Cape Fear area leaders pushing for more grant money as film industry booms

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) —

After a few slow years in Hollywood East, the lights, cameras, and action are back.

“This year, all indications are that this will probably be about the best year we’ve had in maybe ten years,” Regional Film Commission Director Johnny Griffin said.

Regional Film Commission Director Johnny Griffin said just in the first three months of this year, productions have already spent more than $65 million in the community. There are several productions currently underway including a new movie that just got to town last week. Griffin said pre-production will begin for “Along for the Ride” in the coming weeks.

“A lot of businesses have been feeling it,” Griffin said. “They’ve been letting us know that they are certainly glad to see it back again.”

Susi Hamilton is the chair of Governor Cooper’s advisory council on film, television and digital streaming. She said the numbers for the state as a whole are even better. There are 12 projects that are currently approved for the state’s grant this year.

“We are already up to committed direct spend in North Carolina from production companies at $191 million,” Hamilton said.

What is bringing the production companies back?

“The first question for them that they’ve gotta look at for every state that they’re considering is what is the incentive situation?” Griffin said.

The state’s $31 million incentive program is helping, but could that run out?

“Since we’ve seen an increase, then obviously we just need to make sure that we’ve got enough funding in place to be able to keep that moving forward,” Griffin said. “What we don’t want to do is tell productions that we don’t have anymore capacity.”

Hamilton said running out of the grant money is not likely, because the state rolls over any excess grant money each year. In the meantime, Senator Michael Lee is proposing a new bill that would add $34 million to the program.

“It would be great if it passed and I think that would send a real strong message to people in the business that North Carolina is open for business, but if it doesn’t pass, all is not lost,” Hamilton said.

She said right now there is enough money, but Griffin wants to make sure that they do not run out in the future.

“We’ve got that momentum we’ve been building for a couple years,” Griffin said. “We just want be able to keep that moving forward at this point.”

The goal is to keep the lights, cameras, and action in Wilmington.

The state’s film grant program renews in July. Hamilton said if Senator Lee’s bill were to pass before then, that extra $34 million would be added this year.

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