New committee will examine film industry opportunities

Josh Hutcherson, left, and Jennifer Lawrence arrive at the world premiere of “The Hunger Games” on Monday March 12, 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

RALEIGH — North Carolina is looking at new ways to attract film and television production to the state. Dating back to the 1980s, North Carolina has been a home for the film industry and has been one of the largest production states outside of California and New York. But, the state ended its film incentive program in 2014.

According to a release from the General Assembly, the North Carolina Legislative Caucus on Economic Development and Foreign Trade has taken a significant step towards enhancing the state’s film industry. The caucus has established a new study committee, set to begin its work in January, with the goal of addressing the challenges and opportunities within the North Carolina film sector.

“As far as the goal of the committee, I think that remains an open ended question. It’s more about learning what we don’t know than what we already know,” said committee co-chair Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln). Saine is joined by Rep. John Autry (D-Mecklenburg) in leading the bipartisan study committee. Both representatives hail from districts that have seen substantial economic benefits from the film industry’s investments in North Carolina.

“I think it is incumbent upon legislators to review how we are attracting film projects that bring investment into our state and work overall to improve our branding across the globe,” said Saine in an interview with North State Journal. “The film industry has been a big part of that, whether it be sports contests that are held here, documentaries, full length films, series of different varieties, or even productions that are made for the internet.”

The committee includes a diverse group of legislators, namely Representatives Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Kevin Crutchfield (R-Cabarrus, Rowan), Allen Chesser (R-Nash), Deb Butler (D-New Hanover), Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg), Kanika Brown (D-Forsyth), Frances Jackson (D-Cumberland), Maria Cervania (D-Wake), and Mary Belk (D-Mecklenburg).

This initiative follows a year of heightened legislative interest in North Carolina’s ability to attract film investments. Notable efforts include HB 301, aimed at amending the state’s film grant program, and HB 831, filed by Autry, which focuses on boosting the state’s soundstage infrastructure.

“The film industry is a clean industry that leaves a location in a better condition,” said Autry in a statement. “Consider the improvements made at Dupont State Forest where the first Hunger Games was filmed. Film jobs are good-paying jobs for North Carolinians, jobs that enable families to make mortgage payments, purchase cars, pay for their children’s orthodontics and college tuition, and so forth.”

The committee’s primary focus will be on evaluating the economic impact of the film industry in North Carolina, exploring job creation opportunities, and formulating strategies to position North Carolina as a competitive destination for film production.

“I had the opportunity a few months ago to visit the production studios of Mr. Beast and to better understand how a homegrown production leads YouTube in viewership,” said Saine. “I am always optimistic about what our state has to offer and it is good for legislators to better understand how we can encourage an industry that brings investment into our state.”

The bipartisan Legislative Caucus on Economic Development and Foreign Trade is co-chaired by Majority Leader Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne) and Minority Leader Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham) and its stated mission is fostering economic growth, job creation, foreign investment, and improving the state’s economic competitiveness.