Incentive for Hope in the Florida Film & TV Community

Florida Film Commissioner and indie feature film maker Paul Sirmons gave an eye opening symposium on the current state of film and television production in the state of Florida on Monday, March 13, 2006 at Full Sail for the Recording Arts in Winter Park, Florida.

In a local production industry that seems to be dwindling away except for the likes of growing production companies like Pink Sneakers Productions and seasoned production groups like Lightship Entertainment, there is a lot to worry about for anyone who makes a living by working in the film and TV business in Florida.

At first glance, it seems like the once booming industry that included Nickelodeon Television, Tom Hank’s From The Earth to the Moon, The Mortal Combat TV show, Parenthood, several other commercial and indie films, and dozens of commercials is all but gone from our neighborhood.

There are several reasons for this: some out of town companies and directors haven’t gotten the best treatment by our studio systems, there have been accounts of mismanagement at certain stages, and talent simply doesn’t want to be here. Their agents, connections, and high paying gigs are in New York and Los Angeles.

Still, anyone who has worked in Florida knows that our crews, equipment houses, stages, and experience rival anything New York and Los Angeles have to offer.

Another major past reason productions chose not to shoot their features in Florida was due to the low tax incentive program offered out of town film and TV industry groups. Up until the last fiscal year (which ended last June) the state of Florida offered a meager tax incentive package that didn’t even amount to 2.5 million dollars. That simply isn’t enough savings for companies.

However, the Florida Film Commission now offers a 10 million dollar tax incentive and, according to Sermons, this has helped the state of Florida attract block buster films including the Transporter 2 which was originally scripted to film in Paris but was re-written to shoot in South Florida.

This is extremely hopeful news to the thousands of film and TV industry professionals working and living in Florida. In fact, hearing the statistics Sirmons shared with the full auditorium at Full Sail dispelled myths and clarified what the State of Florida is doing for the Florida film and TV industry.

Most notably, Sirmons pointed out that quadrupling the recent tax incentive to 10 million has also quadrupled the number of employees hired, the amount of money spent in the state totaling more than 78 million dollars, and the amount of Florida wages totaling approximately 40 million dollars.

Sirmons also pointed out that Governor Jeb Bush can only make suggestions as to what incentives should be in Florida. It is the legislature that approves the final numbers and it is the voter that influences the legislation. If residents of Florida working in the film and TV community do not write their legislators influencing them to increase the amount of tax incentives for incoming and residential productions, then the legislature does not fully recognize or appreciate the need.

The recent increase in Louisiana’s tax incentive program has created thousands of new jobs for that state. In fact, at this time, there are at least 6 films being shot in the “sportsman’s paradise” even after Hurricane Katrina – mainly because their tax incentive is double that of Florida’s.

Sirmons encouraged all members of the Florida film and TV industry to contact their legislators and to support two major industry bills: House Bill 1321 (Representative Don Davis) and Senate Bill 2110 (Senator Burt Saunders).

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