RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The nation's major film and television series producers are warning that North Carolina could lose thousands of jobs and millions in economic investment if it doesn't extend a state incentive program set to expire at the end of 2014.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports (http://bit.ly/1bkt7Tu) that Vans Stevenson, the Motion Picture Association of America's senior vice president for government affairs, wrote to state officials four days before the Legislature adjourned.
Stevenson wrote that the unwillingness of lawmakers to extend the program is already having an effect on the state and meant North Carolina would no longer be considered for major future feature films.
The letter was addressed to Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker and copied to Gov. Pat McCrory, as well as Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Tony Almeida, the governor's adviser on jobs.
Bill Vassar, executive vice president at EUE/Screen Gems studio in Wilmington and chairman of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, said in an interview that North Carolina's film industry is doing well. Film supporters will hope to show lawmakers in time for next year's legislative session that extending the incentives beyond the current expiration of 2014 is good for the state, he said.
Vassar said there was no need to try for that in the waning days of the just-concluded session.
The CBS series "Under the Dome" has already agreed to film again at the Wilmington studio next year, and a number of other projects are under way statewide. Vassar said Fox is investing heavily in a new series, "Sleepy Hollow," that will debut in September and is being filmed in the Wilmington area.
"I have one of the biggest shows in television gearing up, 'Sleepy Hollow,' for Fox," Vassar said. "(T)hey are investing . . . let's say it is a success this year. It's very unlikely that they would take this amount of money, millions and millions of dollars they have invested in sets and backlot and office setup, and move it somewhere else."
In his letter, Stevenson took a different stance on the future of "Sleepy Hollow." He said that filming was planned for 2014 and 2015 but "will be forced to relocate if the incentive program is not extended for at least three years."
Stevenson wrote that another show went to Louisiana because of uncertainty and that Disney is no longer considering the state for films.
Decker, the commerce secretary, said that she has not responded to the letter but that she believes the incentive program is good because it keeps filmmaking alive on a broader scale in North Carolina than if it were not in place. Other states offer incentives and North Carolina must compete with them, she said.
The state spent $60.5 million on the program in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and is still processing claims that totaled $69.5 million. Legislative leaders have indicated that tax changes adopted this year would provide relief to taxpayers in part by allowing current loopholes and breaks, including the film incentives, to expire as scheduled.
Decker said she is already thinking of finding sources of money other than general taxes to fund the program.
"We've just got to figure out a new way to go about this," she said. "Because there's certainly not an appetite for what we need to do to be competitive."
Decker said she was speaking only for the Commerce Department and not the McCrory administration. The governor has not taken a position on film incentives, according to his office.
Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com