Lights! Camera! Action! — N.C. film industry to get $60M boost

Lauren K. Ohnesorge

It’s official: Budget writers in Raleigh have drafted legislation that would pour millions in additional funding into North Carolina’s film industry.

The budget earmarks $60 million in grant funds over two years for qualifying productions, $30 million per fiscal year. Adding in the $4 million left over from the previous fiscal year that has yet to be officially allocated, and it would give the state $64 million to offer up in efforts to attract future projects to the state.

That amount still pales in comparison to what was distributed in the now-defunct tax credits program, which had productions claiming more than $60 million in credits in 2014 alone. But it’s a step up from the $10 million provided under the current program.

Additionally, the funding comes with limits to ensure that multiple projects will benefit.

Funds are capped at $5 million for a feature-length film, $250,000 for a commercial, or $9 million for a television series (which must spend $1 million an episode to qualify). Grants will not exceed 25% of the project’s expenses.

Language added to this budget would open the door for online productions — television series debuting on a streaming platform such as Netflix, for example. Guy Gaster, director of the N.C. Film Office, says those types of projects have always been able to qualify; they just haven’t been specifically identified in the grant text.

For perspective, the sci-fi series Under the Dome claimed $8.8 million in credits in 2014. The only television series to claim more than the grant cap announced this week was Sleepy Hollow, which claimed $10.9 million in 2014.

While the N.C. Commerce Department has not made its current $4 million tranche allocation public, one TV show, Good Behavior, has confirmed preproduction in Wilmington. The show is filming a pilot for TNT, which could qualify for a $1 million grant under the newly announced rules.

The grants are in line with what film executives were expecting. Bill Vassar, site lead for Wilmington’s EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the location for the recently vacated Under the Dome, has said the goal is to lure more TV series in hopes of attracting long-term work for the local film industry.

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