Are We Still the Hollywood of the East?

What do Jennifer Lawrence, Will Ferrell, and Nicholas Sparks all have in common? Other than being well-known in the film industry, they have all brought their talents to North Carolina. The state of North Carolina, specifically Wilmington, has been the home of over 130 feature films not including television shows. Some of these films include Iron Man 3, A Walk to Remember, We’re the Millers, and Safe Haven. North Carolina is called “Hollywood of the East,” offering a variety of environments, from the mountains to the beach to city and the country, the state provides many location and scenery options for productions to take place. Another thing that was attractive to directors and producers was the NC Film Incentive.

Just the word “incentive” shows that there is something special about filming in North Carolina that would be beneficial to any production. But what is happening to the NC Film Incentive? The NC Film incentives are currently changing from a rebate to more of a grant, with rules that are still somewhat undefined. WRAL.com says that “North Carolina’s film tax credit program will expire on Dec. 31, 2014. Lawmakers have replaced it with a grant program that currently has $10 million available for the first six months of 2015.” The incentives will then have to compete with other important state projects, like school changes and road construction. This $10 million is receiving a lot of scrutiny considering the fact that there was over $61 million claimed in 2013.

Offering supportive data in keeping the incentives as they were, a study conducted by North Carolina State University was done to see how much the film and television industry helps the state. They found that the state does in fact make their money back. “For every $1 spent in film and television credits, the film and television industry generated $1.52 of tax revenue and $9.10 of direct spending.” 

The impact that the film and television industry has on our state seems to be somewhat overlooked. There are more people affected by the presence of the film industry than just producers and directors. Catering, transportation, and local businesses in general are largely impacted by productions choosing North Carolina as a temporary home.

Without the large incentives, do you think we’ll be able to continue marketing North Carolina as a prime filming location to keep the projects coming?

By: Kelli Hall, Stephanie Jordan, Morgan McCleaf, Shawn Rause, and Danielle Walters

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29 thoughts on “Are We Still the Hollywood of the East?

  1. I have kept up with the film incentive form the beginning, but this really informed me on some information I did not already know. I really enjoyed the information and examples used throughout! It shows how much of an impact filming movies has on Wilmington’s market. I feel that local business will definitely be affected by this because not only do films bring in the directors, producers, actors, etc. it also brings in tourists who contribute to the market. Without them business will only slow down and being the small town Wilmington is, who knows what might happen.

  2. The fact that Wilmington is Hollywood East is one of my favorite things about it. I have been an extra in One Tree Hill as well as Eastbound and Down. I got payed to hang out on set all day with famous people and have fun. It was AWESOME! The day I filmed One Tree Hill was still to this day, one of my absolute favorite days ever. I still remember every single detail of that entire day. I remember how it made me feel to be in the presence of such great actors and actresses that I’ve been watching on TV for years and years. I remember being so proud that this show was filmed in MY state, and even better than that, MY town. How cool is that?!

    I have been a supporter and fan of the filming here in North Carolina and especially Wilmington for as long as I can remember. When I see on of those yellow signs on the side of the road with random letters on it, I know that if I follow those signs, it will lead me right the the set where they are filming that day.

    These are the things that make Hollywood East so special. It absolutely breaks my heart that they won’t be filming much here anymore due to the film incentive issue. I can’t imagine this town not being Hollywood East. I think they will still try to film here but it’s going to be so much more difficult now. And a lot of the casting companies have already moved to South Carolina.

    In my heart, Wilmington will ALWAYS be Hollywood East but the thought of not being able to randomly run into a celebrity downtown at one of the bars or food trucks late at night, completely breaks my heart.

    • Thank you for commenting, Tayler!
      It really is pretty heartbreaking! I too worked as an extra on some of the shows and films shot in town. When I moved here I made it a point to be an extra at least once…just to say I did because it was such a huge place for film!
      -Danielle

  3. I love that we have film industry in our little southern town. I love when I am watching movies that were filmed in this area! It makes me feel like the set is authentic, not some man made backdrop. I am proud of my southern heritage and I like that a little piece of it is shared with the world in a film. I remember the first movie ever film in Wilmington, “Fire Starter,” and right now to this day it is still one of my favorite. Inga

  4. I found your blog very interesting and I have been watching this story through the news. Recently, I saw an article talking about how many jobs we will lose in North Carolina over the new incentives. It was a huge number that we cannot really afford to lose. I have also seen how some of the current shows being filmed here are considering leaving because of this. I really don’t think that this will help the Wilmington area in many ways.

