Wilmington to vote on funding new film industry initiative

WILMINGTON, NC (WWA) — Getting some hands-on work in the film industry, funded by the City of Wilmington. That’s the goal of a new workforce development initiative city council discussed during an agenda briefing on Monday morning.

On November 3, Wilmington City Council will vote on awarding the non-profit Film Partnership of North Carolina a $400,000 grant to launch a new film, television, and entertainment industry training program. City staff, joined by key partners of the initiative, presented details of the program – the first of its kind in North Carolina – in response to City Council’s direction to dedicate American Rescue Plan Act funding to workforce development.

“There are hundreds if not thousands behind the camera on those sets. And those are the jobs that we’re really excited, because those are the ones that stay in North Carolina and stay in Wilmington and support our community,” said Susi Hamilton, Chair of the Governor’s Council on film, tv, and streaming.

“The state sees that this is an economic generator in our community, creates a lot of jobs,” explained Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. “And a lot of that money is being spent in this state and in this community and helps a lot of the local vendors and businesses here. I believe the state has made a long term commitment and turned the corner on what they feel about film.”

The newly formed Film Partnership of North Carolina will help build the skillset of the local and regional workforce with an emphasis on women and minorities who are largely underrepresented in the industry.

“It is important that workforce training reflect inclusion, equity, and diversity – deliberately and intentionally – ensuring that every group has the same access to the film, television, and digital streaming industry, with equal opportunities to share their stories and talents,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “This grant from the City of Wilmington and its support of the Partnership’s efforts does just that.”

Funding for the initiative would be made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act, through which the city is estimated to receive $26 million through two installments over two years.

The initiative will provide an average of five weeks of on-the-job training for a minimum of 90 pupils. Pupils will be paid $15/hour with 10 hours of preapproved overtime at $22.50/hour.

“Film is a cornerstone of our local economy, and we must be intentional about keeping it that way.” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. “This initiative will create a pipeline of qualified, local talent ready to work, while bolstering Wilmington’s status as a place where film is welcomed and embraced. We’re grateful that we can use American Rescue Plan funding to continue investing in vital areas of service, like workforce development.”

The first training session will kick off later this year.

“The demand for developing and training the next generation of crew that reflects the diverse population of our state is growing throughout the industry,” Susi Hamilton, former secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and interim board chair for the Film Partnership, said. “It’s exciting that the City of Wilmington and the state recognize this opportunity and are ready to lean into it.”

This has been a banner year for film in North Carolina, with a record-shattering $410 million projected in direct spending.

“We have been recruiting and have placed several trainees over summer,” Darla McGlamery, business agent for IATSE Local 491 said. “We are breaking records for film and production investments this year, and it’s important that we create a pipeline of well-trained talent to meet the demands of the industry.”

The top-ranked School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem is among the collaborators in the partnership.

“The UNCSA School of Filmmaking is excited to support this endeavor to expand the local industry workforce and provide more opportunities for our students, faculty and alumni to produce their projects within the state,” Lauren Vilchik, assistant dean and a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television and Digital Streaming said.

This initiative derives from a recommendation of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television, and Digital Streaming.

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