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Filmmakers fight bill to end subsidies

RALEIGH Is “Homeland” under threat?

It is, according to North Carolina’s film community.

Advocates of the state’s film industry say a House bill that would change the way the state subsidizes film production would essentially drive the business away.

“You’d see productions just leaving North Carolina – including ‘Homeland,’” said Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office.

“Homeland” is the Emmy Award winning Showtime drama shot in Charlotte and about to enter its third season. It’s one of more than 40 projects that Syrett said resulted in $376 million worth of spending and thousands of jobs last year.

Critics of incentives – which amounted to $45 million in 2012 – say the money could be put to better use. And they point to a legislative study that found the credit itself is responsible for a fraction of the jobs the industry claims.

“It’s not worth it to deny $45 million to public education to help one industry,” said Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat.

Luebke is co-sponsoring a bill that would eliminate the refundable portion of the state’s film tax credit. Production companies can now claim a 25 percent tax credit up to $20 million on productions spending more than $250,000 in qualified expenses.

The bill was sent to the House Rules Committee, often a virtual graveyard. But primary co-sponsors include two Republicans from the Wilmington area – a major film production area – as well as GOP Speaker Pro Tem, Paul Stam of Apex.

According to the Wilmington Star-News, hundreds gathered in the city last weekend for a rally opposing the bill.

The film council says there are currently three projects shooting in the Wilmington area and five in and around Charlotte. Syrett called Charlotte “an emerging market” for film production.

At a meeting of the film council this week, vice chair E.A. Tod Thorne of Charlotte said a film producer who had planned to shoot in Charlotte was considering filming in Georgia because of the bill.

In a statement, Twentieth Century Fox Television, which produces “Homeland,” said the proposed changes would be “devastating” for the series, which is about to start filming its third season.

“We’ve grown to love the talent community (in Charlotte) and many of our key personnel have now made Charlotte their permanent home,” the statement said.

“We fear that reductions in, or elimination of, the state’s film incentives could have a devastating impact on our ability to continue to produce the show at the level of quality our viewers have come to expect.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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