A bill that will give incentives to filmmakers who work in South Carolina was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Nikki Haley, providing hope to those wanting to boost the film industry's presence in Beaufort.
Beaufort Film Society president Ron Tucker said he's been talking with people interested in filming in the region, and the measure might be the impetus to make it happen.
"We have had a lot of people calling, right down to a few producers who've been waiting to see which way the wind blows," he said. "This opens a door for a lot of opportunity."
The law increases the rebates on wages from 15 percent to 20 percent for film-production companies that make movies or TV shows in the state. If workers are S.C. residents, the wage rebate rises to 25 percent.
Companies must spend at least $1 million to qualify for the rebates. Films rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America are not eligible.
"What will have to happen now is we can't sit on our hands. We have to have a cohesive plan for when the calls start to come in," Tucker said. He wants a defunct community film council to be revived to lead that effort.
Beaufort has a rich film history, he said, and was the location for films such as "The Big Chill" and "Forrest Gump." But it has been more than a decade since Beaufort was the backdrop for a major film, the most recent being "Forces of Nature," a 1999 movie featuring Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock.
The new incentives will not cost taxpayers, according to a news release from the Carolina Film Alliance. Some studies, however, have suggested the law will not bring as much of a financial boost as the film industry hopes.
A College of Charleston study determined that each tax dollar spent on film subsidies brought a net loss of 81 cents, and a Michigan-based Center for Public Policy study concluded that film incentives don't create jobs and aren't worth the cost.
But Robb Wells, Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce tourism division director, said the new law "gets us back into the game," when it comes down to attracting filmmakers.
In 2012, North Carolina private film investment was at $376 million, while Georgia's topped $3.1 billion. South Carolina's was $25 million, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
In addition to jobs and the immediate benefits of filming in the area, Wells said, movies are good advertisements for the community, putting Beaufort on the big screen before a captive audience.
- SC film-incentives bill passes; Beaufort chamber celebrates, May 1, 2013
- S.C. film incentive bill splits Beaufort County leaders, April 18, 2013
- Beaufort officials support increased rebates for SC filmmakers, Feb. 14, 2013
- Where have all the movies gone? Beaufort seeks to lure film industry, Dec. 16, 2012