As the 2016 Legislative Session comes to a close, Film Florida confirms that the Florida Legislature allowed the existing Entertainment Industry Financial Program to sunset after all efforts failed to pass an extension or a new bill. This marks four straight years that members of the legislature have refused to support a program that has numerous benefits, including job creation, economic development, and proven increases to tourism.
Throughout the legislative session, Senator Jack Latvala carried language on behalf of Senator Nancy Detert supporting the film, TV and digital media industry as part of the Senate’s Economic Development Package. Rather than negotiating a mutually acceptable compromise, the House and Senate Appropriations Chairs decided NOT to fund any economic development incentives. As a result, the Governor’s Enterprise Fund and a successor program for the film, TV and digital media industry died on the vine. As a final plea, on Wednesday, March 9th, Sen. Detert filed a carefully crafted amendment bearing no fiscal impact to the Tax Package bill that would extend the program and potentially gain access to unused tax credits from the existing program to stimulate new high-impact productions. Film Florida rallied together with our industry partners to secure enough votes needed to adopt the amendment. Senate Leadership denied a formal vote on the amendment, so it would not take the chance of bouncing the bill back and forth between the House and Senate, therefore potentially being unable to pass the overall tax package bill.
“The legislature’s ultimate decision to officially abandon our film, television and digital media professionals has our entire industry and supporters outraged. This is not the message our state wants to send to its longtime industry workers, and the rest of the world after building a reputation for over 100 successful years in this business,” stated Michelle Hillery, Film Florida’s President. “Six years ago, our industry was asked to help revitalize Florida’s economy, and it exceeded expectations. Since then, we have spent several years educating legislators, offering solutions to new programs with a focus on providing the best possible return on investment to the state. The industry should not be ignored; they are highly trained professionals who deserve to be supported by their elected representatives in their efforts to build serious entertainment infrastructure here. Moreover, the industry is not asking for excessive support; but sought a reformed conservative program that would restore Florida back on the path of regaining recognition as a global hub for film, television and digital media production.
“The state legislature sent a very clear signal that they are not interested in continuing to improve the economic growth the state has seen and that is unfortunate,” stated John Lux, Chief Operating Officer of IDEAS, an Orlando-based media and experience design company. “And to see what happened on the Senate floor, where we clearly had a majority of Senators in favor of the amendment filed by Senator Detert, but to be denied a formal vote, that says a lot about how our legislature feels about hundreds of thousands of individuals that work in the industry. Politics was put before people.”
In the last 3 years, Florida has lost out on more than $650 million in projects, 110,000+ hotel rooms and $1.8 billion in economic impact. We have seen multiple projects set in Florida shot elsewhere, including building sets to depict specific locations in Florida, ultimately losing Florida’s history to be showcased by other states. Additionally, there are more than 30 colleges and universities with film and digital media degree programs in Florida, many of which are state funded institutions. “Over 5,000 film and digital media students graduate every year and our state continues to tell those students to take their skills and training to work in other states,” commented Paul Sirmons, former State Film Commissioner. “The foolish thing is, many of these students are subsidized by our Bright Futures program – so the taxpayers of Florida are actually paying to educate another state’s workforce,” he added. “They need jobs here in Florida when they graduate.”
Florida once owned the #3 spot as a thriving production destination, cultivating Florida’s valuable film, TV and digital media industry with its high-skill, high paying jobs that help diversify and grow Florida’s economy. Florida has enjoyed powerful and concrete economic impacts from the success of television shows like Burn Notice, The Glades, Magic City, Bloodline and Ballers and films like Fast N’ Furious, Dolphin Tale & Dolphin Tale 2, Rock of Ages and others. That impact is not only from jobs and spending during the production, but also from a boost in tourism from attracting visitors to Florida. Most recently production and tourism impacts for season 1 of Bloodline totaled $95 million, 1,738 jobs and $9.4 million in state and local taxes. Meanwhile, a new study shows The Clearwater Marine Aquarium saw a boost in attendance in years following the 2011 release of Dolphin Tale. That spike in attendance contributed to a $2 billion economic impact to Pinellas County. Statewide, the film, television and digital media industry employs 100,000+ Floridians in part-time or full-time jobs with an average wage of $70,996, exceeding the state’s annual average wage for all industries by 62.6%.
The legislature has ensured that Florida families and businesses will continue to face a worsening crisis in which jobs and projects will flow to competing states. Film Florida and our partners will now address what urgent measures must be taken to preserve the industry and create a dynamic, universal change in the approach moving forward.
About Film Florida: Film Florida is a not-for-profit entertainment production association that serves a leadership role in Florida’s film, TV, and digital media industry by representing all aspects of the business including film commissions, industry, labor, associations and education. The growing membership driven organization provides a network, a platform, and the benefits of playing an active part in solidifying Florida’s position as a major production destination, positive economic development driver and tourism generator. For more information about Film Florida visit FilmFlorida.org.