A pilot for a new TV show filmed in the Lowcountry has been picked up by CBS— just a few days after lawmakers increased the incentives for film production companies to do business in South Carolina.
“Reckless,” a legal drama about two attorneys investigating a police scandal, filmed its pilot episode around the Charleston area in late March.
Sen. Paul Campbell (R-Goose Creek) says he doesn’t think it a coincidence that the announcement came soon after Gov. Nikki Haley signed new film tax rebates into law. In fact, Campbell said he had been told producers were looking to film the series in Savannah if the law had not passed.
“If you look at the scenery in South Carolina from our mountains to our coast— from the Lowcountry to the Midlands— we’ve got a lot of opportunity to do film in South Carolina if we would just give the incentive for them to come here,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The new law signed by the governor on Friday would allow film companies to be reimbursed up to 25 percent for payroll taxes on in-state wages and up to 30 percent for what they purchase from local businesses. Productions would have to spend at least $1 million in the state to qualify.
While the tax rebates already existed, they were part of the state budget and were renewed on a year-to-year basis (the governor even vetoed them in 2011). The new law makes them permanent (and increases the in-state wage rebate from 15% to 25%).
Film companies need a permanent incentive, according to Carolina Film Alliance lobbyist John DeWorken. “When you have a TV show or movie that wants to film somewhere, they need to look out past a year,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “They need to make sure that… they know what kind of rebates are going to be available in 18 months or 24 months.”
DeWorken said the change makes South Carolina roughly equivalent to Georgia and North Carolina in terms of wage and production tax rebates.
Conservative senators opposed the bill, saying South Carolina taxpayers were essentially paying the film industry $15 million per year with little oversight. Even Gov. Haley expressed reservations when she signed the law, saying the rebates would end up competing with dollars for other state programs.
“Although I have reservations as to the manner in which this program is funded, I signed this bill because it improves the effectiveness of the existing program without increasing its annual cost to the state’s taxpayers,” Haley wrote. The total value of rebates would continue to cap out at $15 million.
But Campbell said South Carolina was getting a much bigger return. “If we get those films here, you’re getting 75 to 80 percent of something. If they don’t come here, you’re getting 100 percent of nothing,” he chuckled.
South Carolina has a minor, but notable, history for film. The Lifetime series Army Wives is entering its seventh season of production in the Charleston area. Several popular box office successes such as “Forrest Gump,” “The Big Chill,” and “The Patriot” were also filmed in the Palmetto State.