Reduced film credits still help retain some production jobs


By Dave Friedman. In 2011 Justin Goff was honored at a White House ceremony for making the Empact 100, which recognizes entrepreneurs under the age of 30. His company, Innocinema, provided production tools to the film industry from their offices near Northlake Mall. Business was booming and his family was thriving.

He did not want to move away from Charlotte, his home, but he has taken Innocinema to Atlanta.

Three years ago Goff told Business Today that if the Film Production Credit was not renewed, it would kill the film industry here, and force him to relocate. He spent time in Raleigh lobbying legislators, and quoted numbers from the Charlotte Regional Film Commission that indicated the industry had brought $1 billion into the state since 2007. A UNC-Charlotte study on the economic impact of films, video productions and distribution, looked at the year 2008. It found that the 16 county Charlotte region had benefited to the tune of 1,398 full-time equivalent jobs thanks to the industry.

It’s a tear-jerker for sure, but the General Assembly opted not to renew the credits, and major productions like Homeland and Banshee left, and Innocinema is now located in the Atlanta suburbs. Goff, who didn’t want to relocate, is perplexed.

“The credits are 100 percent of the reason we moved,” said Goff. “The irony is I don’t see any money from those credits. I work in equipment sales. I need people who use the credits to come into the state. When they don’t come, I don’t have any clients.”

N.C. Rep. John Bradford, who is in the first year of his first term, said there is really “no impetus to take up the matter again.”

According to Bradford, the Film Production Credit had a major flaw: The positive effects of having productions in the area weren’t permanent.

“For every dollar we give in credits, that is the taxpayer’s money, and we need to get a return,” said Bradford. “The challenge for the film industry is that it is hard to quantify the returns. Jobs come and go. They aren’t setting up a studio where they have full-time employees that are here every day. There’s no good data.”

Bradford said he’d fight for the film industry, just as he would any sector, if the return was full-time jobs. He suggested job incentive grants and infrastructure money are available for anyone that wants to build a studio.

While the credits, which had a $20 million cap per project and could be used by as many films that qualified each year, were discontinued, a $10 million credit per year with up to a 25-percent rebate was approved.

To some degree, the smaller carrot is helping to keep the industry alive in the state.

“Late in the Season,” an independent film directed by Gary Hershberger, got $1 million in incentives and is expected to shoot in Charlotte and Davidson. CBS’s Under the Dome received $5 million for its third season in Wilmington. A Lionsgate project was approved for $4 million for a production in Western North Carolina.

Charlotte Regional Film Commission Director Beth Petty says that the change in policy has forced a shift in the work she does.

“We’re optimistic state-wide and want to continue to showcase and educate about the value of films,” said Petty. “Now we are focusing on smaller projects and commercials.”

She admits that Goff is not a one-of-a-kind situation, and while lobbying efforts continue, without a change in policy, some people are forced to make difficult decisions.

“Everybody would like to sleep in their own bed, but you have to go where the opportunities are,” said Petty.


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