N.C. Senate budget keeps film funding at current level

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EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington. File photo.
EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington. File photo.

The N.C. Senate isn’t planning to up spending on the film industry next fiscal year.

An initial budget plan coming out of the Senate on Monday keeps the state’s film grant at the same funding level–$10 million total–per year for 2015-17.

“I am extremely disappointed that my colleagues cannot understand the importance of these grants to the survival of an extremely important industry to our region and state,” Sen. Michael Lee said in a statement. “I will not stop fighting for restoration of meaningful funding for film.”

Lee and Rep Ted Davis, both Republicans who represent New Hanover County, introduced companion bills to up the current funding level to $66 million because, Lee said in an earlier interview, they “felt that was the correct number.”

The House version of the budget, approved in late May, included an allotment of $40 million for filming.

“While $40 million is significantly less, I think everyone would agree that funding at that level would be welcome by all,” Lee said.

Davis agreed.

“I am ecstatic,” he said last month. “That is four times the amount that we presently have in the grant. That is four times more than the governor put in his proposed budget. I think it’s fantastic that the House agreed to put $40 million in that budget. I think it sends a strong message to the Senate that the House supports the film industry and wants the film industry to be here.”

Earlier this year, a group of local officials and film advocates announced its intention to work with state lawmakers on a push to increase the existing grant maximum rather than continue fighting for a tax incentive program like the one that expired last year.

The $10 million state grant in place since January has already been expended, with $5 million going to “Under the Dome” in April, another $4 million going to an untitled Lionsgate Television Project expected to shoot in the western part of the state and $1 million to “Late in the Season” –about a 31-year-old stockbroker with a mysterious past who walks on to a small North Carolina college basketball team and inspires his struggling teammates’ lives. The latter film will shoot on the campus of Davidson College, just south of Charlotte, and be based in the greater metropolitan area.

The proposed budget must still go through committees and the full Senate is likely to approve a spending plan by the end of the week.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.