Will Pat McCrory be remembered as the governor who killed the film industry in North Carolina? It could be, if the film community’s most dire predictions come to pass.
McCrory has announced that he won’t call the General Assembly back in session to discuss film incentives, historic preservation credits that encourage economic revitalization or his own pet project, a “closing fund” that would give Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker sole authority to write checks to large employers seeking to locate in North Carolina.
This means that a film incentives program that revived an industry that has long been part of North Carolina will expire at the end of the year — and with them, many fear along the North Carolina coast, may go hundreds if not several thousand full-time jobs that pay not only a living wage, but a solid middle-class wage.
The less-than-adequate grant program that will take the place of tax credits has a cap of $10 million total spending — less than one-sixth of the incentives paid out in 2013 to a variety of projects, including the popular television series “Sleepy Hollow” and the big-screen hit “Tammy.” McCrory recently approved $12 million to add cleaner-powered boilers and save 1,000 jobs at a paper plant in western North Carolina.
Last month it wasn’t McCrory but Senate candidate Thom Tillis who was the target of the film community’s disappointment. A number of protesters showed up as the current N.C. House speaker campaigned with an assist from Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Tillis once supported film incentives. But he has been quiet on the issue since announcing his candidacy. He was in a position to push, if he desired to do so.
The incentives were expanded in 2010 with Tillis’ help, and as a result cameras were rolling all over the state. The industry supports the livelihoods of 4,200 workers employed full time as crew members, as well as local businesses around the state that exist solely because of the industry’s presence. Other businesses also benefit, because productions buy food, supplies and other necessities locally — as do the visiting cast and crew from out of town.
And the largesse isn’t just in Wilmington parts of eastern North Carolina. Films are shot around the state, including here in Alamance County. The North Carolina premiere of a film shot in Alamance and Caswell counties was held earlier this month when “Dark Awakening” was screened at the Graham Cinema. The film was produced by longtime movies special effects experts Dean and Starr Jones of Snow Camp.
When those film credits expire at the end of the year, those who know the industry say the grant program will not be enough to keep the state competitive. Film is likely to be a much smaller presence in the state.
While the impact could be felt statewide, there’s little doubt the loss would be most noticeable in southeastern North Carolina — especially in and around Wilmington, the hub of the state’s film activity. That region already has more difficulty than other areas attracting major employers that pay middle-class wages.
And every part of this state knows we cannot afford to give up on jobs that are already here.