Are You Here, starring Zack Galifianakis, Amy Poehler and Owen Wilson, opened in theaters nationwide last month.

The feelgood comedy of the summer, locals might remember, was shot in Winston-Salem two years ago, where looky-loos took delight in spotting Wilson and Galifianakis hanging out downtown.

The Disappointments Room, starring Kate Beckinsdale, starts filming later this year in Greensboro and the surrounding area.

And in August, they’ll be shooting scenes from the latest Nicholas Sparks tearjerker at Wake Forest University.

It’s no mere fluke: North Carolina is a great place to shoot a film: urban locales, mountains and thick woods, thousands of miles of coastline, “colorful locals” to use as extras, dirt roads, historic buildings, wildlife, qualified crew… not to mention a documented history of more than 200 films shot in the Old North State. Dirty Dancing, Forrest Gump, Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games and Deliverance all came to life here.

All of these contemporary films relied on the state’s tax-incentive program — a 25 percent refundable tax credit with a minimum spend of $250,000 — to come in under budget.[pullquote]The tax credit is set to expire on Jan. 1, and the Republican-led General Assembly looks poised to let that happen.[/pullquote], a site that evaluates state tax incentives for film gives North Carolina four out of five stars — only Georgia and Louisiana are rated higher.

The tax credit is set to expire on Jan. 1, and the Republican-led General Assembly looks poised to let that happen.

There may be some relief in the form of a grant program that might be inserted into the state budget in the current short session, but this is not the same thing at all — grants take films on a case-by-case basis, each project voted on by a very conservative legislature. And it surely knocks us down a peg in the estimation of the film industry’s own tabulations — even the three-star states on offer some form of rebate. Virginia, which has a grant system in place, ranks just two stars.

A state budget is a blueprint of quantified priorities; more so than policy, more so than lip service, a budget spells out what’s important to those elected to do the business of the people.

And it looks like our GA is all set to put Baby in the corner.

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