Film industry leaders discuss what’s next for grants, crew members, productions after COVID-19

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Many businesses are taking a hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic, and the film industry is no different.

Industry leaders in our area held a meeting Wednesday night to discuss issues from state film grants, to unemployed crew members, to what the industry will look like when productions are able to begin filming again. NC Film Forum is a monthly event hosted by Cucalorus in partnership with the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“We are in a much different place than we were three months ago,” said NC Film Advisory Council Chair Susi Hamilton. “In 2019, we did about $167 million worth of work in the state. It was the largest year’s worth of work that we had done in the past five years.”

About $133 million of that just in the Wilmington area.

Back in October at Screen Gems Studios, Governor Roy Cooper announced an advisory council on film, television and digital streaming. Hamilton chairs that council.

“All I can say is we are doing the best we can to maintain the film grant program funding,” she said.

Wilmington Film Commissioner Johnny Griffin says 2020 started off with two new pilots filming in the area.

“I was very hopeful and optimistic that by May we probably would have had three to five projects just in the Wilmington area,” he said.

Griffin says unlike after a hurricane, which is concentrated to one area, North Carolina will be able to bounce back once productions are allowed to resume.

“It could be that North Carolina is in a good position because maybe we’re not hit as bad by this virus as other parts of the country,” Griffin said. “So it could be that it’s easier to go back to work here than in other places.”

He also says some projects scheduled for late spring are still planning to continue, unless government orders are extended.

“I think some of these companies are being a bit optimistic, just kind of putting a pen on the calendar, but still not knowing under what parameters they’ll be working at that point in time,” Griffin said.

Those who had been working on out-of-state productions are now home and out of work, trying to navigate unemployment.

Griffin says that could actually benefit North Carolina’s film industry.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen to the project that they were on,” he said. “Is that project going to start back up, is it not? And it could be the situation that we’ve actually got more crew available now.”

Leaders in the film industry say the time delays and financial impacts of this pandemic could lead the networks and production companies to change the process of greenlighting projects.

If you work in the film industry as an independent contractor, there are other options for temporary income besides unemployment.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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