Film leaders working to increase grant program, not incentives

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington Regional Film Commission and the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce held a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the film industry in Wilmington.

New Hanover County Commission Vice Chair Beth Dawson said local governments and organizations like the Film Commission are working together to push for the continuance of the film program in North Carolina. Dawson said they are working to increase the funding from state legislators to maintain the film jobs and overall economy impacts in the area.

Mayor Bill Saffo added the grant program – that replaced film incentives this year – is not enough and they are working to increase that program. Saffo said they cannot find anyone to support the film credits, so they hope they can increase the grants, not revive the credits.

“Obviously ten million dollars is woefully inadequate to really support the industry. You could probably with ten million dollars support two productions in the entire state,” said Saffo.

Saffo said since the incentives expired, they’ve had a 70% decrease in interest in projects. He said they are also hearing from small businesses impacted by the loss of film projects.

“The film industry is one of the only industries not affected by the recession,” Saffo said.

Bill Vassar, the Executive Vice President of EUE/Screen Gems, echoed the support for the industry saying the studio in Wilmington will not close.

“We will weather the storm,” Vassar said.

State representative Susi Hamilton was not was not in agreement with the announcement made today.

“I don’t believe that the city and county officials were speaking on behalf of the delegation this morning, or if they were I had not been a party to that conversation,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton is in support of the incentive program and thought that folks here in Wilmington were too.

“They’ve all collectively and individually intimated to me and others that the grant program doesn’t work. So, I’m not really sure what they hope to gain by just putting more money in it,” said Hamilton.

Other city and county leaders including NHC Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield and Commissioners Rob Zapple and Skip Watkins were also in attendance.

Categories: New Hanover