HB 2 threatens upward trend of film activity in Wilmington

Hannah Williams, Assistant News Editor

Turner Television Network and A&E Network are adding their names to the ever growing list of businesses planning to close up shop in North Carolina following the passage of NC’s highly controversial House Bill 2.

Their decision could have a highly adverse effect on the film industry of Wilmington, and of NC in general, because both companies have just recently begun filming in Wilmington after a period of relative doldrums in the city’s film activity.

Signed into effect after a brief General Assembly meeting March 23, House Bill 2 rules that North Carolinians must use the restrooms that correspond to their biological sex, regardless of their identification.

Though supporters of HB 2 argue that it ensures the safety of restrooms and prevents sexual assault, many across NC and the rest of the country are instead calling HB 2 one of the most extreme anti-LGBT legislations ever passed, and there is a growing list of over 130 large companies that have expressed avid opposition to the law.

An article in the Charlotte Observer lists Ralph Lauren, Pandora Media, American Apparel, Fox, Miramax and the Weinstein Company as other major corporations that have called for HB 2’s repeal.

TNT and A&E had just recently begun filming the new television shows “Good Behavior,” starring “Downton Abbey” alum Michelle Dockery, and “SIX,” a historical drama, when NC passed HB 2, and they are among the companies opposed to the new LGBT law.

Wilmington has historically been a hot spot for the film industry, but after NC legislature changed their tax-incentive program to a $10 million grant pool, filming in Wilmington was brought to a near standstill. However, the amount of grant money was recently increased to $30 million, allowing for sizable growth in Wilmington’s film industry.

However, that growth may be lost since the two major film production companies that have started projects in Wilmington have stated that they will not plan on doing any more filming in NC if HB 2 is not repealed.

“Production on SIX is already underway, however we will not consider North Carolina for any new productions,” said A&E spokesperson Dan Silberman.

This development could affect multiple aspects of Wilmington’s film industry along with UNC Wilmington’s film studies department. However, the city of Wilmington’s film industry is more likely to suffer than UNCW’s film studies department is.

“Film Studies greatly values our relationship with the film industry, which takes the form of guest speakers, internships and employment for those graduates whose film career path involves the feature film and television slice of the motion picture landscape,” said Dave Monahan, UNCW’s Film Studies Chair. “So when things are slow here, it can’t help but have some effect on our program, our students and our graduates.”

“That said, we have known those realities since we began this program and have always looked for ways to benefit from this great resource without depending on it,” said Monahan.

“It would be bad for the Wilmington filmmaking community,” said Monahan. “Those television shows are the bread and butter for our crew base. And what is good for the film industry and the film community is good for UNCW and Film Studies.”

These companies’, and others’, refusal to do work in NC could have a significant effect on the job market in NC.

Just recently, Lionsgate Entertainment announced that it would not begin filming a new comedy series in Charlotte due to the controversial bill, but it would instead film its series in Canada, according to an article in the News & Observer. This film project was projected to bring approximately 100 jobs to the Charlotte region.