Cameron Insider Winter Edition, 2012

Film Brings Millions to Local Community

By William Davis '08M

For many businesses in Southeastern North Carolina, the film industry may seem like an alien presence. At the Joint Economic Growth Summit sponsored by the UNCW Cameron School of Business and Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, state film agents and filmmakers made the case that these businesses are missing both the impact and opportunities created by films shot in the state.

An economic impact study by Cameron School faculty Woody Hall, Christopher Dumas and Peter Schuhmann determined that a single mid- major film with a budget of $25 million can bring more than $18 million into the local economy.

  • $9.23 million in wages
  • $3.09 million in income for self-employed contractors
  • $1.66 million in property income in the form of rents and interest payments
  • $256,000 in state sales and excise tax
  • $88,000 in additional revenue for local governments

Those numbers are multiplied for every new production that comes into North Carolina. The state's film industry has generated more than eight television series and 2,300 features, mini-series and TV movies.

Much of the discussion revolved around the impact of incentives, tax breaks offered by the state to encourage filming. The topic of incentives has been politically divisive across the country, as the tax breaks have attracted the attention of lawmakers looking for ways to strengthen state budgets weakened by the financial crisis.

In 2009 and 2010, studios spent approximately $80 million producing films in North Carolina. This year, the state will host more than $200 million in film productions. In Wilmington that means work for around 800 people who work in the industry, said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

"This is looking to be a banner year for North Carolina. In Wilmington itself, it is looking to be the best year in a decade," said Griffin.

As Hollywood executives realize the incentives some states offer are offset by a lack of facilities, locations and experienced crew, and maybe endangered because of uncertain political climates, North Carolina again has become attractive to filmmakers, said Aaron Syrret, director of the N.C. Film Office

"You don't have to have a 40 percent incentive. North Carolina has everything in place. Just make sure your incentives are certain," said Syrett.