Under the Dome

Film studio head calls for election turnout after NC incentives change

The state’s film industry is channeling its frustration over the legislature’s ending of tax incentives into the voting booth.

Bill Vassar, the executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, recently posted a blog on the company’s website calling on supporters to make sure they’re registered to vote and know which lawmakers are film-friendly.

“We are deeply disappointed that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory did not bring the House and Senate back to Raleigh and address economic development issues facing our state, including legislation affecting the film industry,” Vassar writes.

Vassar says next year, when the tax breaks end, more than 4,200 film workers will leave North Carolina or be unemployed. EUE/Screen Gems will remain open, he added. (A hat tip to The Port City Daily online newspaper for unearthing this gem.)

This summer, the General Assembly replaced the film incentives with a grant program that will amount to no more than $10 million – far short of the $60 million to $80 million that currently benefits the industry.

An angry group of vocal protesters greeted House Speaker Thom Tillis at a U.S. Senate campaign stop in Wilmington last week, some of whom blamed him for ending incentives. Tillis actually voted for a measure that would have extended the incentives, but the bill died in the Senate. The new grant program emerged in budget negotiations between the two chambers’ leaders.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, running against Tillis, has criticized Tillis and McCrory for failing to get the incentives extended.

Tillis, asked about the protesters at the Wilmington event, said the issue might not be dead, even though his term ends this year.

“It’s important. Hopefully, we can convince the Senate to come back and make progress on it next year,” Tillis said. My record is very clear on supporting this industry, and we want to do more and I think we will.”

As of earlier this year, EUE/Screen Gems was the second largest contributor to Tillis’ campaign, chipping in $20,800.