Local film industry leaders are making a concerted effort to promote the newly recurring film grant to potential productions.
WILMINGTON -- With a recurring, $31 million film grant program now part of North Carolina's state budget moving forward, the local film industry isn’t wasting time ramping up its efforts to attract productions.
Bill Vassar, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, said the studio has implemented an “extremely aggressive” marketing strategy to inform past and potential clients about the incentive developments.
“We wanted to let them know we are here and we are ready to go,” he said.
When the state budget was finalized on June 28, the studio had an email blast ready to go out minutes later to 1,200 producers, networks and other industry clients. The email, which sports an aerial shot of the 10-stage, 50-acre lot, touted the area’s “world class, locally based crews” and seasoned vendors as reasons for producers to book the space.
“The response has been positive,” he said of the email. “We’re looking to be busier in the fall.”
Stability in the grant program will be key in helping lure productions back to the state after more than two years of increasingly slim film and television work. When the former incentive program was done away with at the end of 2014, the first stab at a grant program was only given $10 million. Six months later, it was infused with $30 million for each of two years through June 2017.
In those intervening two years, the state passed House Bill 2, the controversial bill denounced by several production companies who vowed to keep work out of the state. After more than a year of backlash, it was rolled back earlier this year.
“Until the HB2 issues was resolved, we were not an attractive place to shoot,” Vassar said. “Once that was resolved and the incentive was in place, people wanted to talk again.”
Under the new program, $18.3 million in unused funding from last fiscal year will be added to $15 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year, totaling $33.8 million. For future fiscal years, an annual recurring $31 million will be available.
Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, said it’s the recurring distinction that will really perk up the ears of clients.
“They want to see some stability in North Carolina that can help with long-term planning,” he said.
A revitalization could take time, Griffin said, as most new series premiering later in the year have already found a filming location.
“Still, this gets us back on the table with our clients,” he said.
The area’s only major 2017 production so far, season two of TNT’s “Good Behavior,” continues shooting through late summer on the EUE/Screen Gems lot.
Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.