WILMINGTON – As of early December, eight major film projects have already committed to 2021 productions in North Carolina, including in the Wilmington area.
Those eight projects include the start of principal photography for five feature-length films and three continuations of TV or streaming series, which the industry has seen increased demand for as more people consumed entertainment from home this year.
The productions are estimated to make a more than $114-million impact in the state, exceeding this year’s preliminary estimate of $107 million in direct in-state spendings.
“This a position that we’ve not been in previously where we are starting off the year with those kinds of figures,” director of the North Carolina Film Office Guy Gaster said during this month’s governor’s advisory council meeting.
Despite Covid-19 putting the industry on pause for several months, 66 projects filed intent-to-film forms with the state in 2020, although that number is subject to change before the year’s end. Eleven of those were approved for grants and rebates.
The projects created more than 1,500 crew hires, 740 talent opportunities and 7,150-plus extra roles.
To mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on sets, production companies are following new industry-wide safety protocols, such as the ones outlined by the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers.
Preliminary numbers estimate projects spent $106.7 million in direct in-state expenses in 2020. It is roughly $60 million less than last year but about double the spending in 2017 and 2018.
Locally, it’s looking like the film industry’s economic impact in Wilmington will be around $65 million by the end of the year, according to Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.
“That’s including the fact that this year we were shut down for six months with no activity,” he said. “Based on that, and based on the interest we have for next year – I don’t have any way to predict what the number will end up being for next year – but I think it will be on track with an upward trend for us and continued strong interest in the region. We don’t see any reason for it to decline.”
Griffin said the commission is in talks with several projects about coming to the Cape Fear region in the new year.
Currently, a few series set up in town include STARZ’s “Hightown” and Fox’s remake of the BBC show “This Country,” while films like “I.S.S.,” “Static” and “International Space Station” are also in production.
To keep the momentum, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Film is drafting a report for Gov. Roy Cooper. The document includes a list of recommendations to improve the industry, such as restoring the refundable tax credit that expired in 2014, eliminating project caps and spreading the message that the “bathroom bill” HB2 has been rescinded.
“At the bare minimum, we at least need to be able to maintain what we’ve been doing and not take any steps backward,” Griffin said.
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