Industry leaders discuss future of Hollywood East

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Submitted: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 4:30am
Updated: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 12:36pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Hollywood East is riding a wave of momentum after consecutive banner years, but industry leaders say without help it could soon come to an abrupt halt despite all of the success.

“We lived out here for eight months doing Iron Man 3, and we really enjoyed the people, and enjoyed the location and decided to move here,” said film industry transplant Greg Blackwell.

With success stories filling Hollywood East industry leaders say the stars have never shined brighter, but with the current film incentives set to expire in January it could pull the plug on future projects.

“My feeling is if there is an elected official out there who has not been able to attract Caterpillar, or Continental Tire, or major manufacturer to this state in a number of years and they want to shut down the film industry and chase 4000 jobs away I would be careful about re-election,” said EUE Screen Gems Executive Vice President Bill Vassar.

With four television series currently shooting in town the Wilmington Film Commission says lawmakers need to simply take a look at the repeat business and how shows like the ABC pilot Secrets & Lies could be economic booms for the Tar Heel State.

“To be able to know that we have that business here that all started with a pilot of one show, and potentially can turn into something like One Tree Hill that’s here for nine years, and spends in excess of $300,000,000 that’s a home run for us,” said Johnny Griffin of the Wilmington Film Commission. “We’re certainly hoping to have more of those successes.”


  • Machiavel says:

    So all of you that are against it. Show me how driving it to Atlanta is going to benefit the economy. Show me how it DIRECTLY effects you. I will say it now, you can’t. If there was no boon to the economy the industry would not be here in the first place, Nor would Atlanta seek to court it. Austin TX did what you are proposing to do, they cut all the film incentives. A planned studio about the break ground died and the industry pulled up stakes overnight. The industry has been a part of Wilmington for going on 30 years. Other than the typical “yankee invasion” rhetoric(which by the way is the same in the Triangle), how is the industry hurting Wilmington? Rhetoric can work both ways too, like playing into the stereotype of the southern redneck hating anything to do with progress. Leave the industry alone.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    why are you baiting me? Where am I wrong?

    You’ve added some factors which I did not consider. Fine.

    But, I believe they will prove the opponents case just by using the simple formula I laid out. And that is why they never have and never will.

    Throw in your factors, and perhaps the formula worsens. I think, though, when they use police and ems, they pay a fee. It may not be an adequate fee, but they do pay a fee. When you throw in things like this you just give them extra smoke to cloud the issue.

    Second, when Johnny can only name 1 project and not even mention all of the others which have been present, he’s likely not the guy who should be an industry advocate. And when the State sends a delegation to Hollywood to lobby for business, and they do not include the local industry advocate, that tells me he’s a light weight.

    Why is the city ponying up $50,000, annually, to supplement his compensation?

    Does he go to Raleigh and lobby the legislature on behalf of the movie makers? He’d need to be a registered lobbyist to do that.

    Does he have a cornucopia of contacts in Hollywood, Sundance, or Cannes with which he can connect and motivate to bring projects to SE NC?

    Can he point to just 1 project, other than possibly political ads, which came to the area as a direct result of his contacts and industry background?

    I’ve asked pretty simple questions. Bet we don’t see any type of literate, uncluttered, smoke and mirrors free response.

  • Vog46 says:

    “But the proponents won’t. They know the light of day will show the weakness of their position.”

    I will disagree with this. Why? Because these types of incentives are “candy” for most legislative bodies. Louisiana comes to mind here – they studied filming and saw the negligible returns and still pushed incentives.
    Our own legislative commission studied incentives as well:

    I hope our Legislature is not “star struck” !!!
    Do I support filming? Sure I do but not with a continuing, ongoing incentive that is used by the industry now as a threat if that incentive is tampered with……
    We have a great studio – well trained experienced labor force, and beautiful scenery – all of which was here before incentives……
    I hope that they let the incentives expire…

    As for Griffin? We concur 100% on this one and the city should STOP all support for the film commission as well.


  • Vog46 says:

    Not baiting at all – if I sounded that way I apologize.
    You won’t find anyone more virulently opposed to film incentives than I am.
    The film industry ONLY talks how much is spent – they never talk about how much they cost local cities.
    But – I have often wondered why – when its obvious they are using TAXPAYER monies to support film why the basis for the incentives is not public information.
    Yes I agree Johnny is not the best spokesperson for filming and he seems to be a mouth with a position here.

    I have asked this question on the blogs at WECT – “Can film supporters get behind the very Republican idea of offering a true rebate of taxes paid instead of offering an incentive based upon money spent OR – a new reduced tax rate for film company;s and if not why not?”
    Not surprising but I have yet to get a response from anyone, on any blog because the answer is that it wouldn’t be enough for them.
    No one will admit to that……
    Then they are their own worst enemy. They recently published an article which said ILM was a top 5 small city for filming. The film supporters were crowing UNTIL I pointed out to them that many cities mentioned were in states with no film incentives – completely refuting their argument that if incentives go away so will filming.
    Got no response from THAT either…….
    Like Johnny Griffin they are they’re own worst enemy…


  • SurfCityTom says:

    all the rhetoric in the media will not win an extension of incentives for thw film industry.

    Put together a factual presentation of revenue, taxes collected, and tax rebates given.

    Hire a literate, connected lobbyist to spend the entire legislative session in Raleigh making their pitch.

    Identify the real legislative powers who can influence the votes and call on them in the “off season”.

    Replace Johnny with a clerk to do the paper shuffling which he seems so incapable of doing.

    But the proponents won’t. They know the light of day will show the weakness of their position.

