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Film Commission says incentives making big impact on local economy

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Some big bucks from the film industry spilled into our local economy last year. In fact, productions spent more than $100 million in our area. But how is the money really spent, and is it staying local?

The magic of filmmaking is seen frequently on the streets of Wilmington.

Stephen Thompson spent nine years on “One Tree Hill.” Just because the curtain has fallen on that show, does not mean he’s now twiddling his thumbs.

“It’s been insanely busy,” Thompson, a director of photography said. “I’ve gotten calls for three shows in the past week. If they all come in I’ll be busy all year. Everybody’s going to be busy all year.”

For now, Hollywood East is living up to its name. The Wilmington Regional Film Commission says productions spent $113 million in our area last year.

Film Commission head Johnny Griffin says that money is all spent locally. Money spent outside the state is not counted.

“Typically about 60 percent of what they spend is on local labor, people they hire, local crews they employ, and about 40% is on goods and services, everything from things they purchase — lumber, paint, set dressing, furniture — things they rent — automobiles, hotel rooms, equipment. So it’s money they spend with local vendors,” Griffin said.

Where do those numbers come from? The productions themselves. They fill out a form anticipating how much money they will spend. The final numbers are figured much later.

“Once the film is completed, before they can file for the incentive, they actually have to go through an audit with the state, and once they go through the audit with the state, those figures are finalized,” Griffin said.

And that could take a couple of years.

Griffin says the state’s 25-percent film incentive is driving our the show business in our area right now. Not having a competitive incentive is what led productions away from us to other states.

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