The American Dream is built upon the concept that through the fruits of honest labor each of us can provide a decent living for ourselves and our families. That Dream is turned into reality every day by industrious small business owners who provide thousands of jobs to their fellow North Carolinians and who develop and deliver products and services used in every aspect of our daily lives. This is well illustrated throughout our state by the hundreds of small to medium sized companies in our television and movie industry. From the mountains to the coast, in nearly every county, thousands of hard working North Carolinians make their living and provide for their families by working in the film and video industry.
In the current economic environment, it is essential for us to support and encourage large production studios to come to North Carolina for movie locations. Iron Man 3 and The Hunger Games are just two recent examples of major film companies choosing our great and scenic state for their productions. All of our surrounding Southern states have some form of program to support the film industry, and North Carolina cannot afford to be at a competitive disadvantage with these states and risk having thousands of our citizens lose their jobs because we did not take action to remain competitive.
But it is critical to the long term strength of our economy and to the citizens of our state who depend upon the movie and television industry for steady employment that we also support and foster those local, North Carolina based independent movie and television production companies that keep our movie and television industry alive in between the visits of major, out of state producers. The video production companies of this state, and there are about 500 of them, employ thousands of hardworking North Carolinians in full time jobs, workers who are our neighbors and who spend money in our stores. These are the people who make up the bulk of the film and television industry of this state, and it is these Carolinians whose jobs we must protect.
As the current law enabling incentives for movie production companies shooting in North Carolina comes to a close at the end of this year, the members of the General Assembly have an opportunity to focus support on the local, homegrown businesses in North Carolina that are already employing thousands of our citizens in video production. Yes, let us continue to build an infrastructure that will attract large production houses to choose North Carolina, but let us also support and encourage the many locally based independent movie and TV makers who will be the permanent lynchpin of our efforts to establish North Carolina as a bastion of Southern pride in filmmaking.
As S744 is currently written, the qualifying expenditure requirement for a television program is set at $1,000,000, compared to the current threshold of $250,000. It is our strong belief that if the proposed dramatic increase in the qualifying requirement for a TV production is enacted into law that not ONE local, homegrown video production company in the state would benefit from the program, and we should NOT allow that to happen. Thus, it is absolutely critical that S744 as currently written be altered to lower the proposed qualifying expenditure for TV productions from the proposed increase to $1,000,000 to the current $250,000 level or no higher than $300,000. We also contend that the requirement set forth in the current language of S744 for a commercial for television or theatrical viewing be lowered from the proposed $500,000 to $125,000 or slightly higher.
S744, as currently written, also states that funds are reserved for a video or television production on a “per episode” basis. It is our strong believe, backed by statistics, that no video or television production would meet the qualifying expenses if required to submit those expenses on a “per episode” basis. We contend that the language in S744 should be changed to remove the words “per episode” and replaced with “per series.” It is obvious that the current language on this matter in S744 was a technical error because an entire series of episodes is ONE production. The current language would make it impossible for ANY video or television production to qualify.
There are other particulars of S744, in its current draft, that also should be reconsidered, but the issues detailed above are those with the most urgent need for change if we are to foster and encourage those locally based production companies that are positioned to lead our state into a permanent position of dominance in the film and television production industry and to preserve and expand the workforce in the industry in EVERY corner of North Carolina.
As you enter into joint discussions on Senate Bill 744 we ask that you agree to encourage and support those local film companies that employ thousands of North Carolinians throughout our great state. Once again, continuation of the current incentive program would send a strong message to them that we are prepared to protect their jobs and to foster the creation of even more employment opportunities for other North Carolinians in the future, and we recommend that option to you. However, as the current S744 is written, the program would be revised from the current film incentive program to a “film and entertainment grant fund.” Although we consider the current incentive program to be highly effective in fostering the film and television industry, it is critical that the program, if changed in significant ways, such as a grant program, be developed in a form that will support and assist those local, statewide production companies that will be the backbone of the film and video industry in our state.
We are hopeful that you will agree to support the changes we recommend to S744 and that you will vote to support the continued growth of the television and film industry in North Carolina. It is important to note that the film incentive program was not created for the big names in Hollywood. It was created for the people of North Carolina. So please help us maintain this demonstrated revenue producing program that has helped bring jobs, income, and positive exposure to our state.
On behalf of my client, Eno River Media Productions (ERMP), I thank you for your consideration of our recommendations. ERMP, established in 1999, is a locally based company that is dedicated to educate, facilitate and advocate for the growth of the movie and television industry in North Carolina. It nurtures and unites independent North Carolina film and video makers, allied industries, civic and government organizations by propagating a network of industry professionals. ERMP and its Executive Director, Anthony Dowling, can be reached at 919-798-3514.