Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bitter Bloggings From An Optimistic Actress:Film Incentives and the Actor

Funny enough that this information actually was part of a conversation between myself and the head of the NC Film Commission.

Last year the film community cried out in pain for the loss of the NC film incentives.  There was blaming and finger pointing, especially at Republican lawmakers.  How dare they take away our precious incentives?  How else are we supposed to survive?

For those who are unfamiliar with the film incentives, let's talk about them a minute.  The former film incentives promised a tax credit of 25% on all qualifying productions. You did your taxes you got money back.  This is a wonderful thing.  Film companies from all over come in and spend money at local businesses and pay for the use of property and the rental of hotel rooms.  It's all to help the NC economy.

There is one thing that confuses me though; the most vehement supporters of the NC film incentives are also the people who benefit the least from the incentives.  Who are they?  The actors.

The thing they don't tell you about the tax incentives?  How few local people benefit from the incentives.  Actors being the most screwed by the incentive.  Why?  They would honestly rather hire someone from LA or New York or even Atlanta than to hire locally.  Thousands of actors have moved to North Carolina to work in films as....wait for it...extras and stand-ins.  Sure you might get the occasional local who gets a line or two, maybe they even get a five and under, but they have hired everyone they really want from another state and paid for them to stay in a trailer or hotel.

This is just how these groups operate.   No, I am not talking about local indies or semi-professional theaters.  The groups I am referring to, are actually the big studios and equity theaters.   I went down to Hilton Head to audition for an equity theater and a mother told me tht her daughter was one of 2 locals cast in a production they had a few months back.  The rest were from LA or NYC.  Sound strange?  It's not.

To give you and idea, let's talk about a famous film endeavor to leave the NC area, Iron Man.  A cast of hundreds and while watching I have heard one person in the whole state point to someone who had a line to say "I did a film with that guy.  He is a Charlotte Local!"  One!  I know lots of people who were there as stand-ins and extras.  One guy had a line.  That is horrible!  Two and a half hours of film edited from months of filming in a state and only one NC native got a line in the film, that is pathetic.

Is this abnormal?  Not really.  In my acting life, only a very small portion of my auditions are in NC.  Last week I drove to Hilton Head Island.  Most of my film auditions are for Los Angeles or New York films.  Thank goodness for taping auditions these days or I would really be screwed.  It is one good thing to come of the modern acting age.  I can tape an audition so I don't have to drive to Boston to audition for that film or fly to Portland to try out for that one liner.  So really, I have no reason to complain as an actor about losing our film incentives.  Will I get out of state work?  Likely.  But no more than usual.

Of the films I was involved in NC, do you know how many were covered under the film incentives?  None.  But every film outside of NC was covered under the incentives of that state.

Of the hundreds of films shot in NC last year, how many films do you think were covered under the film incentives?  Fourteen.  In 2013, the year before, we were home to over thirty productions.

The film incentives themselves only covered productions that spent more than $250,000 or more.  The same goes for our new grants by the way.  You have to be spending more than $250,000 already to get grant funding.  Most NC productions are ultra low and Non-Union.  The most expensive projects I worked on in NC were reaching high with their $50,000 budgets.  If I bothered to do any background work I might get a moment or two on these large productions, but how many of those out there who claim to be professional actors want to make their living sitting behind the stars on a set?  I personally don't.

According to this local news broadcast, the government doesn't really, or won't give us, the correct information about how much money the state is actually getting from the incentives.  We spent over 60Million dollars on incentives and may have gotten back a profit of just over 5 million or we may have lost over 30million.

The same newscast points to the new Georgia incentives.  Are these incentives great for Georgia?  According to the home page "over 30,000 working professionals, call Georgia home."  Do you want to know what most of these professionals do?  Crew and extras.  The exact same thing NC had so much of for about 14 years.  We provided crew and extras to big budget Hollywood film and TV at a lower rate.

So, am I out there fighting for film incentives?  Sure, but in a different way.  I think, rather than dropping the incentives they need to drop the minimum to around $50,000.  There are enough local films that could benefit from film incentives and still bring in outside money.

A few extra stories of friends who don't care we lost the film incentives:

My nine-to-five, a few years ago, was in Greensboro, NC.  I walked down the street to my favorite little hole in the wall furniture place to see the owner cursing like it was no tomorrow.  When I say hole in the wall I mean, the space was hideous, but the furniture was so vintage and awesome.  Most of the pieces were those decorating celebrity homes.  I liked to talk to the owner and he was kind enough, or bored enough, to enjoy the lunchtime company.  Apparently someone from a BIG HOLLYWOOD FILM being shot at the time.  I won't say which one, had called him up to ask for furniture.  I thought, wow this is awesome.  They excepted him to give them most of the furniture in his store because they were from Hollywood.  I repeat that, a NC shop owner was called by a MAJOR STUDIO who DEMANDED he GIVE *NOT LEND, NOT SELL, GIVE* them over $100,000 of his furniture in exchange for a small thank you at the end of the credits.  What I was catching, was the tail end of the conversation where he basically told them to sod off.

I went to a coffee shop in my favorite old town, after the filming of a huge movie that really put the area on the map.  I went to my favorite coffee shop for a cup of coffee.  I smiled at all the movie memorabilia in the shop and asked how they liked having the movie crew in the area.  The response was a groan of distaste followed by the negative comments he had heard from the almost daily coffee requests.  "I will be so glad to leave this @#$% hole!" They said the LA residents were rude and half the time demanded free coffee because they were putting up so much money in the area.  Needless to say the owners of the shop couldn't care less if these people ever return to NC.