NC Film Office Director Hopes To Expand Production Industry [Interview]
The North Carolina film industry is in serious danger if the state’s film tax incentive program is allowed to expire at the end of this year as currently scheduled.
As the debate heats up prior the next session of the North Carolina General Assembly in May, NC Film News caught up with Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office, to get to the heart of the issue, how we got here, and what the future holds.
“The North Carolina Film Incentive has been in the state since about 2006 when we first started out a 15 percent incentive,” Syrett explained. “We evolved our system until we changed it in 2011 to what it was now, which is a 25 percent totally refundable credit on goods, services, and compensation for things bought, sold, and rented in North Carolina.
“There is a $20 million cap, meaning a production has to spend a minimum of $250,000 and we will qualify the first $80 million of their spending, but once they go over the $80 million, we don’t qualify anything beyond that.
“It has a sunset, which means when the law is set to expire, and that’s what we’re facing right now. The law is set to expire on January 1, 2015.”
Will hit productions like Homeland, Sleepy Hollow, and Under the Dome leave the state if the incentive sunset happens as scheduled?
“I think that’d be safe to say,” said Syrett. “You have to look at where the story is going and their bottom line, how many more seasons they plan to go. That all plays into their decision process. If they did stay, what you wouldn’t see is new productions start to happen in North Carolina. That would end immediately. At the rate we’re getting productions right now, we’re super successful, and you would see that stop immediately.”
On a more positive note, if the sunset is extended or eliminated all together, the future will see productions expanding into areas of the state that are also ready for their closeup.
“We want to continue a smart, steady growth throughout the state, and continue our marketing efforts,” said Syrett. “There are a lot of states who don’t understand the industry well, and they have an incentive, but they’re not in it for the long haul. They don’t understand the benefits of growing a smart industry, and I think that’s what we have done.
“The idea was to grow this industry throughout the state… As we start to get strong, we start to diversify and we’re seeing across the state filming going on all over, and that’s our goal. We want to be able to build smartly, and build an infrastructure statewide.”