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Law Eliminates Film Grant's Sunset Date

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Oct 9, 2017
The timeout date on the state’s Film and Entertainment grant program has been removed.

On Oct. 8, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Senate Bill 582, which included a line item that removed the July 1, 2020, sunset date from the state’s film grant program.

The bill amends the expiration date from an earlier law when the state switched from a film incentive to a film grant program. This year, however, the state legislature added a recurring source of funding, something area film recruiters have said helps push marketing efforts for the film industry in the state.

Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) said he was in support of bringing this change to the state legislature this session after speaking to the local film officials, who are currently making contact with potential projects and recruiting for the spring season.

“You have to have one of two things to make the movie industry come here and make it a viable business in North Carolina,” Davis said. “One, you have to have sufficient funding … and the second thing is once you have adequate funding, you have to have it consistently.”

The state budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year 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.

“I’m hopeful this will get the industry back into North Carolina,” Davis said of the legislation. “Once can get thing rolling again. Hopefully, it will just perpetuate itself.”

Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, said the elimination of the sunset date on the film grant program is great news for the state's film industry.

"We can show them now we have legislation that is forward-looking. We've got money that is recurring, and it's a clear path for them to come into North Carolina at this point. So we're anxious to start having those conversations with clients in relaying this new news to them," Griffin said.

"The elimination of the sunset will allow television series to start a production in town and settle in for the long-term," said Bill Vassar, executive vice president at EUE/Screen Gems Studios. "We can again focus on attracting television programs that run over many years, keep local people employed and local businesses busy. Shows like Dawson’s Creek that ran for six years and One Tree Hill that ran for nine."

But with the wrap of Season 2 of Good Behavior last month, there are currently no projects filming in the Wilmington area. The second season of Good Behavior is set to air this Sunday. The production has not yet been renewed for another season.

Griffin said the long-term funding is adding to recruiting efforts as productions begin looking for locations for the spring filming season. 

"Talks are still ongoing," he said of recruiting films. "Projects we're talking to again are for next spring, so nobody's ready to commit to anything as of yet. But in some of those conversations, this end date was raised, the issue was raised."

Officials with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, which has advocated for a return of the film industry to the area, are also hopeful that long-term projects will want to locate in the area.

“We’re very pleased that the legislature has lifted the sunset on the film grant program because we believe it provides consistency and stability to those entities that might have interest in developing an entire television series with longer-term budget projects,” said Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.
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