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A season of transition at the Commission

“Moving pictures make good business.”

That’s the motto of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission (PTFC), which enters the new year with new headquarters in Winston-Salem, a new satellite office in High Point, new elected officers and, indeed, new hope for the future of the film industry here.

“Film business doesn’t just land in our laps,” notes Rebecca Clark, the commission’s executive director and a die-hard proponent of Piedmont Triad production. “It takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes to give production companies enough information on sites, crew resources, and state or local assistance as well as a lot of competition with other regions, states, and countries. We work very hard on a limited budget.”

The commission’s move to Winston-Salem came after a lengthy stretch in Greensboro. “The Piedmont Triad Partnership had provided space for our regional film commission since 2000 as in kind,” Clark relates. “Last year, David Powell, the former CEO of the PTP, informed me that he was going to sublease many of the offices previously occupied by the PTP, including my space.

“I considered space in each of the three major Piedmont Triad cities that we promote, and it just so happened that the most reasonably priced office space and the most convenient was in Winston-Salem, where I live. I’m thrilled to be back home, but at the same time I continue to promote the entire region equally.”

The PTFC, which represents the 12-county central region of North Carolina, has also established a satellite office in High Point.

“Having to meet with people regularly on the western side of the Piedmont Triad, when High Point Convention & Visitors Center – which has given us consistent financial support since we originally became a regional film office – offered us the option of a satellite office, I jumped at the opportunity,” Clark says. “The satellite office gives us a presence in the two counties that benefit most from our economic development efforts.”

At its annual meeting on Nov. 12, the commission elected Wade Wilson, assistant dean at the UNCSA School of Filmmaking, as chairman of the PTFC board of directors for 2016. Wilfred Tremblay, director of the Nibo Qubein School of Communications at High Point University, was elected vice chairman. The other members elected to the executive committee are ex-officio members Linda Shaw and Tammy O’Kelley, the latter the executive director of Randolph County Tourism Development; secretary Jessica Icenhour Roberts, director of Tourism and Marketing of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce; and treasurer Margaret Collins, executive director of the Center for Creative Economy.

“Having experience working in the industry in Los Angeles and now here, Wade really has a grasp on what we all have at stake in the region in terms of job creation and economic growth,” says Clark. “He was also very active with me in visiting Raleigh to talk with legislators about the importance of supporting film incentives to attract business.

“We (at the commission) have the shared goal of seeing this area grow and become competitive with other, more well-known film-production centers in the state … (and) I’m hopeful that with Wade and Wilfred as well as the rest of our 15-member board, we can better spread the word on the importance of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission in creating economic growth regionally and expand our scope of work.”

The state’s film community was rocked when the tax incentive wasn’t renewed for 2015 by lawmakers, substituting a grant program in its stead.

“Many of our local and statewide crew, including graduates from our film schools, moved to Georgia, which provides a bigger incentive with no annual limit,” Clark laments. “Georgia is getting a ton of business and there is great demand for jobs on the productions they are successfully recruiting.”

One project successfully recruited was the upcoming Kate Beckinsale thriller The Disappointments Room (scheduled for March release), which was filmed primarily in Guilford County. Yet, ironically, this led to another blow.

“We were extremely disappointed that Guilford County cut the $50,000 investment to the PTFC especially after recruiting The Disappointments Room, which had over a $10 million impact on Guilford County,” says Clark. “It’s apparent to us that we need to do a better job at demonstrating the impact of film production on the county, and (we’re) trying to do that.”

It’s not all bad news, however. “We do have a new $30 million grand for 2016 and I’m hopeful this will allow more productions throughout the entire state,” she says.

“The indie films The Moleskin Diary and Shifting Gears, although they don’t provide the same impact of the larger films that typically qualify for the state’s incentive program, are still great for the region as they spend money locally and provide jobs for our crews. We have also been fortunate to have ‘My Big Fat Fabulous Life’ (the TLC Whitney Way Thore reality series) shooting in the region that has hired local crew, provided an economic boost to Guilford County, and continues to provide amazing publicity for Greensboro.”

For more information about the Piedmont Triad Film Commission, call 336.393.0001 or visit the official website: www.piedmontfilm.com !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.

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