As the new President of Film Florida, I wanted to share how eager I am to serve this organization and continue our efforts for Florida’s film, television, and digital media production industry. It has been an educational experience and pleasure to serve as 1st Vice President for the last three years after serving as the Film Commission Council Chair in the years prior to that. These previous years of service have prepared me for the new challenges ahead that will propel Film Florida’s success in the future.
Before talking more about the future, I want to reflect on the recent past. Last month, Film Florida held our Annual Meeting via Zoom. While nine hours of Zoom meetings doesn’t sound glamorous, the time was very well spent and highly effective. While there’s no substitute to face to face interaction, and as a wise colleague says, “you must be present to win,” given the current pandemic situation, safety is our highest priority and I believe we made the very best of a difficult situation in ensuring our Annual Meeting was very successful. Thank you to our members who attended both days, and to the members of the public who attended our Board of Directors Meeting.
As an organization, we have numerous goals for the next year and we hope you will participate with us. Our organization continues to grow. The last four years have been, by far, the largest increase in membership over a 4-year period in our history as the organization has more than doubled in that time. That shows the commitment everyone has to growing and strengthening our industry. If you’re not a member of Film Florida, we hope you’ll consider joining. Film Florida is a not-for-profit association run by volunteer members that represent all sectors of the film, television, production and digital media/tech industry throughout Florida. As a not-for-profit, we are funded entirely by our members so our ability to work on behalf of the industry is completely dependent upon the support we receive through our membership efforts. As an industry, we are stronger working together so we hope you will CLICK HERE and consider joining the team.
We have invested significant resources in developing numerous important partnerships over the last couple of years with organizations such as Florida TaxWatch, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and VISIT FLORIDA just to name a few. These partnerships continue to help strengthen our efforts to put Floridians back to work at home, generate new revenues for the state, and enhance tourism. We believe these are important steps toward growing and diversifying Florida’s economy.
In addition to the relationships we have forged, our best sales and marketing tool is ourselves. A staple of our marketing efforts continues to be our sales missions to tell the Florida story and bring projects and companies to Florida. In addition to our longtime group of regularly attended sales missions (Toronto International Film Festival, Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism, NATPE, SXSW, Tribeca Film Festival, and Produced By), we recently added the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West to our schedule. While many of these events were impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the future is still unclear, we will continue to offer packages to select sales missions to both members and non-members. Whether you are part of Film Florida or not, be on the lookout for special packages in the future so you can help spread the message that “Florida is open for business!”
In addition to those sales missions, we have made it a priority to promote more in-state events such as local film festivals that are members of Film Florida as well as our members that host their own events throughout the year. These in-state events can be just as effective for networking, professional development and promoting the industry while at a significantly lower price point. We encourage you to watch for these events in our newsletter and on our social media pages throughout the year.
While we will not be doing our usual summer meet ups throughout the state, we have a number of engagement opportunities coming up this month. On Thursday July 23, 2020 we are hosting a virtual town hall with Film Florida Member Film Festivals: “Film Festivals in the COVID-19 Era” to discuss how Florida-based film festivals, small, medium and large have been impacted by the pandemic and how they are evolving to the challenges. Filmmakers, this is a must to give yourself the best opportunity to be effective on the film festival circuit going forward. CLICK HERE for more info and to register. Also, we have another virtual town hall tentatively scheduled for Wednesday July 29, 2020, standby for details and registration information.
Outside the pandemic, Florida’s independent film and commercial production continue to thrive in Florida, along with the growing tech clusters throughout the state, and we look forward to further enhancing those aspects of our industry. While a statewide program to entice projects and companies to Florida remains a challenge, there are 7 counties (Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Sarasota Counties), and 3 additional entities (City of Miami Beach, City of North Miami, and Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority) with some form of program to enhance production work in their region. These local programs are seeing excellent return on investment with the increased number of projects in their regions. CLICK HERE to learn more about the local programs. We will continue to work on ways, both on the state and local level, to keep and/or bring more work and jobs to Florida, with or without local and/or state programs. Florida also offers an entertainment industry sales tax exemption. We encourage everyone to take advantage of the program, CLICK HERE for more information and to apply.
