NC film industry on track to have record year

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmywood is back. The film industry in Wilmington and North Carolina as a whole is on the path to potentially have a record-breaking year.

The Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television, and Digital Streaming met virtually on Wednesday to discuss the current state of the industry.

According to a presentation from Guy Gaster, 72 projects submitted intent to film forms to the state and 18 projects were approved for grants.

Current grants in North Carolina offer rebates for up to 25 percent of production costs.

Productions in the state so far this year have created more than 20,000 job opportunities and resulted in $331 million direct in-state spending.

“We are already at the third highest direct spend in North Carolina and we anticipate that we’re going to far exceed that existing number,” said Council Chair Susi Hamilton. “And hopefully and God-willing, there will be a new record set this year.”

Overall spending in 2020 was less than 20 percent of what the state has seen so far in 2021. In fact, as of July 9, spending in 2021 exceeded the past seven years.

Hamilton believes the investment in the industry in the form of grants has been well worth it.

“If you’ve got a $320 million year of direct-spend and you’re paying 25 percent of that out, I think that’s really a good return on our investment,” she said.

In addition to the grants, Hamilton says an increased demand for new content has companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon upping their spending. This was brought on in-part by increased binge-watching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you’re spending 10 million on content development in 2019, by 2021 that jumps to 40 million, that’s a huge increase,” she said.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo is chair of the Regional Film Commission Board. He says the increase in productions coming to the area is beneficial for the economy.

“We see this surge in activity and production to be ongoing for quite some time. It’s good for our economy, it’s put a lot of people to work,” Saffo said. “They’re buying a lot of material here in the Wilmington area, a lot of vendors are being used here.”

A big topic of discussion during Wednesday’s meeting was workforce development. Hamilton says the state has invested a tremendous amount of money in education for production in community colleges, state universities, and other educational institutions.

“If we’re in the right place at the right time and we train the citizens and the students of North Carolina how to do this, I think we’re going to see a big change,” she said. “I’m enthusiastic, I’m hopeful.”

You can watch the Film, Television, and Digital Streaming Advisory Council’s entire meeting here.

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