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Film

'Tammy' Stars Talk Film Incentives

By Vicky Janowski and Jenny Callison, posted Jun 27, 2014
Stars of the upcoming feature film Tammy recently spoke about their time working in Wilmington during interviews promoting the movie. Several also spoke about North Carolina’s film tax incentives package, which is now under debate at the legislature.
 
“Why are they trying to fix something that ain’t broke?,” actress Kathy Bates told former WSFX and WECT evening anchor and reporter Michelle Li. “I had found that out from my driver last summer, and I thought, ‘Why don’t they just leave it alone.’ It works. They’ve got studios growing up down there.”
 

(Video c/o Michelle Li)

Li, who is now an evening news anchor for WISC in Madison, Wisconsin, traveled to Los Angeles earlier this week for the movie’s press junket and shared videos from her interviews with the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
 
In the movie, which filmed in Wilmington last year and opens nationwide July 2, Li plays a small part as a TV news reporter at the scene of a fast-food restaurant robbery.
 
North Carolina’s current film tax incentive program, which is set to expire Dec. 31, allows production companies to claim a 25 percent credit – up to a cap of $20 million unless it is a TV series – on productions’ in-state spending of more than $250,000 in qualifying expenses.
 
Proposals to change the program have included moving to a grant system or tax breaks instead of the tax credits as well as lower cap amounts.
 
Officials have said the state budget ideally should be approved before the end of the fiscal year, which is Monday.
 
Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-New Hanover) said Friday that the House and Senate are still far apart on the budget.
 
“At this point there is no evidence that they are making progress in negotiations,” she said.
 
Hamilton said that a proposal from Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) for a grant program to replace the current offerings remains in play.
 
“As it [the budget] relates to film, Ted Davis’ … grant program amendment is still in the budget, but a grant program won’t work,” she said. “There’s not enough money. We’d be fighting for it every year.
 
“The proposed amount could be soaked up by two TV productions. There would not be enough for even small, independent films or ads, and the grant program would cut our local film work force by 75 percent. That’s my estimate, based on information from the industry.”
 
Hamilton said she still was hopeful lawmakers would agree to extend the current incentive structure for a year “to give us time to get a nonpartisan, balanced assessment of how the industry benefits the state.”
 
Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo at a press conference this week in Raleigh also called for a one-year extension of the existing incentive to allow more time for a permanent solution. He said that could include the possibility of patterning the state’s incentive after New Mexico’s package, which Saffo described as one that functions like a grant system because the overall program has a spending cap but also is a refundable tax credit like what North Carolina uses now.
 
Tammy’s leading actress Melissa McCarthy described film tax incentives in general as an important part of the process.
 
“Without them, it’s kind of impossible to make a movie, which is unfortunate on every level, but it always comes down to can you afford to make your movie,” she said. “And you’re always pinching pennies, I mean to the last dime. It’s tricky when a state says we can give you this big incentive and when you get that back at the end, you can turn around and put that right back into the movie.”
 
McCarthy co-wrote Tammy with husband Ben Falcone, who also directed the movie.
 
“It’s tricky because you only have the budget you have,” Falcone said about incentives. “When people are spending money, they usually, like everybody, they want to spend less. The studios who are funding these things, who are bankrolling these projects, usually want to not spend as much as they could spend. So I’m not sure how all that will pan out, but I certainly wish the best for Wilmington and North Carolina.”
 
To see more of Li’s interviews with the actors of Tammy and how they spent their time in Wilmington, go to Li’s YouTube channel here.
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