Legislative Update – May 31, 2021

While the 2021 Legislative Session has adjourned Sine Die, as you know, that does not mean their work is finished in Columbia. In the Sine Die resolution, which they pass to be able to take up specific issues post-adjournment, the unfinished State Budget is of top priority.

As it stands now, Ways & Means subcommittees met this week, the full committee the first week of June, and then the full House will be meeting the following week to take up the State Budget. Currently, the Senate version includes $15M in non-recurring revenue for the Film Office. Based on what we have gathered and on this week’s subcommittee meeting, it sounds highly likely that the House will concur with that $15M amount.

Because this $15M is non-recurring, it will not be suitable for any new series. The Film Commission is already talking to feature producers. While CFA Board of Directors and Members are wanting a more dedicated, recurring funding stream, our lobbyists urge patience. We are on track for that to happen, and legislative leadership supports us, but coming out of a shutdown, they must wait to see what the Admissions Tax looks like, etc.  

The SC Department of Revenue is predicting $26.2M in Admissions Tax for FY 20-21. The Film Commission gets 26% of that – or $6.8M. Add that to the $10M from the General Fund for a total of $16.8M – if predictions are correct. The Film Commission needs $20M to rebate RIGHTEOUS GEMSTONES and OUTER BANKS for their next Season – two big shows. The balance will come out of the $15M “Gift” from the Legislature. All the Provisos we have in place to protect Film Commission funding were renewed this session.  

Ways & Means is ready to take up Weston Newton’s more comprehensive film bill just as soon as they see what the Admissions Tax revenues look like later this year. H. 3790 would increase the percentage of Admissions Tax from 26% to 46%. The original version of the Bill makes the funding gradual at 4% every year until it reaches 46%. CFA and our Lobbyists are hoping to adjust that since 4% of $26.2M is barely $1M. With North Carolina at $31M, Louisiana at $180M, and Georgia – they have no cap on spending – South Carolina MUST get back in business. From 2012 to the present, South Carolina has turned away $594.8M in direct spend due to lack of rebate funds. This MUST stop. Everything in the economy is rebounding and film is no different. We have folks ready and willing to get back to work, we have the best film crews in the nation right here, we just need projects to work. The more money from the state, the more projects we can film. And with that, and a 4 to 1 economic impact, it will pay off for small businesses across the state, as well as directly to the film industry.

Our lobbyists at TT&B say that “in addition to the $15 MILLION “gift” that has been thrown our way until a fix is decided upon, legislative leadership in support of our efforts and Senators and Legislators asking what they can do to protect and grow the film industry in our state, we can only ask you to let us do the job you have hired us to do. We just ask you to hang in there just a little longer and we hope $15M + the recurring film money will help do that. As soon as Ways and Means is ready with their “fix’, we will be ready to hit the ground running with it.

In the meantime, you can go to https://sc.reel-scout.com/crew_registration.aspx and register or update your information as a crew member or supplier. Producers look here first when they are thinking about coming to South Carolina.

If you have not renewed your CFA membership or – God forbid – have not joined, go to https://carolinafilm.com/join/. CFA is a non-profit membership organization with an all-volunteer Board of Directors. Your membership dues pay for the work we do.

Linda Lee, President
Carolina Film Alliance