The North Carolina Film Industry: End Scene

The Longest Ride. Image credit: David Pascua

Dear NC Film crew and NC Film supporters,

First, let me thank everyone who has gone above and beyond to keep this industry alive.  Your work has not gone unnoticed.  Your are appreciated and you are loved.

But regardless of the countless hours we have put in, it looks as though the General Assembly is more interested in kicking the can down the road or completely ignoring sustaining jobs and job creation.

From what I am hearing, things don’t look so well for NC Film. It isn’t over until the final gavel hits, however, unless something drastic comes to light, I am being told that they will be adjourning sine die on Friday (sine die is an adjournment until the next session).

There will be no coal ash discussion, nothing in regards to Medicaid and no economic development bills will be taken up.  That includes Historic Preservation and it also includes film.  That right there is a double blow to Southeastern North Carolina. Some have said they will deal with this in November, some have said it could be pushed until February 2015.

Politicos are saying four out of the five bills on the Senate Rules agenda for tomorrow at 6pm are “strip and replace” bills. You don’t send an adjournment resolution to Rules without expecting changes; that’s what it goes there for.  If everything was a done deal, it would’ve gone to the floor.

The sun has not yet set, so anything can happen.  The question is: will it?  Stay tuned.




      • Cathy- correct. Obama passed the largest tax cut in history as part of the stimulus package. The GOP fought hard for it. Then what happened? Unemployment skyrocketed, proving yet AGAIN, that Laffler was wrong. He said tax cuts would result in increased revenues and jobs!!! (Take a look at Gov Brownbacks problems in Kansas. The state is going broke – financial institutions have lowered their debt ratings on the state and jobs are scarce. I don’t know if politicians will ever learn.
        This does NOT mean I endorse film incentives – FAR from that. I dislike industry specific targeted incentives…….
        But I dislike the current NC political climate…..for other reasons besides lack of film incentives………

  1. Good-
    Then you guys can finally sit and discuss what went wrong and how to fix it. On this and other blogs film supporters have been vocal critics of me and other bloggers who are anti film incentives. YOU DO NOT NEED ANOTHER MPAA FUNDED OR SPONSORED STUDY – it will say the same thing that ALL MPAA funded or sponsored studies show.
    You need independent verification and LOTS of it. Then you need a big DOSE of honesty. Admit that between films people collect unemployment. The average “year” for filming crews is 26 weeks of work (many times those are 80 hour weeks) that is verified by BLS data and U.S. DOL data.
    You also need to emphasize the “clean” aspect of these jobs.
    There’s LOADS of numbers you guys misrepresented.
    Film incentives can come back – heck I expect them to, but filming will NOT stop completely! Anyone who says that it will is disingenuous and is damaging your cause…….

    • Peter – You are so damn right about the study. I agree. It’s got to be completely independent. As far as unemployment goes, just from the folks I know that have been on it before, they said they will never go back on it for two reasons, at least this year anyway. They don’t have enough time in between shows to bother due to them rolling from one show to another. Also, they have made it so difficult to actually be on unemployment, they would rather move for work. But many still will. As for stopping work completely, we will be slammed until the end of the year, but I was told that you can’t even apply for the grant until Jan 1st. We have lost another big show this week due to that very business. You know how it goes, they search in advance and they want to start soon. so, no go. I don’t know how the second half of 2015 will play out, but I can tell you it will be dry the first half of 2015. The grant only allows for about 3 decent productions to come. Right now, we have over 9 productions running statewide (that includes shows in pre-production).5 here in Wilmington alone. So, we will say goodbye to 1000s of folks that live here. Folks can’t wait around for a possible job that might not come. They will go where they can roll form project to project.

  2. Filming in NC has stopped before. Completely stopped !!!! And I have never drawn unemployment and I don’t know any who has that worked on films.Its a possibility that some draw unemployment but I don’t know any. You do not realize the impact that filming has on our community. tourist visit to see films being made, actors and crews eat in our restaurants, they shop locally, they rent homes while on location. I have personally have been in the film business for about twenty years off and on of course and its been nothing but positive.

    • I don’t know anyone that draws unemployment between films. Up until recently most of the people I know that work in film never had any “between films”….they’d go from one to another back to back. Especially the ones that work on TV shows. That is very steady work. I have no idea where that guy up there is getting his information but he obviously doesn’t know anyone that works in film.

