How the South Carolina Film Industry Stays Relevant Against Stiff Competition

Jul 10, 2019

Credit S.C. Film Commission

The film industry provides much needed economic impact for South Carolina, netting $61 million in revenue for the state in 2018. The revenue is generated through the South Carolina Film Commission, which provides a $15 million dollar annual subsidy to filmmakers. The subsidy is funneled to the state's film commission through the state's government.

The goal of the subsidy, called film incentives, is to financially reward filmmakers for shooting in the Palmetto State, whether they are residents or from out of state. By investing in filmmakers, the state can then net a return profit.

Tom Clark, the South Carolina Film Commissioner, explained these incentives. "We have and manage these film incentives, and if you spend a minimum of a million dollars in our state, you'll get a rebate of up to 30 percent on what you're spending. That's hiring, the hotels, everything that goes along with it."

The incentive is divided among a select number of entities each year. This is how South Carolina was able to land big-network television shows and movies, such as HBO's Vice Principals, CBS's The Inspectors, and hit movie Halloween, starring Jamie Lee Curtis.

The South Carolina Film Commission also encourages independent filmmakers to shoot in the Palmetto State, offering grants that range from $20,000 to $35,000. An annual high school initiative is also provided through a yearly cash reward. 

Funds are limited, which hurts the state's film industry when competing with neighbors. North Carolina dedicates $12 million in film incentives to television shows that are government-funded. 

Clark estimated that 95 percent of films shot in the state are in the Charleston area, which helps benefit South Carolina as a tourism function. That's because out-of state film-industry employees typically stay in the region while working on projects. "They're like tourists already so they got to have a place to live, and eat and drink," he said.

The majority of filming may happen in the Low Country, but that's not all the state has to offer, according to Micheal Givens, a South Carolina filmmaker who's shot major commercials and feature films in Asia, Europe, and South America.

"There's urban, there's antebellum, there's beautiful countryside, we've got our old mountains, we've got our hills."