The executive vice president of Wilmington’s EUE/Screen Gems Studios is encouraging film supporters in North Carolina to register to vote in the upcoming elections, in light of recent changes to the state’s film tax credit.
Bill Vassar. File photo.
In a blog post published on the studios’ website, Bill Vassar calls on everyone affected by the film industry to register to vote and support “film friendly candidates” in the November elections, registration for which ends Oct. 10.
“We are deeply disappointed that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory did not bring the House and Senate back to Raleigh and address economic development issues facing our state, including legislation affecting the film industry,” Vassar said, predicting an exodus of film workers and revenue when the state’s expiring film incentive is replaced with a scaled-down grant program in January.
“North Carolina will no longer attract the tens of millions of film dollars spent each year at over 1,200 local [businesses],” he said. “Next year, more than 4,200 film workers making an average of $66,000 per year will move their families out of state or find themselves in the unemployment line.
“…If the issues facing the film industry [affect] your life, please make sure you are registered to vote,” Vassar said. “It’s important to know the names of film friendly candidates and promote them to your friends and volunteer for their campaigns. Together, we can increase the number of officials in Raleigh that are passionate about the positive economic impact of the North Carolina film industry.”
Vassar’s call to action comes a little over a week after McCrory announced he would not be calling legislators back to Raleigh, contending that doing so would be fruitless and a waste of taxpayer money. Several state and local officials had requested he do so, including Wilmington City Council and New Hanover County commissioners.
Even U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan weighed in on the issue, stating that she hoped McCrory would “listen to the calls that are being made across the state and reconvene the state legislature for a special session to expand the incentive program…”
Others who spoke in support of the incentive during this year’s short session of the General Assembly included state Reps. Susi Hamilton, Ted Davis and Frank Iler, whose districts are in the Wilmington area, and Reps. Charles Jeter and Rodney Moore of Mecklenburg County, among others who spoke at press conferences and rallies.
The current incentive—a 25 percent refundable tax credit that officials credit with boosting the industry in North Carolina in recent years—expires at the end of this year. Legislators approved a replacement grant fund program that provides a total awardable amount of $10 million for productions in the state for the first six months of 2015.
The $10 million cap is considerably lower than what is allowable under the current incentive, which provides a 25 percent break for productions that spend at least $250,000, with a per-production cap of $20 million. “Iron Man 3” took full advantage of that credit in 2012, while other, smaller productions have contributed to annual spending that this year has totaled $268 million—a midyear amount that exceeds 2013’s year-end total.
For comparison, 25 percent of that would come out to about $67 million—nearly seven times the amount the grant fund could award in the same timeframe.
Despite the change in recruitment tools the industry can use to lure productions to the state, Vassar’s post includes a sense of determination to keep film in Wilmington—a change in tone from a previous statement in which Vassar said the company was “re-examining our commitment to North Carolina.”
“For 18 years, our company has experienced the ups and downs of the film industry. EUE/Screen Gems Studios will persevere,” Vassar said in his post this week. “We will use the resources of the company to keep the Wilmington facility a vibrant part of the international film production industry.”
By Jonathan Spiers