The weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal had an article about the burgeoning film industry in Georgia that is likely to make the folks in the film industry here in North Carolina cringe:
ATLANTA—The film industry here has hit the big time, thanks to generous tax credits that have made Georgia one of the top states for movie and television production behind California and New York.
But the growth of what many call “Y’allywood” is being threatened by a shortage of makeup artists and costume and set designers—the rank and file of film and television crews…
In fiscal year 2013, film and television production budgets in Georgia totaled $933.9 million, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
While some states have turned away from incentives, arguing that they hurt budgets, Georgia’s Republican-dominated legislature strongly supports them. Georgia offers film and TV projects transferable tax credits for 20% of production costs, plus an additional 10% if the project agrees to display the state’s promotional logo in its credits. The incentives apply for all workers on a set, whether they are Georgia residents or not.
North Carolina is one of the states that has turned away from incentives, with the state legislature failing to pass the legislation that would have renewed them in 2014. The Hollywood Reporter has a detailed story describing the issue and the probable effect:
One big reason the North Carolina incentive legislation failed is because the Koch Brothers-backed nonprofit Americans for Prosperity bought radio commercials as the debate that slammed film incentives was going on. The ads were part of a larger campaign to eliminate a range of state-funded development programs.
“The money coming in from the outside has hurt the North Carolina programs for business development,” said Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat who fought to retain incentives. “The Americans for Prosperity spent a lot of money to try and end the program and unfortunately they have the ear or our leadership and appear to be successful.”
Hamilton, however, doesn’t believe this means other Southern states will follow suit. In fact, she sees the opposite happening as North Carolina stands to lose more than 4,000 good jobs.
“The implications for other states,” says Hamilton, “particularly in the Southeast, are that they are going to pick up the work that otherwise would have come to North Carolina. That’s good news for the other states.”
Griffin says the irony is that there has been an influx of work into North Carolina in the past three or four years, and 2014 could be a record year.
Hamilton estimates that, in 2013, $360 million was directly spent by productions, while the state paid out $62 million in incentives. And that doesn’t count millions more spent on services and by workers who have moved to the state for jobs that pay an average of more than $65,000 per year.
The article also points out that the legislature did pass a grant program for the film industry, but because of the way it was structured it is “nearly useless.”
As tempting as it is to see everything as black and white, to assume that all Republicans or all Democrats see things the same way, it’s situations like this that reveal how varied the views within a political party can be. Republicans are in charge in both Georgia and North Carolina, but they obviously take very different stances on economic incentives. The folks in the North Carolina film industry are likely to lose out because of it.