Local film industry leaders are optimistic about North Carolina’s recurring film grant program.
In the recently approved state budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1, the North Carolina legislature allocated $15 million in new funding, rolling over about $18 million left over from the previous year’s film grant appropriations.
The following fiscal year, $31 million dollars are allocated and set to recur each year.
With the approval of reccuring funds in the state budget, local officials are gearing up to push the area market.
According to Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, the recurring funding will be a bonus for the state, showing consistency to potential clients.
“I’m looking at it like it’s a clean slate and marketing and pushing what we have,” Griffin said. “We’ve now have a new set of tools in the tool box, and it’s … time to market it and see if we can get clients here.”
The commission’s ability to show long-term funding to productions, especially for scouting television clients that rely on longevity for producing multiple seasons, “will give productions stability in knowing North Carolina can be an option for them,” Griffin said.
Still, time is needed to generate business, Griffin said.
“It will take us a little while to market this and promote this … since our market has been changing,” he said. “Now hopefully we have a clean slate going forward. HB2 is behind us, and now we have an incentive that does look into the future and provides some stability for us."
Griffin said he's keeping a close eye on the competition; two of North Carolina's biggest competitors are Georgia and Louisiana.
Bringing in potential clients demands knowing your competition, he said, and showcasing Wilmington's strengths as a location for filming.
Bill Vassar, executive vice president of Screen Gems Studios off North 23rd Street in Wilmington, said some of those strengths include Wilmington's casual beach atmosphere, vendors that know the industry and seasoned local crew.
Since the state budget was passed, Vassar said he has notified more than 1,200 decision makers in Los Angeles to market the 50-acre Screen Gems facility and its 10 stages.
“We are appreciative to local legislatures who worked very hard to get this done,” Vassar said. “They fully understand the importance of film to the community."
Productions have been slow for the movie lot, but "not at a standstill," Vassar said, adding that he's started to see responses from initial marketing efforts after the budget was finalized.
“The response was very good. It was much higher than things we have done in the past. And as of yesterday, I got about 14 personal emails back,” Vassar said. “It’s not going to come overnight. This is not the prime season for people making the decisions on where they are going to do their production … we have another one in the next several months.”
The last few productions in the area include the movie Bolden, the History Channel's Six and TNT series Good Behavior, which is currently the only show filming in Wilmington.
“It’s getting out and talking and letting people know and reminding them,” Vassar said of the Screen Gems marketing plans.
He added, "The future is looking brighter."