Film perks not just good for industry, but for area

July 31, 2006

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Several years ago, a friend brought his family to a beach house in Oak Island. His daughter, maybe 13, was greatly bored by everything around her until I mentioned that Dawson’s Creek was filmed in Wilmington. Her eyes widened.
“Really? Dawson’s Creek? Take me there!” she said.
That’s when I realized that the film industry brings us far more than the $300 million a year productions spend in North Carolina.
It brings us prestige, free publicity and, in past years, thousands of adoring fans.
So I was pleased that the state House passed the film incentives bill in the form that gives a full 15 percent tax credit to productions spending at least $250,000 in the state.
Because of a technical glitch, a similar bill last year only refunded 8.1 percent.
Mark Schreiner, our man in Raleigh, tells me that it took determined back-room maneuvering by Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover, and Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, to get the full 15 percent credit sought by Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, and not a 12 percent credit that appeared to be on the way to enactment as a compromise.
We need those incentives to compete against other states bending over backward to lure productions.
Francine DeCoursey offers tours of Wilmington’s locations and the EUE Screen Gems Studio, although she’s cutting back this year for personal reasons.
She said when Dawson’s Creek was in its heyday, she placed the studio tour on the show’s Web site.
“We started getting tour groups that wanted to see where Dawson and Joey hung out,” she said. “Thousands and thousands of teenage girls would show up just to see that.”
She said she led tour groups from Italy, France, England and even Vietnam. That’s right, Vietnam.
Connie Nelson, spokeswoman for the Cape Fear Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau, said the agency has handed out several thousand “frequently asked question” sheets put together for Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill, giving background information on the productions with a self-guided tour of locations familiar to fans.
Surface, which lasted a season before being canceled, generated only a few inquiries. But it sure made our waterfront look pretty, even with a monster swimming by.
Nelson said our film business has sparked film festivals and generated stories in national filmmaking publications and travel magazines on us. Movie magic is a new angle.
“How many ways can you write destination pieces?” she said.
You can find the Common Sense column on Sundays only, at least for the foreseeable future.
Our business editor and my friend, Bonnie Eksten, is leaving the paper. We won’t be filling her position right away. So I’ve been asked to become interim business editor, the position I held for seven years before becoming local news columnist. I’ve been writing Common Sense for five years.
I hope eventually to return to the column full time. Meanwhile, writing for the Local page on Sundays will keep my foot in the door.
You can reach Si Cantwell at 343-2364 or si.cantwell@starnewsonline.com.

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