Bill Vassar: With film incentives, the state comes out far ahead

May 7, 2013 

With film incentives, the state comes out far ahead

Your May 2 news story on the state’s film and TV production incentives did not paint a full picture of the success of a program that sustained more than 4,000 jobs and brought $376 million of spending into North Carolina last year.

Since incentives increased three years ago, film hiring and spending have risen dramatically across North Carolina – putting more money into the coffers of state and local governments, to say nothing of the hotels, restaurants, small business owners, home owners, caterers and other vendors who do business with our thriving film industry.

Your story mischaracterized the incentives’ cost to taxpayers. Although it’s true that production companies claimed $69 million in film credits in calendar year 2012, the amount the state will have paid this fiscal year, which ends June 30, is considerably lower.

Rigorous auditing by the N.C. Department of Revenue has resulted in the payment of $51 million through the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, with no more than $2 million more expected to be paid through the end of the year. Last fiscal year, the state paid $12 million in film credits. The year before, it was $15 million.

The story also failed to note that, according to a recent Revenue Department report, North Carolina film, television and commercial productions last year employed 14,083 people, a mix of full-time workers, part-timers and extras.

Between 2007 and 2013, the direct spending from TV and film productions in the state totaled more than $1 billion, yet the cost of the credit for the same time period was just over $101 million – a ratio of 10 to 1.

If it weren’t for North Carolina’s film incentives, the economic benefits would have gone to other states.

For example, Georgia, which has stronger incentives, is attracting not just TV and film productions but also large studio complexes, including a giant new one outside Atlanta. And South Carolina is strengthening its film incentive program so it can compete, too.

Consider the new movie “Iron Man 3,” filmed in Wilmington. According to a recent economic analysis, for every dollar of incentive the film received, it returned $8.99 in economic output to the state. As part of that, the state gained $5.20 in labor income for every dollar of tax credit the production received.

With our ailing economy just beginning to recover, this is hardly the time to invite our state’s film industry to leave for our neighboring states, taking their jobs and spending with them.

When you see “Iron Man 3,” watch the credits roll as they name the hundreds of North Carolinians who helped make this movie here instead of somewhere else.

Bill Vassar

Chairman, Wilmington Regional Film Commission; executive vice president, EUE Screen Gems


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