Incentives give S.C. star quality Film industry celebrates new law

Supporters of the film industry, including Carolina Film Alliance members Myra Jones (from left) and Darrell Johnson and Alliance director Richard Futch and Gary Santos gathered at FISH restaurant to celebrate passage of legislation to boost incentives -- Thursday May 16, 2013. (Wade Spees/

Wade Spees

The Palmetto State has stars in its eyes.

Film industry professionals Thursday celebrated a new law they think will expand their industry in South Carolina.

Richard Futch, former casting director for the TV show “Army Wives,” said the Film Rebates Bill, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law last week by Gov. Nikki Haley, makes South Carolina competitive with neighboring Georgia and North Carolina.

The new law, which provides incentives to filmmakers, will bring more movie and TV productions to the state, he said.

And that means more work for Lowcountry cast and crew members — those who for decades have helped bring “The Big Chill,” “Forrest Gump” and “The Patriot” to the big screen.

It also will be a boon for hotels, restaurants and other businesses that serve the film industry, he said.

Futch also is president of the Carolina Film Alliance, the group that sponsored the celebration at Fish Restaurant on King Street in Charleston.

Marion Edmonds, communications director for the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said the new law will allow film companies to be reimbursed up to 30 percent for supplies purchased from South Carolina vendors. It also increased the rebate film companies can receive for wages to 25 percent for South Carolina residents and 20 percent for others.

Last year, the supply and wage rebates for film companies were 15 percent, which represented a drop to where they were in 2004.

Under the new law, the incentives are permanent. They aren't subject to the General Assembly's annual budget process.

Futch said the plan will be appealing to companies who want to produce films because they will get a rebate check, unlike some states that offer only tax credits. “They will get a real, live dollar amount,” Futch said.

John DeWorken, a lobbyist who worked to encourage legislators to pass the bill, said he's especially grateful to Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, for their efforts to pass the incentives plan. “It will bring in millions in capital investment for businesses,” he said.

Edmonds said attracting the film industry to South Carolina is good for the state because it provides quality jobs, brings business to parts of the state that don't have much industry and portrays the state in a positive light. It also was a great move for filmmakers because the state has trained workforce and “a variety of locations from the ocean to the mountains and everything in between.”

Howard Armstrong, a member of the Carolina Film Alliances' board, said the incentives are essential to attracting filmmakers to the state. “Last year, 33 projects looked at us, but we weren't competitive, so they went elsewhere.”

Randall Goldman, chief executive officer of Patrick Properties, which owns Fish Restaurant, Lowndes Grove Plantation and other Charleston properties, said the film incentives are great for local businesses. “The film industry allows Charleston to take the international stage,” he said. And it brings new streams of money into the city.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.