May 10, 2024

On Location: Exploring North Carolina’s Cinematic Charm with Guy Gaster

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Welcome to On Production presented by Wrapbook. Today I'm thrilled to have Guy Gaster, the director of North Carolina Film Office join us. Under Guy’s leadership, North Carolina has become a coveted destination for film and TV productions. Drawing attention with its scenic diversity and robust incentive program, from iconic TV shows to independent gems, Guy has played a pivotal role in shaping the state's film landscape. I want to dive into the world of film production of North Carolina and learn from Guy’s extensive experience. Guy, welcome to the show.


Hey, glad to be here. Thanks for having me. And you're too kind in that introduction. So


well, Guy, could you share with us your journey into the film industry and what led you to your current role as the director of North Carolina's Film Office?


A it's not the best tell, or maybe it is a little too common in that I stumbled into the industry. I am a North Carolina native, and at the time was working out of state in a completely different field, and was looking to be back home be closer to family. And this opportunity came up. And I pitched myself as just being someone who loves North Carolina and wants to share that passion and enthusiasm with others and help bring new opportunities to the state. And film happened to be that that vehicle that presented itself for doing it. So as I said, literally had no idea what a film commission did, but knew that I knew my state, and I knew what made it special, and where the hidden gems were within the state. And as a result, you know, thought I would be good for the position that was open at the time. And that was 12 years ago, or we had some change in leadership. And they asked me to step up nine years ago, and they it's been that way ever since. So have been excited to learn about what was going on and more about the industry. And now I feel like an expert, but certainly came in very green and but was able to lean on things I knew very early on to help make it successful. So


12 years later, I'm curious what has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working within North Carolina's film and TV sector?


Well, I think that one of the things I still get excited about is seeing that aha moment for producers and, and those above the line that are obviously out of state. And they're like, Wow, North Carolina does have something special here. And whether that is, you know, a hole in the wall food place that they couldn't believe I was taking them to, but then suddenly thanked me for doing it. Or, you know, seeing that our state does have a rich film history and that the individuals know quality filmmaking, all of those, you know, have have been the rewards on I don't wanna say proving them wrong, because I don't think anyone thought anything bad coming in. But just seeing that light bulb go off on. Yes, this is a great place. And I want to come back again soon. That's


awesome for those listening to on production that maybe don't have a direct insight into the program. Can you provide just a quick overview of the program? And then can you give us an update on the kind of current state of funding for film and TV production incentives in North Carolina?


Sure. So North Carolina offers a 25% rebate to the productions, it's monetized directly by the state. So you're getting a true 25% or advertising is what you get on that. We qualify above and below the line resident and non resident labor, the first million of each individual, and then that rebates also good on your services, and purchases with North Carolina vendors for work being done in North Carolina. In terms of our annual allocations. We're not capped on the number of allocations we can make, or the number of awards we can pay out each year. So we have an ongoing open application process and are typically able to have applications reviewed and make offers within 14 days of those being submitted. We do where we are unique. Could be some of our we do have some project minimum spin qualifications and project maximum payouts. On the feature length film side a minimum spend $1.5 million is required which I fully acknowledge is higher than probably A lot of other states and jurisdictions, but that's where we are right now. We do have a subcategory made for TV are made for streaming features that minimum spend is 500,000. And then for a series is an average of 500,000 per episode for those minimum spins on the maximum payout side features can get up to $7 million back. And on the series side, it's 15 million per season. That's awesome. So guy


on Wrapbooks website, we have this really cool set of tools and resources all about production incentives, we've got comparison tools. But so then we have is called the wrap up rule to remember for every state, I'm curious, as the expert for North Carolina film incentives, what would you suggest are some rules to remember for filmmakers? Yeah, I


think the big one for us is even though we love doing work with Amazon MGM Studios and have had several of their projects, Amazon purchases themselves do not qualify still within our state. So that's definitely a rule to remember and to let the let the production teams No, very early on, on that. On the labor side, people catch on very quickly. But obviously, you know, North Carolina needs to be the work state 1099 labor doesn't qualify. So there needs to be contributions that are being made there, such as through payroll on it. And then the other has been travel, we're getting a lot of questions on that. So as a reminder, travel has to be especially airfare has to be booked through a North Carolina travel agent. And the flight has to either originate or terminate in the state, I say the flight, the ticket for the flight has to originate or terminate here. Those


are great rules to remember. That's awesome. So guy, how do you believe or have you seen these incentives impact North Carolina's ability to attract major film and TV projects.


