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Economic developers think Lincoln has future in film

The Lincoln Economic Development Association (LEDA) is trying to attract moviemakers to Lincoln County.

Last week, the nonprofit organization launched a film section on its Web site. The site is filled with hundreds of photographs of potential movie sites in the county.

The project stemmed partially from work done by Shelley Stevens, who interned with LEDA last summer. She updated a catalog of Lincoln County movie sites for Charlotte Regional Partnership’s Film Commission, which recruits film production companies.

Mitch Miller, business development coordinator for LEDA, decided to expand on the work Stevens started. He contacted local photographer David Hopkins after stumbling upon his pictures on Flickr.com.

Hopkins allowed Miller to post many of his pictures on LEDA’s film section. Hopkins, a teacher at Maiden High School, will also be taking more pictures to add to the film section.

“David has been extremely helpful,” Miller said. “He has worked hand-in-hand with us to promote Lincoln County. He has helped us at no cost so that was a big benefit for us.”

Lincoln County definitely has many spots that would work well for film production companies, Hopkins said.

“You’ve got downtown Lincolnton, the courthouse and a lot of older buildings if they want that small-town feel,” he said. “I think any way we can promote the area is beneficial and LEDA is doing that.”

LEDA has plenty of photos from the western portion of the county, but could use more shots from the eastern area. People are welcome to send any of their photos to Miller for review, and possible publication to the site.

“What we want to do is to continue to build our database,” Miller said. “We know there are unique things out there.”

“I’ve lived in Lincoln County all my life and to see some of these photos … I never knew these places were here in Lincoln County.”

Almost two years ago, a film production company considered filming in Lincoln County, but ended up choosing Shelby instead. The movie Blood Done Sign My Name, set to be released this year, called for specific types and colors of structures that Lincoln County simply did not have.

But Miller is confident that other moviemakers will come through Lincoln County looking for unique sites that, perhaps, the other cities can’t offer. “You’ve got million-dollar homes to working farms,” he said. “We aren’t Charlotte. We don’t have skyscrapers or the busy life, but if you think of film (needing) a different setting, I think we’ve got a lot (moviemakers) can benefit from. I think the biggest start of all is letting people know what’s out there.”

There are also film incentives in North Carolina to help reel in moviemakers. Here are a few:

-Spend at least $250,000 and receive a refundable tax credit of up to 25 percent on in-state spending for goods, services and labor.

-Eligible film productions include theatrical, television and direct-to-DVD-features, television series, miniseries, commercials (excluding news, sporting events and political advertising) and animation productions.

-The maximum tax credit for feature film production is $7.5 million.

-The state’s 1 percent sales and use tax for film-related purchases and rentals remains in effect for productions. Compensation and wages paid to employees for services performed in North Carolina on which withholding payments are remitted to the N.C. Department of Revenue are eligible for the tax credit regardless of whether paid to residents or non-residents. This can be used in conjunction with a 15 percent film incentive, but cannot be used in conjunction with the 25 percent film incentive.

-Amounts paid to individuals who receive compensation in excess of $1 million are excluded and ineligible.

-Payments for per-diem, living allowances, and fringe benefits are eligible to the extent they are included in the recipient’s taxable wages subject to withholding.

To learn more about film opportunities in Lincoln County, visit www.lincolneda.org. You can also contact Mitch Miller at 704-732-151l or mitch@lincolneda.org .