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Freeze Frame: Information about South Carolina's film industry

Life After Incentives

A film incentives bill that's brought tens of millions of dollars to S.C. seems like a no-brainer. If anyone appreciates an act that doesn't require intelligence, it's the State Senate. Yet Bill S. 667 wasn't renewed last week, leaving production companies with little choice but to go shoot in a different state with better rebates.

The bill, sponsored by Senators Glenn McConnell, Luke Rankin, and Jim Ritchie, would have relieved cash-splashing filmmakers of their requirement to pay state and local taxes on production-related spending — a continuation of last year's inducements.

The SC Film Commission figures that 2006's rebates and incentives vastly increased production. The amount of money used for filming leaped from $28 million in 2005 to $170 million last year. Out of those production budgets, some 50 percent was spent in-state.

More importantly it meant that we could stalk celebrities like Mary Steenburgen and James Brolin (filming a Warner Bros TV pilot) or George Clooney and Renee Zellweger (in Clooney's movie Leatherheads).

The celebs and their admirers were out in force on June 3 for the premiere of Army Wives, the Lifetime TV show that's been shooting in Charleston for several months now. The Village Playhouse and local agency Coastal Talent held a screening party that doubled as a fund-raiser for The SC National Guard Family Assistance Program. Wendy Davis, Sterling Brown, Richard Bryant, and John White Jr. were among the cast members appearing at the party along with a whole bunch of crew members, extras, and their relatives, who got a buzz out of seeing their work on screen.

After expenses, the event raised over $1,500 for the assistance program and provided the sizeable audience with the rare experience of watching a well-crafted show filmed in their area. It may not happen again next year, though — the Army Wives producers have always honestly stated that they're here because of the tax incentives. So if the high-rated show's picked up for a second season, it would likely be shot elsewhere.

Robbin Knight is the President of the Carolina Film Alliance, an organization made up of jobbing filmmakers. He's disappointed that the incentives will now return to 2004's lower rates, because they don't compete with states like Georgia or Florida.

"We want to make sure the bill gets introduced January of next year," says Knight. "It's a shame it was so last-minute this time around. If it had gone through, people could have had a steady paycheck as a result."

CFA members will discuss the next step at their general meeting at Grazi's Wine Store (in I'On) on Wed. June 20. —Nick Smith


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