NC film industry in doubt after committee kills incentive changes

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Could this be the beginning of the end for North Carolina’s film industry?

Rep. Ted Davis (R-19th District) proposed three changes to a budget bill hoping to extend the state’s film tax credit program. He thought he had the green light for it this morning, but that’s not what happened.

“Flabbergasted,” EUE/Screen Gems Studios chief Bill Vassar said about the amendment’s failure today. “I couldn’t understand what happened. Yesterday, Speaker (Thom) Tillis was all in favor of this amendment and supported Ted Davis, who put this forth.”

Davis proposed to reduce the tax credit from 25 to 22.5 percent of a film’s qualifying expenses. The cap on the tax rebate was changed from $20 million to $15 million. Finally he proposed to continue the incentive program through 2016, but a House committee Wednesday morning voted down his amendment.

Vassar thinks lawmakers just don’t get it.

“I think sometimes the legislators lose sight of all the money that comes back into the coffers,” Vassar said. “I honestly don’t understand. We were looking forward to this amendment this morning.”

The amendment lost 20-16 after all the votes came in.

“Ten members of the GOP and members of Speaker (Thom) Tillis’s staff appeared to be walking around the room whipping votes to make sure that the amendment did not pass,” Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-18th District) said.

But Davis still thinks something positive is going to come from this.

“I’m very optimistic, because there are several other avenues that are being pursued,” he said by phone from Raleigh. “But I will say, this is far from over.”

Davis could not go into detail about what these avenues are, but he said he left that meeting this morning and went straight back to work fighting for film in the Tar Heel State.

The amendment’s failure leaves the Senate plan that would turn the film tax credits into a grant program that the House must now consider.

Tillis has not returned a call for comment on what happened.

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