Independent film fest honors filmmakers facing difficulties in N.C.

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Cape Fear Independent Film Festival honored filmmakers Sunday, June 14 during the Wilmington Film Awards. Actors, directors and producers celebrated each other and described new challenges since N.C. legislators eliminated film tax incentives.

Marisa Vitali, Brooklyn-based actress and creator of film “Grace,” accepted the award for Best Drama.

“I’m so surprised,” Vitali said. “I’m just very grateful.”

Vitali, who based “Grace” on her first year in recovery from addiction, dedicated her award to all people who are clean and living in recovery.

Festival director Langley McArol said in addition to drama, categories such as horror, comedy and faith and family amplify the festival’s audience appeal. This year saw less local and feature-length submissions than previous years, but all of the films screened demonstrated a high level of quality, McArol said.

Independent filmmakers are not normally eligible for the tax incentives. They are, however, indirectly affected when professional talent relocates to to other markets to pursue consistent working conditions, McArol said.

“The sad thing is that … our incentives are based on budgets that independent films never reach.”

McArol suggested incentives for higher quality, higher budget films, which would spur development in the Wilmington film industry and make professional talent more accessible to independent productions.

The lack of film incentives has also impacted Owen Daly, a Raleigh-based actor who comes to Wilmington to work and audition. He said options are now limited for actors in N.C. “Under The Dome” is the only remaining production in Wilmington, which means only one show actors can audition for, if and when there is a part they might fit, Daly said.

“The lack of film incentives has decimated the professional film base here,” he said. “Atlanta has stolen away our crew talent. Atlanta has stolen away our acting talent.”

Daly, who is retired from a professional career, does not depend on the film industry for consistent income. Crew and other industry professionals, however, often have to relocate their families when work moves to other states.

“If I had to make a living as an actor, I would be in Atlanta right now,” he said.

Filmmakers were not the only people impacted by the change in tax incentives. Paula Jenkins, downtown Wilmington resident and AirB&B host for Marisa Vitali, said she enjoys the talent the film festivals attract. Out-of-town artists are the kind of people who normally use her service, but this year, only six people attended the screening of “Grace.”

“This film festival was a little disappointing,” Jenkins said.

Whether this was directly attributable to the lack of film incentives she couldn’t say, but she did notice a drop from the year before.

— Henry Burnett, Intern

 

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