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FILM COMMISSION SEEKS ADDITIONAL FUNDING FROM CITIES

by Whitney Kenerly

A recent film produced by Hallmark used an Amish farmhouse location in Davie County.

whitney@yesweekly.com

The Piedmont Triad Film Commission has requested more funding from the City of Greensboro to market the highly lucrative film industry in the Triad. While Greensboro and Winston- Salem don’t have Wilmington’s studios or Asheville’s mountain scenery, the Triad does have 277 locations that are promoted by the Piedmont Triad Film Commission.

The expressed mission of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission is to “create job opportunities, generate revenues, elevate regional visibility, and advocate economic development within the Piedmont Triad counties.” Formed in 1993, the film commission promotes and markets a region of 12 counties to recruit television and film producers to work in the area.

The film commission doesn’t fund, produce or distribute films. Instead, the film commission maintains an archive of over 2,000 photos used to promote locations. This process requires very little upfront cost compared to the money brought in by films.

The film commission’s Executive Director Rebecca Clark appealed to Greensboro City Council on June 3 for more funding. Clark thanked the City for its consistent support over the years and cited the film commission’s return on investment at 40 to 1. “It’s not about big stars. It’s not about Hollywood producers,” said Clark.

The City budgeted $24,300 to fund the film commission. This is a decrease from the $27,000 the film commission received last year. Clark requested to be funded at the requested amount of $30,000 before adding that over the course of the next four months, an unnamed feature film is expected to spend $5 million in Greensboro.

“We understand that budgets are tight this year, there are so many great organizations that are looking for funds,” said Clark. “But I look it this as making an investment in Greensboro. We have a direct economic impact on the community. When we recruit productions they spend money immediately.”

Qualifying productions that spend at least $250,000 in the state of North Carolina receive an incentive of a 25 percent tax credit on goods and services purchased in the state. Any production can receive up to $20 million per project in tax credits.

In a study released this April by the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management professor Dr. Robert Handfield determined that the tax incentive had greatly contributed to the Piedmont Triad Film Commission’s high return on investment. The study estimated that the industry had created enough jobs for the state to maintain a permanent base crew of 4,259 employees earning an average of $66,000 a year. For 2012 alone, the production tax incentive contributed a net positive cash flow of $25.3 million for North Carolina When recruiting productions, the film commission emphasizes the diversity of landscapes in the Triad. Locations promoted by the film commission include urban city streets, historic private and commercial buildings, countryside farms and small towns.

Clark said, “The ones I love sending out are some of the historic properties.” Farmhouses are popular locations. A recent film produced by Hallmark used an Amish farmhouse location in Davie County. Clark said that the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro is popular with productions looking for contemporary backdrops, and that downtown Greensboro is an eye-catching option for films looking for a unique location.

“Elm Street downtown is just beautiful,” said Clark. “It’s so charming and has lots of character. Each individual storefront is unique and people love it.”

Clark says she receives lots of request for college campuses as well. “We have a ton of different types of campuses with different sizes and different looks,” said Clark.

The temperate climate and presence of four distinct seasons are also an attraction. Other resources include a network of trained crewmembers and students and alumni out of the NC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.

Productions filmed in NC also help to support the local catering industries, as mobile catering units are used on site for almost all major productions.

A recent report on the budget for the City of Winston-Salem showed that the Piedmont-Triad Film Commission had produced a recent feature film, which created 115 jobs and produced $1.3 million for the region, along with a second film that netted $100,000 before production was stopped. In addition, 13 commercials were filmed in the city including a Fiat commercial which was filmed in the heart of Old Salem and was nationally syndicated last year. This commercial was estimated to have brought in $300,000 and employed 45 crewmembers, in addition to 50 cast members.

Once the production team for a project has agreed on a location, the film commission will work with the team to coordinate the logistics of the shoot. Sometimes local police and fire officials are brought in for a shoot to ensure that things go smoothly.

If the shot requires explosives of pyrotechnic effects, a special effects permit must be obtained from the local municipal fire department. The NC State Film office handles requests for scenes that require the use of state buildings, parks or highways. If a scene requires the use of a state property for a particularly long or unusual shot, then the NC State Film Office requires a notice of at least 30 days.

Feature Films previously recruited by the Piedmont Triad Film Commission include blockbuster horror film squeals “Children of the Corn 2″ and “Hellraiser 3″, “National Lampoon’s Pucked”, a documentary produced by Chris Rock called “Good Hair”, and the popular indie film “Junebug”. Classic baseball film “Bull Durham” used War Memorial Auditorium for its setting.

The film commission has recruited “American Idol” to host auditions in the state on four different occasions. Reality shows from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to MTV’s “High School Stories” have also come to the area.

From 2007 through 2012, the film and television industry has spent $1.02 billion in the state, and generated a projected $170,000,000 in tax revenue.

Greensboro Councilman Zack Matheny has expressed support for the work of the film commission. Matheny said, “The film industry is very important to North Carolina and the Triad.

We have had a very favorable return on our investment in investing in the Piedmont Triad Film Commission.”

In addition to the film commission’s low upfront costs, Clark pointed out that they are running a green business. “It’s a clean industry. You don’t have to build infrastructure to bring people here. They utilize what we already have,” said Clark.

“There’s really no negative to it in my opinion.” !

– Staff writer Daniel Schere contributed to this report.

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