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Wilmington City Council Proposes Grant For Film Workforce Training

By Jenny Callison, posted Oct 18, 2021

Film production in the Wilmington area, as well as across the state, will benefit from an initiative proposed by the city of Wilmington.

On Monday, city officials announced a new workforce development program involving a $400,000 grant to the newly formed Film Partnership of North Carolina to launch a new film, television and entertainment industry training program.

Details of the initiative came before Wilmington City Council members at their Oct. 18 agenda briefing session in response to the council’s intent to dedicate some American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to workforce development, according to a news release.

City council will vote on awarding the grant at its Nov. 3 meeting, the release stated. Wilmington is estimated to receive about $26 million in ARPA funds over a two-year period.

“The newly formed Film Partnership of North Carolina will help build the skill set of the local and regional workforce with an emphasis on women and minorities, who are largely underrepresented in the industry,” the release continued.

The initiative will provide an average of five weeks of on-the-job training for a minimum of 90 pupils, according to the release, which added that pupils will be paid $15 an hour with 10 hours of preapproved overtime at $22.50 per hour.

While recognizing that the initiative is in its early stages, the Wilmington Regional Film Commission “certainly supports” it and is in agreement with its concept, Commission Director Johnny Griffin said Monday.

“Obviously, the industry here is at its peak and we need to make sure, going forward, that we have the workforce necessary,” Griffin said. “Many people here have been in the industry for years, and, while they are still active, there have not been a lot of opportunities to bring [new] people in to shadow them and learn from them. We need to catch up.”

Official N.C. Film Office figures project direct spending in the state by the film industry at about $410 million this calendar year. Of that total amount, Griffin estimates that between $300 million and $350 million will be spent in the Wilmington area.

The initiative is also supported by Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

“Film is a cornerstone of our local economy, and we must be intentional about keeping it that way,” Saffo said in the release. “This initiative will create a pipeline of qualified, local talent ready to work while bolstering Wilmington’s status as a place where film is welcomed and embraced. We’re grateful that we can use American Rescue Plan funding to continue investing in vital areas of service, like workforce development.”

The first training session will kick off later this year.

The city of Wilmington’s initiative derives from a recommendation of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television, and Digital Streaming. The initiative partners are the N.C. Dept. of Commerce, the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Girls’ Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW).

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