  5. I personally have been involved as an extra in a lot of the films including some that you described since I was a freshmen at UNCW. One aspect I think that should be included in this post is that the film industry provides a vast amount of jobs in our region as well as state money. Extras casting is available to anyone who is short on cash and fits the demographics, not to mention the jobs for crew, scouting, location managers, and the entire Screen Gems studio. It is such a benefit for our state.

    I appreciate you breaking it down so simplistically because up until now I did not really know what was going on with the film incentive. Switching from the incentives to the grants does not necessarily mean that Filming will stop in North Carolina all together though, I believe. I think it will just reduce in popularity as a location to film, which is still very sad. However as you pointed out, the industry is overlooked. Maybe once the state is broke they will realize what has been done.

    It is undeniable that it is nothing but beneficial to our state’s economy, and that they are making money, so why get rid of the incentives? It makes no sense.

    • Thank you for commenting!
      You are absolutely correct in saying that film will not disappear from North Carolina completely, but it does appear that it will reduce the appeal quite a bit.
      -Danielle

  6. For the city of Wilmington and NC Tourism the film industry is really important. Film makes Wilmington competitive against other beach towns such as Myrtle. Loosing this incentive would be a hit on the Wilmington brand and even the community. Many creative and hip people are drawn to our community for its natural beauty and small city feel. Take Sophia Bush, she calls Wilmington her “home away from home”. Without film, the community would loose those people.

    A great communication effort to raise awareness about this issue was thought of by Bon’s Eye Marketing. They created this brand called Prop Brand, and made t-shirts that have symbols of movies filmed in NC make up the state of NC. Here is a blog post about the initiative: http://bonseyeonline.com/fake-brands-for-reel-productions/

    Great post!

    -Caroline R.

    • Caroline,
      Thank you so much for your comment. It is really great to see how so many stars have fallen in love with our city!

      Thank you for including the link to Prop Brand. I have not heard of that and it looks neat!
      -Danielle

  7. That past 5 years I have lived in Wilmington, I have enjoyed the movie scene tremendously. It is always cool to watch a movie, or show, and recognize the background/scenery. I knew that filming here in Wilmington had to generate revenue, but didn’t know it was over 50% profit! I hope that Hollywood East’s reputation continues, and more films are produced here in the Port City.

  8. It is a shame that our state is cutting the tax incentive for the film industry. While watching the movies that have been filmed in NC it has always been fun to try and figure out which parts are in Wilmington and which you recognize. Seeing the stars is also really exciting. When I was in High School I worked at a restaurant around the time The Hunger Games was being filmed and Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth came in to eat. Even though I am not a huge fan of these actors it was still a pretty cool experience.

  9. Film incentives are so important to North Carolina and I am disappointed to see that many people do not understand how good it is for our economy! Bringing films to NC and Wilmington especially has done wonders for our state and city. I think that North Carolina has a lot to offer, but unfortunately without incentives other states such as Georgia may take our place. Films that have enough money and time to plan may consider our locations, but if they can make the same movie for less why wouldn’t they? I am all for film incentives and I hope that we continue to grow as Hollywood East!

  10. This is a major issue in North Carolina and will affect Wilmington more than any other city. The local film industry and the companies that support it will surely struggle if something is not changed. Good work, and very informative blog post!

  11. It really is a shame that the North Carolina film tax credit program will be expiring next month. I don’t understand why they made this change, and I know several people that are going to have to move because of this. Hopefully things will work out for the best!

  12. I think the film incentive switch to grants is a huge problem for North Carolina. It will impact all areas of the state including tourism as well. People love to visit and tour the locations of films if they have connected with a certain movie in particular. The grant system will cause less movies to be filmed here and then less income for the state. However, I have heard that I few movies will continue to be filmed here for support. This will not last for long, and companies will not want to work in a state that does not benefit them in some way. The study done by NCSU goes to show that this is a poor decision already. This is scary to think about, and hopefully it will not have too drastic of an impe study done by NCSU is proof that this is a poor decision already.

  13. I wasn’t aware how influential the film industry was here until it became an issue for so many people, I already know several individuals who are planning to move because they work in the film industry and they won’t have jobs unless they follow the show they’re working on or the company they’re working with. But outside that, it’s also going to affect many of the businesses here that have had the opportunity to work with the film crews to provide things like catering, as you said. But maybe once it becomes more obvious how important the film industry is here, the politics around it will change.

