WILMINGTON -- Hollywood East or Wilmywood, whatever you want to call it the Cape Fear region has seen its share of box office hits, made-for-TV movies and long-running television series. Craig Fincannon with Fincannon and Associates Casting said, "We made 23 feature films in three years. Eleven these were biggest movie stars, biggest directors in the biz at that time." The film industry was still booming throughout the mid-nineties. But then, our neighbors to the north wanted a piece of the film production pie. In 1997 Canada became the first to offer a film tax credit, causing our local film industry to take a hit as productions moved to Canada. Then, competition hit a little closer to home. In 2002 Louisiana became the first state to offer film incentives. Fincannon said, "Years ago it was a very scary time, there were incentives in every other state around, it seemed. Even though we had a studio here and we had professional people here, unless you're competitive with the rest of the country, you're going to lose it." And lose it Wilmington did. In the first few years of the new millennium the local film industry slowed to a crawl, with only a handful of feature films like "The Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood" and "A Walk to Remember" filming in our area. But TV series like Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill kept pouring money into the economy. Then in 2006 Gov. Mike Easley signed into law legislation that provides a 15 percent tax credit on productions that cost more than $250,000. Finally, North Carolina had its own film incentive package. Sen. Julia Boseman, D-9th, said, "It's been phenomenal; film is back in North Carolina. I think Wilmington is number six in the nation as far as best places to film." And the film incentives are putting North Carolina back on the radar. The numbers aren't final, but it looks like productions in 2007 brought in about $100 million to the local economy. Johnny Griffin with the Wilmington Regional Film Commission said, "It's a very good year for us, it's better than 2005 and 2006 combined. The last time we had anywhere near that amount of money was 6 to 8 years ago." Other states have caught on, offering film incentives to lure productions. But Wilmington is a region that offers something more: its own studio and a local crew base. Boseman said, "If you're head-to-head with an incentive and they could even have, another state could even have a little better incentive than we have but you know we have been doing this for decades and we have great talent and people are more likely to come here to film because of our talent and because of our film incentive." The film incentive is helping now, but what about in the year 2020? Will it be enough to entice productions to our area? The answer could lie in the hands of legislators. Lisa Mae Fincannon with Fincannon and Associates Casting said, "We're juts hoping that the state and the city continue to support the city so we see more of it here instead of working out of state." Mark Fincannon said, "Our future looks great as long as they'll continue w/that kind of support." We've seen how film incentives have helped the industry, but what will the industry look like in 12 years? Technology is changing every day, will TV series still be popular? How will the internet play a part? We'll take a look next week.
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