Sullivan's Island and the Carolina Film Alliance are in negotiations over alternatives to the town's proposal to charge filmmakers $1,500 per day.
The plan to triple the current "franchise fee" is the subject of a meeting Tuesday between the CFA and Andy Benke, the town administrator. The filming fee is on the agenda for Tuesday night's Town Council meeting, where it could receive second-reading approval.
"We are still discussing the franchise structure," Benke said in an e-mail.
CFA members have been lobbying for flexible film rates based on factors such as community impact, number of people involved in a production and the amount of equipment used, said CFA Vice President Linda Lee.
"Sullivan's Island is a very special place. We're just trying to make it fair for everyone," she said.
If approved, the new town law would hike the minimum daily fee for commercial filming to $1,500 or 1 percent of gross expenditures, whichever is greater. The current daily charge is $500. Under the new fee schedule, violators would be subject to payment of the required fees plus $500 per day. The daily commercial photo-shoot fee would double to $500. It was unclear Friday how that would affect weddings on the beach.
"I'm not sure we'll act on it this month, but it's still on the agenda until we decide what to do," said Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Kaynard.
Kaynard said the proposed fee hike is not an attempt to discourage movies, TV shows and commercial photographers from using the town as a backdrop. The town cost for providing public safety and security, as well as managing relations between residents and filmmakers, is a reason for the franchise fee, he said.
CFA President Richard Futch indicated that the alliance would like for filmmakers to be able to use the beach, which the town currently prohibits.
"Sullivan's Island presents a very unique location for filmmakers. A lot of what we are doing is trying to make this a win-win situation," Futch said.
Sullivan's last raised its rates for film production and commercial photography in 1993. On average, the island has two motion picture/television shoots and three to four photography shoots per year.
The locally based new CBS-TV series "Reckless" filmed on the island, and the Lifetime series "Army Wives" also used the location. The 2010 motion picture "Dear John" used the island as one of its many Lowcountry locations.
On Isle of Palms, the daily rate charged by the city to film a movie or TV show is $100, and filming on the beach is allowed. In Charleston, there is no flat daily fee for motion picture makers, who are charged based on how much a production affects the community. North Charleston has no daily rate for motion pictures.
From 2007 to 2011, motion picture production in the Palmetto State generated $86.9 million in sales for businesses and supported 1,610 full-time equivalent jobs for residents that paid $48.5 million in wages. State and local governments received $6.6 million in revenues from corporate income, personal income, property and sales taxes generated as a result of the productions.
South Carolina offers filmmaker incentives, such as tax credits, a wage rebate of up to 25 percent, a 30 percent supplier rebate and a sales and use tax exemption on all goods. Fee-free filming locations owned by the state are an option.
The state has been the backdrop for more than 100 feature films and 70 TV movies, series and pilots. Major motion pictures that have filmed in South Carolina include "Radio," "Cold Mountain" and "The Notebook" as well as "The Prince of Tides," "The Big Chill" and "The Patriot," according to the S.C. Film Commission.