  3. Folks anecdotal evidence is great but unreliable. BLS and US DOL data measures ACTUAL results and they say the average work load for filming is 26 weeks per year, with, as I said many 40+ hours per week in there. I don’t know of many people who NOT collect as they have paid into the system so to imply that it doesn’t happen is disingenuous and hurting your argument. This is what I mean by honesty. The stats show otherwise….Accept them. “It happens.”
    As for work stoppage – sorry your own industry shows that it will not. Movie Maker magazine published their top ten lists for large medium and small city for filming and those lists were LOADED with locations in states with NO incentives. Again, facts get in your way. NC offers great location, a vibrant infrastructure and trained crews. Lack of incentives won’t change that. To say that these things aren’t as important as incentives is to besmirch the very industry you are promoting. Remain positive, and focus on what NC offers without incentives – this will go a long way with a politician (from either party).
    Finally question your own studies. I read them. I read the ones from the conservative think tanks as well. I questioned BOTH and it seems like independent studies seem to verify the conservative think tank studies than they do the film industry ones. They are very consistent on many points in their criticism of film industry studies.
    Finally – think. Yes think. Your projections for money spent is based upon a flawed system called IMPLAN which makes assumptions regarding indirect spending as a result of industry spending. The IMPLAN multipliers assumed by the film industry when measuring economic impact are way too generous.
    This is a conservative think tank article – but it explains things in simple terms (It’s got to be simple…its for conservatives, heh, heh) and exposes IMPLAN flaws in easy to understand language.
    Don’t overstate your estimates – actual measurement from other states show drastic differences in economic impact – the more inflated the numbers the more unbelievable they become.
    I gave you enough to chew on…

    • Movie Maker magazine is far from the most accurate resource for the film business….do your research on that a bit before quoting a magazine. Media in general is unreliable and stats are always flawed. I’m not saying it NEVER happens but to insinuate that most people that work in film go on unemployment between films is ridiculous. They would make much more money working continuously. And everyone I know does just that WHEN they possibly can. Lately work here isn’t that easy to find since only a few projects come here at any given time. Not to mention that most people in the film business LIKE their jobs. They don’t want time off. They WANT to be on sets and will be as often as they can. Especially those trying to move up in the industry. You have to log lots of hours to do that. So, they take all the jobs they can. Sitting around collecting unemployment would be a waste of time for those people. So, it may happen. People may choose to take time off and collect unemployment but I can guarantee you it is a minority of the people in the business. It would be illogical for most to do it. 26 weeks per year is ridiculous. Even on Wilmington now with the work load lower there is usually SOMETHING shooting. Film is a year around business and everyone I know that works in it stays on set as much as they can. You are definitely entitled to your opinion but I’d find it much more reliable if it didn’t rely on some statistics that make no sense. If you do research on the actual factual reliability of any collected statistics you can see how unreliable they are. And the media is definitely not a trustworthy source.

      And I agree with you that film work will not stop in NC but it has already slacked way off. GA gets all the things that could have shot here now because they have great incentives. Producers will usually even admit that they go to where the incentives are best because it lowers their overall production costs. Which helps them to make their TV show or movie (production cost is especially important to tv shows as a high budget will increase the chances of cancelation). And less work means less jobs and more people without jobs. It also makes getting started in the industry and logging set hours even more difficult.

      I don’t know about estimates to the state but I can tell you that cutting the incentives HAS hurt my family. It already ran off a lot of people that work in film. And we are leaving too. Maybe that is what the government and anti-incentive people want and maybe they think that they won’t lose anything by those people leaving. Maybe they are right. I don’t know. But no incentives DOES hurt people that work in the business. It DOES effect people’s lives…a lot…in very negative ways. I don’t care about the overall impact on the state. And I won’t give an opinion on that one way or the other because to me it means nothing since I’ll no longer be living here but the insinuation by so many people that lack of incentives won’t effect anyone is insulting. It does. Anytime jobs are taken away it hurts people. People. Not a vague populace of the entire state but individual people including myself, my family and friends. And jobs ARE being taken away. There is already less work here and it is dropping still. So, believe whatever you want to about how it will effect the state as a whole but know that it does and has and will continue to hurt people.

