Trip to L.A. in works for officials seeking movie, TV bucks

Production crews at the East Battery film scenes for the new CBS show "Reckless." With that show's ratings sagging, state and local officials plan to travel to Hollywood to try to lure more filmmakers and TV shows to South Carolina.

As the locally based CBS show "Reckless" plays out in front of TV audiences, officials are planning a trip out West to lure more Hollywood cash here.

The city of North Charleston, the S.C. Film Commission and the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau are part of the effort.

"This is something the mayor believes in," said Amy Heath, director of tourism for North Charleston.

The journey to Los Angeles will happen sometime in the fall or winter, she said.

"State Parks, Recreation and Tourism approached us about assisting them with this project, which they consider to be a statewide economic development initiative," said Perrin Lawson, CVB deputy director.

"We have not yet been provided a timetable or specifics on the scope of this project," he said.

The Film Commission is under the wing of PRT. Their spokesman, Marion Edmonds, said details of the upcoming recruiting trip are still being worked out.

"We are trying to put that together," he said.

The idea is for filmmaking to become another arrow in the quiver of the state's economy, he said.

A successful show can mean big money for the local and South Carolina economy. Charleston-based "Army Wives" on the Lifetime cable network pumped more than $7 million into hotels, equipment, police, medics, fees and vendors of all types in its seventh and final season, Edmonds said.

The first 13-episode season of "Reckless" was filmed in and around the Charleston area. "CBS 'Reckless' spent over a million dollars per episode. Considering film production budgets, we have an opportunity to make a big economic impact," said North Charleston spokesman Ryan Johnson.

The network has yet to release local spending numbers for "Reckless." The third installment of the steamy legal drama airs at 10 p.m. Sunday. Last week, it drew a disappointing 4 million viewers, down from about 6 million who watched CBS' lead-in, "Big Brother."

CBS built a "Reckless" soundstage at the old Goer Manufacturing facility in North Charleston. The longtime plant made display cabinets and fixtures for retail stores before closing more than five years ago.

The state welcomes filmmakers with incentives that are considered some of the best in the country. They include 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. Productions qualify for the breaks by spending at least $1 million in the state.

North Carolina has been debating an overhaul of its film incentives, which resulted in $61 million in rebates last year. Some critics have called the payments too rich when calculated against the number of jobs the industry creates. Supporters say the incentives boost business across industries, from caterers feeding the cast to gas stations fueling the crew trucks.

The Tar Heel State currently gives a 25 percent refund to productions that spend more than $250,000, with a payout cap of $20 million for most productions and no monetary limit on a TV series. In June, the state's Senate approved a bill that would replace the nearly decade-old tax credit by creating a fund to award grants to film companies that come to the state.

The Palmetto State has been the backdrop for more than 100 feature films and more than 70 TV movies, series and pilots, according to the Film Commission.

From 2007 to 2011, motion picture production in South Carolina 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, according to a study prepared for the state PRT.

Local movie-making fees vary. Sullivan's Island has been studying a proposal to triple the minimum daily "franchise fee" for commercial filming to $1,500 or 1 percent of gross expenditures, whichever is greater. In comparison, on Isle of Palms, the daily rate to make a movie or TV show is $100. In Charleston, movie-makers are billed based on how the community is affected by a production. North Charleston has no daily film fee.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.