The North Carolina Museum of History is trying something new to raise money: crowd-funding. The museum launched an online campaign this month to help pay for an upcoming exhibit about the history of film in North Carolina. The publicity for the exhibit comes at a good time for supporters of the state’s tax incentives for movie and TV productions.
Visitors to the museum’s fundraising page are greeted by an over-the top YouTube video showing an actress dressed in a blue North Carolina-shaped costume receiving the fictitious “lifetime screen achievement award.” It doesn’t take long for the woman’s acceptance speech to turn into a plea for donations to the exhibit.
Camille Hunt is the project’s manager. She says "Starring North Carolina" has been in the works since last summer. The state was riding high from the success of The Hunger Games and Homeland, and Iron Man 3 was filming here.
“I thought, what makes North Carolina such a hot place for filmmaking," she says, "so I did a little research and I found our history goes back more than a hundred years."
She says the idea for crowd-funding came when she heard about a group in New York who raised more than $1.3 million for a Tesla museum (that’s the Serbian-American inventor, NOT the electric car that’s named after him).
The North Carolina Museum of History is hoping to raise $25,000 through the website indiegogo before the end of next month. It’s similar to Kickstarter, where people are encouraged to make donations online toward projects they support. As of Thursday night, the museum has raised just under $1,200.
Hunt says they aren’t turning their backs on traditional fundraising either, and the exhibit isn’t dependent on the online contributions to go forward.
“We really have no idea how this is going to turn out," she says. "It could be 500 dollars, it could be 50 thousand. We just don’t know."
Indiegogo has a program for non-profits that allows them to keep whatever they collect, even if they don’t meet the goal. She estimates the exhibit will cost more than $100,000.
The timing of this exhibit and the campaign to raise money for it could turn out to be a good thing for advocates of North Carolina’s film incentives program. State tax breaks for the industry are set to expire at the end of next year, and many Republican lawmakers are skeptical about whether they give the state a good return on its investment.
North Carolina Film Office Director Aaron Syrett won’t go so far as to say that the publicity campaign will influence the debate over the incentives, but he says, regardless, it’s important to tell the story of film in the state...
“And since it’s such a rich thing in North Carolina’s economy and it’s about who North Carolinians are, and I think it’s a great thing to celebrate that in an exhibit," Syrett says.
“Starring North Carolina” is scheduled to open next November at the North Carolina museum of history, without any direct funding from the state budget. In fact, legislative budget cuts have forced the museum to rely on private donations to pay for temporary exhibits like this one for close to a decade.