  14. This poses a really great question. Especially as a tour guide, I tell prospective students about all of the film opportunities and experiences we have had on and around our campus. While this isn’t the only thing UNCW has as a selling point, it is definitely something about our school and state that stands out among others. Without the incentives, it may change, and less films might take place in North Carolina. This would be disappointing, because it is a highlight about our school as well.

  15. I do not believe that without large incentives that Wilmington will continue to be known as “Hollywood of the East,” because the film industry will just move somewhere else. I understand why people are upset about the film industry being so involved in Wilmington, and how when it is gone it will do much more (better) things for the city than it did while it was stationed here. What I do not think that some people have taken the time to realize is, how much the film industry stimulates the local economy. There are a lot more people that will be affected due to this switch, more than just directors, actors, and P.A.s.

  16. Killing the Film Incentive has been one of the biggest mistakes North Carolina has made recently. Not only has the film industry been beneficial to us recently, but the film and television industry have always been a financial boost time and again. I believe it is because it was at the forefront of our economy that the NC Film Incentive was first to go. It would be interesting to consider allocating money earned by those higher up into our economy for once instead of slashing down the promising jobs that we the people have worked so hard to create.

  17. I would be interested in seeing exactly how the calculate how much money is generated by the film industry, and where that money is going. Because it seems suspect to me that they would suggest a cut to something if it was so obviously advantageous.

  18. I think that the main reason films come to North Carolina is because of the incentives. The incentives are important because if it weren’t for them, they would be significantly less likely to travel so far when they could simply stay and film in California. It is a poor decision for law makers to get rid of the incentives because the more and more North Carolina becomes known as a place to make films, the more the state will make money off of them.

  19. Well, adding to this I also heard that all this NC film work is going to Atlanta. That’s where a lot of film incentives are ending up. This is sad! I really wish that they renew. It’s kind of “cool” knowing that you live where screen gems studios is.

  20. I believe that we still are the Hollywood of the east coast. We still host hundreds of movies each year and hundreds of TV shows. This would count us as the Hollywood of the east. We are called wilmywood for a reason. If the charges keep changing and charging these studios more then we will lose all of the business that we have.

  21. I have a close friend of mine who is an aspiring actress, and she is very upset about this new system. It’s not as appealing to potential filmmakers and is going to cause us to lose quite a bit of money in the film industry, as pointed out in your article. It’s funny how our lawmakers are never quite satisfied with the current state of things I think. We’re constantly trying to change things up when they are working perfectly fine as they are now. I think this is one of those times when the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” really describes what’s going on here. Our attempts to fix a system that wasn’t broken is going to end up with us losing both a large amount of money and a large amount of aspiring actors and actresses in the community.

  22. I think that North Carolina has contributed greatly to many film productions throughout the years. I do think it should be considered the “HollyWood of the East”, just because it has brought in so many films and television shows to the state. I do think that since the incentives program has been changed, the film industry in North Carolina will change as well. I think that we may no longer get big budget Blockbuster movies here, unless the directors want to spend extra money. North Carolina will still have great scenery and multiple diverse locations, so hopefully those factors will still bring productions to our state. I am very interested in the film industry, so I understand the impact is has on North Carolina and the amount of films that are filmed here. However, to someone who does not look up upcoming productions filming they could probably care less, until they realize how much exposure it creates and the money it brings in for our state. Based on the study done by NC State, the film industry lets us make more money than we put in, which is fantastic. For now, i will just enjoy the films that come to North Carolina, and wait and see what happens when the incentives are finally gone.

    • Stephanie,
      Thank you for your comment! You’re right, we should just continue to enjoy all of the productions that still come for now and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens…see how the incentive changes really impact our state. Hopefully these changes are not a loss for the state, as well as our local community of Wilmington.
      -Danielle

  23. I think it’s awesome that Wilmington is considered the “Hollywood of the East”. Believe it or not that factored into my decision of coming here a little bit. Coming into school I was thinking I maybe wanted to do something with film, which is why I knew wilmington would be a good choice. After coming here, I do realize it is the hollywood of the east, for ex. Blue Mountain State, the TV show is being filmed here in Wilmington for the next season. Anyway, I really hope that this doesn’t change the way NC acts (no pun intended) in the film and television industry. I think it not only makes a little but of money for this state but it also bring a lot of attention and popularity to it as well. Which in the end will bring more people here and tourists here who will hopefully spend money which will go back to the state.

  24. Thank you everyone for all of your comments! 🙂
    It seems that many of us are upset with the changes but are eager to see how everything turns out!
    It is no doubt that our community loves having the films so close and we are hoping that this whole situation works itself out one way or another!
    -Danielle

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