One item potentially up for discussion in this week’s special session of the General Assembly could be what House Speaker Tim Moore called the “film credit expiration fix” in his list of possible items under consideration.

Presumably the “fix” would be to get rid of the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund‘s sunset date of July 1, 2020. If so, that would be a bad idea.

If the fund is supposed to be an “economic development” program for the state, however, then an actual fix would be to hasten the fund’s end.

State giveaways for film productions only help film productions

Third-party studies of state film incentives consistently find that they don’t help the state’s economy or other industries. State reviews of their own film incentive programs found them to be net money losers. NC’s previous program was returning only 19 cents per dollar.

film studies

In his 2016 study in the academic journal The American Review of Public Administration, Prof. Michael Thom of the University of Southern California found that state film incentive programs have no impact on their states’ economies or industries. They basically just benefit film production companies and current workers.

The News & Observer, which thunders against government favoritism for big business until the businesses are identified (Amazon! solar! beer! CVX! etc.), was able to find the proper quote for why getting rid of the sunset would be good:

“Certainly addressing the sunset date would be advantageous to our project recruitment efforts, particularly with regards to the recruitment of television series,” N.C. Film Office director Guy Gaster said in an email.

See above regarding who benefits: film production companies. So who would like it better if the fund didn’t have a possible expiration date?

Why ending the sunset would be a stealth giveaway

Over the past few years, several states have thought differently about their film incentives, getting out of them altogether. The sunset date on North Carolina’s film grant would at least make policymakers have to rethink the idea.

Hastily removing that sunset on a lark would be a stealth giveaway to outside film production companies. They would perceive it would be that much harder for future legislatures even to reexamine the fund’s actual effects.

That wouldn’t be a “fix” — it would be an abdication of responsibility.