  • ClemsonBemson says:

    Aint that one a them things ya got when ya aint got some money for one a them air conditioner things ta put in yor winder? Probly aint got yourself no proper furnace neither like them real people do! :-)

  • Wayne says:

    I do hope Hollywood East closes up shop soon and moves back to the West coast. Between the yankees, union retirees, and immoral, unaccountable film people, New Hanover County has become a cesspool of crime, high cost of living, high taxes, and no Southern Charm is left anymore. If I start a small business, I pay all taxes due to the local, County, and State. But let someone make a stupid movie and they are exempt from paying any taxes. That is wrong. So LEAVE, and don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out. Oh wait, yankees don’t know what a screen door is!

  • Vog46 says:

    You forgot some important information which the movie industry NEVER releases.
    What are the indirect costs? What about the cops provided for traffic EMS for other things? What about the NON TAXABLE spending (there’s PLENTY) and what about taking out the unemployment these folks collect between shows?
    IF we use tax payer funding why are the expenses used to justify the incentive not made public?

    the industry has made a living out of lying about the spending that takes place and they never ever talk about what they COST the state/county/city.
    Johnny Miller math is this – you use 30 extras (the same 30 extras) each day for 30 days. Because they are day laborers you have created 30 times 30 or 900 job opportunities. Their math is almost as wild as he stories they try to tell in their movies…..

  • SurfCityTom says:

    in the newspaper, they should devote their efforts to getting up to Raleigh and speaking to EVERY member of the voting legislature. And be there every week spinning their tales and laying out their wampum.

    Rather than use some wild $300,000,000 number, which is done to incite the uninformed, put together a professional presentation. Use the Ironman III numbers; that should be simple.

    X number of dollars were actually spent in state.

    Y number of tax dollars in revenue were collected.

    Z number of tax credit dollars were handed back through tax rebates.

    Subtract Z from Y.

    If the number is positive, they made their case in an easy to understand format.

    If the number is negative, they proved the opposition’s point.

    But that may require more effort than Johnny wants to expend. After all, he’s only getting about $115,000 annually; part of which is subsidized by the City. And apparently his effectiveness is so well known, the state Authority did not include him as a member of the official entourage when they jetted out to Hollywood to sing their love songs and plight their troth.

    He’s hoping for more successes; success comes to those who work for it. He might want to bone up on his local movie history.

    Johnny — ever hear of Firestarter, Raw Deal, or Sleeping with the Enemy? They were all filmed in southeastern NC. How about the movie done a few years ago which had John Travolta and Vince Vaughn? Further west, how about Last of the Mohicans? How about the Rodanthe movie with Richard Gere?

    How about Blue Velvet with Dennis Hopper?

    You mention One Tree Hill. Ever hear of Matlock or Dawson’s Creek?

    When does the Council look at the upcoming fiscal budget? If you’re going to help compensate an industry advocate, at least get one who knows what went on and can work on those experiences for contacts and success stories.

  • Andync says:

    4000 film jobs…2012 69 million paid out in incentives. 69 million divided by 4000 equals.. $17,250 per person involved in the film industry in NC..doesn’t that money come out of the state cofers…how does this incentive help the other 8.5 million North Carolinians??

  • jj says:

    I would agree Andync. I would think a better deal is give them a tax break and then the state gets a percentage of the profit. You have someone like Robert Downey who made 50 million off of Iron Man 3 and the Box office was 1.2 billion and we are givening the a tax break. How much taxes die Robert Downey pay NC? They should tax him on the full amount. The should want us to pay tax on stuff we purchase out of state.

  • Big dude says:

    Y’all sound like the Republiklans who run your state now…Lets cut any and all businesses that seem ‘Leberal’ along with voting rights etc..Y’all truly are the stupidist, most arrogant and conniving types to ever grace Gods good earth. Talk to the people who work these to the landlords who rent their offices and buildings for huge amounts, talk to the shop and resteraunt owners who sell and feed all these people..the list goes on and you call it unverifiable? Bribes? Stay unemployed and stupid cuz you wish that on your fellow citizens. More for Atlanta!! Idiots.

  • Rick Wilson says:

    This just shows the greedy get greedier. The film industry uses unemployment insurance as part of its business plan. Their employees draw way more than is paid in by their industry. Then they have the gall to demand incentives (bribes)or they pack up and take the jobs away. Extortion is a crime…….It is time to prosecute instead of paying.

    They also could back up their claims with facts instead of hot air. 4000 jobs……prove it with W-2’s. Also show how much unemployment each employee drew for the year. In excess of $300,000,000.00 spent….prove it with dated verifiable receipts, the kind required to back up deductions on your tax return. Would the propaganda you spew be the same if you were required to testify to it in a court of law with jail time as the penalty for lying?

  • tseug says:

    Wilmington is silly enough to call itself Hollywood of the East when the movie folks are pulling the “fund us or we are leaving racket” all over the country. One thing for sure…..we aren’t the only Hollywood of the ( insert your geographic location here) sending tax payer money to California under the same threat.

  • tke1 says:

    Almost any business will thrive with someone else paying the bills for that business. I want to open a Chocolate Covered Hard Boiled Egg on a Stick business and get the government to pay me to do it.

  • FilmWife says:

    When journalists refer to Wilmington, NC as Hollywood East, not only does it grate on my nerves, but it shows how out of touch they are with the film industry. No one who actually works in film/TV calls Wilmington, Hollywood East.

  • Vog46 says:

    Paying for filming is not a function of government – never has been and should never be.
    What is the return? It’s lousy according to EVERY report done independently.
    And the statement that filming would come to an abrupt halt is a blatant lie. Recently a movie publication released the top ten cities (both large and small) for filming and surprisingly many cities in states who had done away with film incentives were on the list – completely demolishing that argument.
    This is corporate welfare plain and simple…..


  • george says:

    You can also add the unemployment the crew members receive between shoots.

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