Is SC betting too small on the film industry? Some say yes.


With the explosive growth of the film industry in Georgia and, more recently, North Carolina, it would be easy to overlook South Carolina’s small but vibrant film community and relegate it to a supporting role in the economy. booming Southeast entertainment.

The reality is that the Palmetto State has played a significant role in movie history for decades with iconic films like “Deliverance”, “Forrest Gump” and “The Big Chill” and, according to SC Cinematography Commissioner Matt Storm, that role continues and could actually expand, with the right incentives.

Small investment, big dividends

According to Dan Foster, senior project manager for the SC Film Commission, the state’s cash back program paid immediate dividends in 2006 when it was enacted and helped land George Clooney’s film “Leatherheads.”

This project has been an economic boon to Greer and the surrounding area. According to data compiled by the Film Commission, the $ 63.3 million in film productions spent in the state that year generated $ 120.3 million in economic activity.

Unlike Georgia’s massive $ 700 million tax credits targeting the film industry, South Carolina’s program offers a 25% discount on wages paid to state workers and 30% on salaries paid to state workers. supplies in the state for productions shot in the state. These figures drop to 20% for out-of-state wages and 25% for out-of-state supplies.

“It’s local, good spending in South Carolina,” says Storm.

But the state’s relatively small investment in film incentives means many projects are turned down.

In 2021, the film commission had to say ‘no’ to 29 projects with an estimated investment of around $ 350 million because the state’s investment budget was already committed, Foster says. The consensus of those working in the state’s film industry appears to be that state leaders need to spend more money to be competitive.

Storm says film projects can produce a wide variety of economic activity in the state, from hotel rooms and meals for the crew to supplies and skilled labor for setting construction. There is also money spent on accessories and items like furniture needed to outfit a set.

Even at current levels, government spending through remittances generates over $ 70 million in economic activity each year.

Growing local talent

Beyond cash backs, Storm and Foster say one of the things that draw production companies to the state is a pool of talented professionals.

A native of Easley, Steven Adam Renkovish is one of South Carolina’s local filmmakers generating a buzz within the independent film community.

His recently released feature film, “Lilith awakensHas toured independent film festivals and premiered earlier this fall at the Tryon International Film Festival.

Lilith awakens
A scene from “The Awakening of Lilith” by Adam Renkovish, originally from Easley. The film was a small independent project shot with a cast and team of volunteers for a budget of $ 3,000 and toured film festivals. Photo provided by Adam Renkovish

While the film’s $ 3,000 budget falls far short of the resources that a large Atlanta or Hollywood production company can bring, Renkovish says the creative passion and professionalism his team brought to the project underscore how talented local South Carolina designers are.

“There are so many amazingly and wonderfully talented people out there,” he says. “I think in a few years we will see incredible growth because we have some really good people.”

Ready to blow

This talent is one of the main reasons Edgar Bravo and his partner John Paul Rice moved their production company, No Restrictions Entertainment, from LA to Greenville earlier this fall.

Bravo says the region’s welcoming atmosphere and pervasive ‘can do’ attitude easily beat out other communities they surveyed across the country.

“Investing in the film industry is an economic victory for South Carolina and we need to be more competitive with Georgia and North Carolina. ” -Representing. Jason Elliot, R-Greenville

“[Greenville’s] a thriving place, ”says Bravo. “I love being in Greenville, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Bravo says his company’s focus on authentic, impactful independent feature films is a perfect fit for the upstate and South Carolina. He adds that with LA and Atlanta’s focus on blockbuster productions, South Carolina has a real opportunity to become a powerhouse by making more and more meaningful small projects like the recently released No Restrictions feature. .Match day. “

No Restrictions Entertainment has started casting and finding filming locations for an upcoming project, “The Little Box of Hope”. Bravo says it’s part of the company’s longer-term plan to further develop the local talent pool and build the infrastructure needed to expand film production capabilities in the state.

“To start with smaller, high-quality projects, this is how you build the infrastructure,” says Bravo.

He and Rice began reaching out to local universities to begin developing collaborative efforts to develop existing and emerging talent. Bravo says that with the state’s rich literary and artistic heritage, a lot of talent is already there and just needs opportunities to grow.

The Abyss (2)
James Cameron’s “The Abyss”, released by 20th Century Fox in 1989, used huge water tanks from an abandoned nuclear power plant in Gaffney for underwater filming. The film won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Photo provided by SC Film Commission

More investment needed

Cinema Commissioner Storm said that even a modest increase in state funding for the cinema incentive program could have a huge impact on the number and caliber of productions taking place in the state.

“It doesn’t have to be a big project to generate a good return,” he says.

In the 15 years of the incentives’ existence, the commission has the data necessary to prove the impact of these incentives on the state’s economy, Foster said.

The figures show that for every dollar in rebates paid, the state obtains a return on investment of four dollars in economic activity. But the current level of state funding only supports two ongoing projects – HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones and Netflix’s Outer Banks, Foster says.

And yet, growing spending on filming in places like Atlanta and LA means that productions will continue to look to places like South Carolina as more attractive alternatives.

“It’s not a big expense to do this,” Storm said.

SC Independent Grants Program
A scene from a project that entered the SC Indie Grants program for high school filmmakers. Photo provided by SC Film Commission.

The good news is that some lawmakers appear to support increased funding for the rebate program. Rep. Jason Elliot, R-Greenville, said more spending on the film industry would benefit the state.

“Investing in the film industry is an economic victory for South Carolina and we need to be more competitive with Georgia and North Carolina,” says Elliot.


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