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Independent films might be the future of the industry in Wilmington by default barring a reversal of the recent downturn imposed by changes in state legislature. The Port City has been able to atract plenty of big pro-ductions over the past 30-plus years, in part because of the numbers of professional crewmembers who came to work on a De Laurentiis production and decided to make it their home base. “Outside filmmakers like staying here,” Johnny Griffin says. “When producers come to the area, they say, ‘Now I get it.’ Wilmington became known as a place that built and developed crew. At first, 95 percent of the crew came from outside the state, now 95 percent are from inside.” Griffin is the director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, an organization that helps market the area to outside productions and facilitates productions within. He knows about making Wilmington a home; Griffin was one of the crew that moved here to work with De Laurentiis in 1984. Despite the past successes and the presence of talented crew, the future is murky. For the past two years, talk of the Cape Fear film industry has read like a pre-obituary for a business dying or dead. Movie and TV production crews follow the money, specifically the money available in grants and tax incentives. For a time, North Carolina offered one of the more generous incentive programs, a 25 percent refundable tax credit for in-state expenses. The program, cited as a major factor in bringing high-profile projects like “Iron Man 3” and “Sleepy Hollow” to town, expired in 2014. The state implemented a grant program in 2015 that capped awards for all productions at $5 million and productions began to leave. “Sleepy Hollow” relocated to Georgia and “Secrets and Lies” — produced by Barbara D’Alessandro, Joe’s wife, when it filmed in Wilmington — moved to Los Angeles. In September 2015 the N.C. General Assembly bumped the grant program to an annual maximum of $30 million for the next two fiscal years, which helped bring the TNT series “Good Behavior” and History channel’s military drama “Six” to Wilmington. “Good Behavior” was picked up for a second season, but there is nothing else on the horizon. “It was implemented for two years,” Griffin says. “We’re in the second year of that cycle. There’s a project in Charlotte that should use $2 million to $3 million, but nobody else has applied to use the money. The incentive program is less, and the certainty is less. If you are doing a TV series, and want to be here three to five years, there’s only money for one season.” North Carolina now lags well behind regional competitors like South Carolina and Georgia — which offers a 30 percent tax credit. Consequently, projects that might once have filmed here have migrated south and west. “Atlanta is a real phenomenon,” Barbara D’Alessandro says. “There’s always been a little bit of production going on in Atlanta. But once they put in their film program, it’s just exploded.” Most recently, after the incentive battle was fought, North Tanya Fermin used local talent, including actress Antoniia Perkins and makeup artist Melanie Fuller, for her short film “The Arrangements.” 40 WBM february 2017 PHOTO COURTESY OF TANYA FERMIN


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