On the incentive side, we've certainly seen our state to have a little bit of a roller coaster, to be quite honest, Cameron, and I think we could maybe even be a test test case, if you guys wanted to do something there. This is an industry that with these incentives, it does pass the buck for tests when we talk about economic development. And our state has changed its incentive. It wasn't necessarily something that the why it wasn't something that the State Film Office recommended. But there was a major change that took place 10 years ago. And it resulted in a dramatic drop in production for our state and one that we're finally just now recovering from. So I would just encourage those that are looking at it that these incentives do make a difference. And as long as one person is offering them, then the state is interested in being in this industry. It's part of having to play the game, if you will,


super helpful. You know, North Carolina has had success with TV shows like Sleepy Hollow, and under the dome, how important is television production to the state strategy in promoting film and TV projects? Yeah, overall


series production is is my top target, if you will, it is one that our legislators, even our biggest critics, you know, when we talk about the incentive, I have a hard time arguing against because with those series, certainly the amount of time that people are, are working is longer, the chance for there to be another season or the project returning is greater. So those are the those are the types of projects we'd love to have. And certainly, as you mentioned, you know have had some great successes with and so it is our my primary target in my recruiting effort. That said, we still love the features and love to get that experience and have them help out but from a political standpoint, series we're definitely has been favored and is something and that's why right now when you look, we're offering a larger incentive opportunity for that series work than than just a standalone feature


That's awesome guy. I'm curious, are there any future initiatives or goals that you have with the North Carolina Film Office to further enhance the states appeal to filmmakers or producers? And can you just help our listeners understand the the film infrastructure and resources if maybe they're considering or haven't yet considered North Carolina as a destination?


Yes, We're always looking for ways we can enhance or improve. You know, what we offer is a state. By no means do I think we've got the perfect program with everything in place as as it is right now. So there's always we always look for ways we might be able to enhance, you know, the tough part is what what is the legislature and your state leaders? What are they comfortable with? And how far are they willing to go? So when you look at a place like my office or those that are also ever advocating on behalf of the industry, it's finding that happy medium where you can make some advancements, but it's also not putting the program as a whole in jeopardy on that I don't, I don't see us ever going to something like a 40% rebate? You know, I think that that's, that's too much. But certainly, there have been arguments made and people have been willing to listen and consider, do we need to do an uptick for people who shoot in a more rural area? Do we need to go to a base of 30 as opposed to 25? Right now, those are always conversations that we're willing to have, and and, you know, when they present themselves, certainly talk about ways we could enhance our current program to make it more competitive. As far as if someone's never considered North Carolina before, you know, obviously, we're gonna talk about that incentive and, and the ease of it. And truly, what you see is what you get, you know, on the 25%. But what also makes our state unique is that this is an industry that has been part of our state since the early 1980s. I mean, we certainly had production before them. But when the state really started focusing on this being a big economic driver within the state was in the ad. So there is infrastructure in place, there are multigenerational crews that are here that's unique. In some areas, some some folks are having to use an incentive to build an infrastructure. We have that now. Does it need to grow? Absolutely. Are there holes and gaps that we have, of course, but that said, you're going to be able to find, you know, 90% of your crew, here within the state are local why IATSE? They were just telling me with one of the training programs, they're now the highest and all of all of the IA with percentages of members that have passed this, this specific training course. So it's something that when you come here, people understand the industry, they understand what it takes, and the small businesses as well. And they're willing to and willing and ready to make your project its success.


That's fantastic, Guy. For someone considering bringing their approach to North Carolina. What advice would you offer to ensure a successful and smooth production experience? Obviously,


selfishly reach out to us as soon as you can, so we can help? You know, talk about what expectations you should maybe have, or you know, where within the state makes the most sense, or where you can get a bigger bang for your buck, if you will. And the other part I would say is, I will put our crew up against anyone's and I know you probably hear that a lot. But we have some great department heads. We have an incredible amount of DGA and PGA members that are part of our crew that you don't find in a lot of other jurisdictions. And so I would just say Don't, don't feel like if you're coming here, you're going to have to bring in all these other folks. There's a lot that's quality on the ground here that will help you from a budget standpoint, and also from a logistical standpoint because they do all their work here. So they know who those quality vendors are. They know how to do the film permit process. They you know, all of that having that insider knowledge, certainly will help make the project go much more smoothly.


All right. Well, guys, this has been an incredible overview, aside from the incredible crew and the wonderful incentive pitch us on North Carolina. What makes it such a wonderful place to live into work. Yeah,


I ultimately, I mean, it comes down to people on that. And so even though you said besides the crew, you know that those crew members and they're hard working, that they're part of that people equation, but also the people that are in our local restaurants that are at the local hotels for those who are coming from out of town. There's just a welcoming atmosphere that you find here. And I think that makes it really rewarding. We have some amazing coastal locations in particular and I think a really underrated food scene is starting to be called be be spotlighted more and more. But I there's not a lot of bad meals that I eat. Thankfully, I'm sitting down and so you can't see that but there's a lot to enjoy and I do think that that hospitality that we have within our state really shines and makes it an enjoyable experience on and off the set.


Wonderful. Well, Guy, thank you so much for your time and for your insights for our listeners here who listened to On Production. Thanks so much. Yeah, happy to


join and ready to talk to someone who wants to learn more.

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