Gov. Perdue visits studios, announces training funds


By Alison Lee Satake

After a brief tour on the set of Ironman 3, Governor Beverly Perdue announced on Wednesday that she will introduce $1 million in her 2012-2013 budget for job training for the film industry.

“It’s not just about the stars and fun and having Robert Downey Jr. in Wilmington, it’s about jobs,” Perdue said.

The $1 million in state funding will go to community colleges in Wilmington and Winston-Salem to develop 10 new workforce training courses in set construction, paint and plaster work, set dressing and props, camera work, wardrobe work, hair and makeup, grip work, electrical and production office support. The five-week program could train about 400 people for the film industry.

“The number of [film] jobs are exceeding the number of workers in Wilmington and Charlotte,” said Jason Rosin, business agent for the studio mechanics of North Carolina, South Carolina and Savannah, Ga., I.A.T.S.E. Local 491. “This will be an opportunity for a new class of workers.”

Ten years ago, Cape Fear Community College began a two-year Associate’s degree in film and video production, said Amanda Lee, CFCC vice president of instruction. The program can accommodate about 100 students, but the community college has had to turn away students due to the popularity of the program. The existing program taught by film industry professionals prepares graduates for entry-level production work in film and television, Lee said.

The community colleges will design the 10 courses that will be offered over a five-week period.

“This is pure nuts and bolts economic development,” Perdue said. The “tailor-trained workforce” will be another incentive that could draw more film production companies to the state.

Filmmakers spent about $220 million in North Carolina in 2011 and have employed about 10,500 film workers.

The uptick in film projects and jobs has been a direct result of the film tax incentive, Rosin said.

In 2011, North Carolina increased its film tax incentive to 25 percent, capped at $20 million. This move came after the governor’s 2010 trip to Hollywood, where she heard from studio executives that the state’s former 15 percent incentive and $7.5 million cap was weakening its competitiveness.

“We’ve delivered a tax credit to keep Wilmington and North Carolina competitive,” she said. “This industry is core to North Carolina now.”