Speaking of statewide, as you are aware, it’s an election year. This November, Florida will elect 141 legislators between Florida’s Senate and House. On the advice of our Government Relations team, we are in the midst of a massive effort to speak to every elected official and/or candidate running for open seats in the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives and we look forward to passing that information on to you. If you are interested in being actively involved in educating people running for state office about who our industry is, what we do, and how we can be an essential part of Florida’s economic recovery, please respond to this e-mail at info@FilmFlorida.org so you can be included on that team. We will make sure you are prepared and understand the task. We just need your help with execution.
There’s no doubt there are many challenges and opportunities ahead. Everything I have mentioned pales in comparison to the worldwide pandemic we’ve been dealing with for months. I am extremely proud of the initiatives that Film Florida has taken on over the recent months to encourage people to #PracticeSafeSetsFL. Early on, we created a COVID-19 information and resources page that covers everything from individual and small business financial assistance to the latest industry announcements, and it’s updated regularly. The health and safety of Floridians on production sets is a top priority of Film Florida. Film Florida released “Recommendations for Clean & Healthy Production Sets.” Film Florida does not have regulating authority so the recommendations are not mandates. Clean and healthy precautions are certainly not limited to the suggestions we have put out, but we wanted to give people a solid starting point when production resumes in Florida. The Recommendations are available in English and Spanish.
The follow up to the Recommendations list included a pair of virtual town halls. The first virtual town featured 20 industry professionals from around the state, from various areas of the industry, to talk about the suggestions that Film Florida put out. CLICK HERE to watch the first town hall. The follow up was a second virtual town hall featuring medical professionals to discuss COVID-19 on production sets. CLICK HERE to watch the second virtual town hall.
Film Florida was recently selected to be a part of Florida’s RESET Task Force. The RESET Task Force is co-chaired by AIF Senior Vice President of State & Federal Affairs Brewster Bevis, FRF President & CEO Scott Shalley, NFIB Executive Director Bill Herrle and FRLA President & CEO Carol Dover. The task force was formed to focus on providing industry-specific policy recommendations to the Florida Legislature and bringing forth initiatives that will seek to help all of Florida’s economy rebound from the effects of COVID-19 and future economic slowdowns. CLICK HERE to read more.
Film Florida has also recently invested in small bottles of hand sanitizer and masks to help keep people safe and healthy on set. We are distributing those through various Film Florida members throughout the state. Be on the lookout for those items in the near future.
In addition to these most important initiatives, we also had the opportunity to develop more lighthearted initiatives. Film Florida released 4 volumes of the “Sunshine State Social Distance Watch Party.” The collection includes Florida-filmed movies and TV series, along with where you can stream them. CLICK HERE to learn more and to download the lists. Film Florida started a new series of videos called “Commission Conversations” where Film Florida Executive Director John Lux talks to representatives from local film commissions throughout the state. CLICK HERE to watch the interviews. Finally, at the core of all our creations is a desire to connect to one another. Film Florida launched the COvideo-19 Project where people shared their stories of their time during stay at home orders, 19 seconds at a time. Some were funny, some were serious, some were mundane, some were absurd, all were part of the COvideo-19 Project. CLICK HERE to watch Video 1 CLICK HERE to watch Video 2.
During my time as President of Film Florida, we hope to provide you with many successful, educational, and enjoyable opportunities in Florida’s production industry, and we thank you so much for your continued support moving forward. Please mark your calendar for our next Quarterly Meeting, scheduled for September 9 – 10, 2020. Like our annual meeting, these meetings will be conducted via Zoom. We invite all Film Florida members to participate in the committee and council meetings and as always, our Board of Directors meeting on September 10, 2020 is open to the public.
We appreciate your engagement, participation, support and please remember to #PracticeSafeSetsFL.
President, Film Florida