SULLIVAN'S ISLAND - A planned sharp increase in daily fees for filmmakers appears to have stalled as town officials and the Carolina Film Alliance continue talks on the issue.
Town Council last week once again deferred final approval of tripling daily fees charged filmmakers to $1,500 or 1 percent of gross expenditures, whichever is greater. The current daily charge is $500.
The Film Alliance has submitted a half-dozen alternatives for new daily film fees.
"I'm considering all the information we get. I have not reached any conclusion," said Mayor Pro-Tem Jerry Kaynard.
Among the Film Alliance proposals is a suggested range of daily fees from $200 to $750 based on the size of a production. "Low impact" films with 20 or fewer cast and crew would pay the least. "High impact" productions with 50 or more cast and crew would pay the highest daily fee. In addition, high-impact films would make a $1,000 donation to the island Parks Foundation or Volunteer Fire Department.
Linda Lee, the Film Alliance vice president, said she is working with Town Councilman Pat O'Neill on a new proposal for film fees.
"We're trying to help as best we can. I'm always hopeful. Who knows what will happen?" she said.
O'Neill is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.
Lee said the Sullivan's tax base is a factor.
The island lacks revenue-generating overnight accommodations like those found on Isle of Palms, where filmmaker fees are $100 daily.
Charleston has a range of filmmaker fees based on impact. North Charleston does not charge filmmakers a daily rate.
Richard Futch, Film Alliance president, said no one is trying to tell the island how to run its business.
At issue is the effect of higher fees on the state's effort to bring multi-million-dollar films here through its incentives program.
"Sometimes people are not aware of how the film industry works. We're trying to give them some options," Futch said.
Sullivan's matters for filmmakers because it is a one-of-a-kind location. The island is pricing itself out of the market with its latest proposed movie fee hike, he said.
Filming is banned on the beach, which is another issue, he said.
Kaynard has said that the island is seeing more requests from filmmakers. The town cost for providing public safety and security, as well as managing relations between residents and filmmakers, is the reason for the fees, he said.
Sullivan's has not raised its rates for film production since 1993. On average, it hosts about two motion picture/television shoots per year. Island revenue received from those enterprises has been about $2,500 annually, officials said.
Kaynard has said the proposed fee hike is not in any way an attempt to discourage movies and TV shows from using the town as a backdrop.
The locally based new CBS-TV series "Reckless" most recently filmed on the island. The Lifetime series "Army Wives" also used the location. The 2010 motion picture "Dear John," a box-office hit, used the island as one of its many Lowcountry locations.
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