  4. Peter, I’m going to keep my response as brief as possible because I too am not interested in a back and forth on this mentally exhausting issue. You want honesty, here is honestly how it goes.
    I moved here 9 years ago to get out of NYC, at the time there was no incentive and it was incredibly hard to break into the business here because the very few jobs that were available were well guarded by those who had remained in Wilmington and had not fled to other states. In that time, I saw maybe two or three gigs posted here and there over long periods of time. I was lucky enough to be tied to a production in GA that kept me busy for 5 years (though I kept an apartment here). While in GA I met a ton of refugees from Wilmington who had all been on the road like me and were waiting for a chance to return. In 2010 the film incentive returned, so did I, and so did 100s of others, and we all worked- consistently. Over the last 4.5 years (in Wilmington alone) 1000s have either returned or moved here from elsewhere for the abundance of work. The prosperity has seen most of us buy property and invest in permanent lives here.
    Your number of 26 weeks a year could be accurate- I know A LOT of people who work many MANY more than that, and I know some for whom that number might be about right when you break it down. The difference is, a 40 hour week does NOT exist in our world- we wish! We work a minimum of 60 hours/wk, but on average it’s often more like 80. That is double what the everyday 9-5 worker elsewhere puts in, which means we, on average, work the same amount of hours per year, whether it’s spread over an entire 52 weeks or broken up into parts.
    As for collecting Unemployment I can give no solid answer (one would have to get those numbers from the State). Some of us do and some of us don’t, it varies. I have in the past when I was truly not sure when work would be coming in (usually 4-6 wks max). But often when I knew that the next production was already settling in, I didn’t bother, as it wasn’t worth the trouble. I would just take a few weeks off unpaid and enjoy them. Or I would pick up work for a day here and there when it was available since that paid better than unemployment. And now, more than ever, it’s much harder for us to collect unemployment because we can’t fulfill the requirements properly due to the nature of the industry. So many like myself have gone without and just waited for the work, which luckily, because of the Incentive, has been plentiful. [However, considering we have the right to it, as does any other worker in the state who finds themselves temporarily laid off- which is what the State calls us- we shouldn’t be judged for needing to collect].
    So there’s the honest truth, no embellishment, just what it is.
    I could really go on and on about the many other benefits that I have seen first hand from the Incentives, could even give some numbers, but like I said, I wish to keep this brief and just wanted to address those points specifically. I’m not sure I will ever understand the “downside” that some see with the Film Incentives because I’ve only seen the good, the really really good.
    I hope that you can see that we are not a faceless group of “hollywood types”- We are average tax paying middle-class residents with kids, pets, houses, cars, same as everyone else. We just happen to make movies instead of textiles or glassware.
    Oh, and we love it here.

  5. Ok guys re-read the above posts.
    Sheila and I both agree any studies done have to be independent – meaning no film (MPAA) sponsored studies) Other posters say don’t believe movie industry publications. Another says don’t believe government statistics and finally someone else say don’t believe the media – but everyone has anecdotal evidence.
    So you SEE the problem here?
    So whats left to believe?
    Retreat, re-read, and try again

  6. Anecdotal evidence is fine however this is a sobering list:
    Ave = 9.953 or 10%

    For ANYONE to think that 10% WON’T collect unemployment is naive at best and just plain wrong.
    These are from statista but I did verify the first 3 years against U.S. DOL figure based upon SIC/NAICS for movie and recording industries.
    YES, they are nationwide statistics – but they confirm what I’ve been trying to get across to you. This is why you cannot rely on anecdotal evidence as it is looked upon by your opponents as hype and being non factual. Study after study confirms this.
    So, if you can accept the fact that unemployment IS COLLECTED then you now have to figure out HOW MUCH is collected.
    This will diminish the economic impact of filming in NC. Why? Because the corporations formed DON’T pay unemployment – those employees based in NC do but the Corporations don’t

    so that COST is borne by taxpayers across the state.

    Remember I am trying to help with the next round of legislative discussions – you guys did an abysmal job of phrasing and convincing of the Legislature.
    You fight facts with facts – not with “I don’t know anyone that collects.” Facts are too easy to find. As you yourselves said you can’t believe the government, you can’t beleive industry publications, you can’t believe the media.
    This means you CANNOT believe ANYTHING Johnny Griffith says, you can’t believe ANYTHING from the NC film Bureau and you CANNOT believe any MPAA studies because they represent the industry and the government.
    (See where I’m going with this?)

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  8. Its over. Adjournment. With no intent on coming back for a special session. Sheila you are doing more harm then good with the constant “Its not over yet”.
    The Governor will NOT call a special session. Theres not enough need to do that.
    Deal with that and re-group. It is your best way forward. To advance a false hope is more dangerous then dealing with what has happened and how to overcome it.

  9. Sheila – Yes we shall see. We shall see there is no need for a special session. As much as I hate to say this – the Governor doesn’t seem inclined to take on Tillis and Berger and they don’t believe there’s a need for incentives packages for any industry never mind filming.
    They also don’t think its politically popular to gut Medicaid (Like they want to) in an election year – AND they did the coal ash thing already.
    Right now it appears as though they are done until next year and nerves are worn thin up in Raleigh and the Governor knows this.
    A Democratic over taking of the Legislature is what you need – and even if you get it you’ll need enough seats to over come a veto because McCrory has a weak opponent right now.

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