina to shoot.

“Seventy-five percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing,” Gray said.

Local films

Here are some of the movies shot in the Winston-Salem area. North Carolina’s film incentives program began in 2005 with a 15 percent film tax credit, which increased to 25 percent in 2010. The Piedmont Triad Film Commission began recruiting films to the area in 1993.

“Somebody Moved My Mountain” (1975)

“The Bedroom Window” (1987)

“Mr. Destiny” (1990)

“Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth” (1992)

“Taking Liberty” (1993, TV movie)

“Tecumseh: The Last Warrior” (1995, TV movie)

“Eddie” (1996)

“The Lottery” (1996, TV movie)

“The Patron Saint of Liars” (1998, TV movie)

“George Washington” (2000)

“Cabin Fever” (2001)

“Junebug” (2005)

“National Lampoon’s Pucked” (2006)

“Fall Down Dead” (2007)

“Home of the Giants” (2007)

“Nobody Loves Alice” (2008)

“Lost Stallions: The Journey Home” (2008)

“Goodbye Solo” (2008)

“Leatherheads” (2008)

“Eyeborgs” (2009)

“Wesley” (2009)

“The 5th Quarter” (2010)

“The Shunning” (2011, TV movie)

“The Key Man” (2011)

“The Ultimate Life” (2013)

“The Confession” (2015, TV movie)

“Susie’s Hope” (2013)

“Are You Here” (2014)

“Goodbye To All That” (2014)

“The Longest Ride” (2015)


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