This week’s RiverRun International Film Festival, even in this pandemic year, brings more than a hundred films from around the world. It’s noteworthy that so much of the festival’s best work originates in its home state of North Carolina. This is by design; UNCSA alum always feature prominently on the slate, and despite a somewhat hostile political climate, NC has a rich history in the annals of film.

There once was a tax credit for filmmaking in NC so generous that the CW television network shot almost all of its original programming here. Remember “Dawson’s Creek”? That was us!

There was so much film activity that people started calling Wilmington, where many of the studios had set up shop, “Wilmywood.”

When the Republicans took over the state legislature in 2010, the film credit was dropped and much of the shooting moved to Louisiana and Georgia, who offered more generous incentives.

Now, state film incentives stand at a 25 percent rebate for qualified spending. Allocations for this have crept up from $10 million in 2014 to $31 million this year. A bill in the NC Senate right now, sponsored by Sen. Paul Lowe of Forsyth County and Wilmington’s senator, Sen. Michael Lee, would add another $34 million.

That Lowe, a Democrat, and Lee, a Republican, can stand together on this bill shows that the film industry is positive in a non-partisan way. And yet the film business can still be very much a political game.

After a generous program begun in 2008, Georgia has led the nation in film and television shots per year since 2016. In our state, that was the year HB2, the anti-trans “Bathroom Bill,” drove scores of film shoots out of NC, along with sporting events like the NBA All Star Game.

Renewed interest in marginalizing trans folks through legislation in Raleigh, as well as a slew of bills making it harder for Black and Brown people to vote, will do little to increase our standing here.

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