While everyone’s focus is correctly on the Coronavirus Pandemic, the extended 2020 Legislative Session concludes this week in Tallahassee. We did not achieve all of our goals during the Legislative Session, but with the help of our Legislative Champions and our Government Relations team, Film Florida did achieve a number of very important objectives. Again this year, legislators continued to work on an overall large-scale de-regulation effort, which initially included de-regulating talent agencies. If the measure would have passed, this would have allowed unqualified potentially dangerous people to take advantage of our industry’s most vulnerable. Film Florida was extremely aggressive with this issue and with help from industry supporters in the Florida House and Senate, talent agents were removed from the de-regulation bill just before the final vote to pass the bill and send to the Governor. Talent agents were one of more than a dozen professions included in the original bill. Getting talent agents removed from the de-regulation bill is a huge accomplishment to ensure public safety in Florida.

Additionally, as we have alluded to in a previous communications, the legislature initially set out to abolish a number of advisory bodies and programs, including the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council (FFEAC). The council was formed in 1999 and serves as an advisory body to the Department of Economic Opportunity and to the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment to provide industry insight and expertise related to developing, marketing, promoting and providing services to Florida’s entertainment industry. With the efforts of many groups and individuals within our industry, including the letter writing campaign Film Florida coordinated, along with our bi-partisan Legislative Champions, and our Government Relations team, Film Florida was very active in getting the FFEAC portion of the bill removed before the final bill was passed and sent to the Governor.

Of the 3000+ bills filed this year, less than 5% crossed the finish line. Unfortunately the bills Film Florida were advocating for (SB 530 by Sen Joe Gruters- R, Sarasota and HB 497 by Rep James Buchanan- R, Sarasota, photos right) were not among those that passed. Regardless of the issue or industry, getting a bill of any kind passed in the Florida Legislature continues to be extremely difficult. While we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, it’s important to recognize the continued progress that was made in significantly building momentum, engaging in encouraging conversation and garnering positive media coverage for the industry, including a tremendous op-ed from former State Film Commissioner and current Film Florida Legislative Committee Co-Chair, Paul Sirmons.

The Legislative Session began with a renewed positive energy for our industry. It was clear even prior to session that the conversation in Tallahassee about the film, television and digital media industry continues to be positive and encouraging. The concept and details of the “Targeted Rebate Program” put forth in SB 530 and HB 497 were welcomed and praised on both sides of the aisle leading to more co-sponsors of the bills than last year. Our strong relationships with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida continue to help our efforts in Tallahassee as well as the powerful research report done by Florida TaxWatch. Unfortunately, the philosophical belief by some in the Florida House that the government shouldn’t be involved in private industry (not just our industry but any private industry) proved too large of a hurdle. The two important victories plus the progress with the Targeted Rebate Program continue to build the foundation for future success. We are very proud of what we accomplished during the Legislative Session, but we are far from satisfied.

As we put the 2020 Legislative Session behind us, we look forward. New Leadership is coming to the legislature with a new Senate President and new Speaker of the House. On the advice of our Government Relations team, we are prepared to launch a massive effort to speak to every elected official and/or candidate running for the 140+ seats up for election in the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives and we look forward to passing that information on to you. We cannot, however, accomplish this task on our own, we need your help! Last summer Film Florida members held close to 100 meetings with legislators to continue to educate legislators about the film, television and digital media industry. If you are interested in being actively involved in the effort to ensure every person running for state office understands who our industry is, what we do, and how we can be a positive part of further growing, strengthening and diversifying Florida’s economy, 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.

Despite the ongoing challenges in Tallahassee, local legislators in counties and cities have shown tremendous support with 7 counties (Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Sarasota Counties), and 2 cities (Miami Beach, North Miami) with some form of program to enhance production work in their region. The local programs are executing exactly as they were designed to by bringing in projects with budgets of $1 – $3 million. To bring in projects in the $5 – $20 million range on a consistent basis, a statewide program is necessary and the local programs are laying solid groundwork to show legislators how successful programs can operate and show the positive ROI.

Between our messaging about the amount of lost business in Florida ($1.3 billion+ in recent years), the high-wage jobs in our industry (avg. $82K+ per year), film-induced tourism (Dolphin Tale, Bloodline, etc.), the positive energy for our industry continues to be noticeably different at the Capitol. However, we understand moral support and positive energy do not pay the bills for those that work in the industry. That’s why, in addition to the active role Film Florida plays in many different marketing endeavors for the industry, our efforts will continue at the state level. Our membership and our industry as a whole has made it very clear that they believe continuing to educate legislators and pursue some form of a statewide program to help bring projects and jobs to Florida is important. We cannot do it alone and we need your help!

I want to acknowledge and thank our members for their continued support. Film Florida run by volunteer members and is funded entirely by our members so our ability to advocate, promote, and provide important professional development and networking opportunities is completely dependent upon the support through our membership efforts. Without that support, we are not able to provide the representation that we do throughout the year. Our membership continues to grow which allows us to be more active and we are grateful for the confidence our members have shown in our work. If you support our mission and the work we are doing, please consider joining the team. Annual Corporate Memberships start at $500, Individual Memberships are just $75. We encourage you to join Film Florida and get involved to ensure your voice is heard. CLICK HERE to learn more about our membership packages and to join.

We hope you will make plans to call in for the upcoming Film Florida Quarterly Meeting. Film Florida members are invited to participate in our Committee and Council meetings on Tuesday March 24 and the Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday March 25 is open to the public. CLICK HERE for more information about the upcoming Quarterly Meeting.

Finally, in light of the current Coronavirus Pandemic, we have started to compile information from Federal and State Government regarding the virus including information from the CDC, Florida Department of Health, and financial assistance programs. The page also includes any available updates regarding production and permitting in local film commission jurisdictions. As we get additional information, we will continue to add to this page. CLICK HERE to read, and check back for updates.

We appreciate your ongoing support and engagement, and we look forward to continuing to spread the positive message about the entertainment production industry in Florida as we fight for the needs of our highly skilled, passionate workforce.