As the 2015 Legislative Special Session comes to a close, Film Florida confirms that the Florida Legislature eliminated the Entertainment Industry Financial Program from the budget again this year. In addition, the budget includes reducing the Florida Office of Film & Entertainment’s staff budget by close to 40%, significantly diminishing the ability of the office to administer their existing programs and sustain business. This will mark 3 straight years that the legislature has failed to support a program that benefits over 100,000 resident workers, students and many businesses.
After a highly successful regular legislative session, bills created on behalf of the film, television and digital media industry passed favorably by a large margin through three House committees and three Senate committees. The bill came up for a vote on the floor of the House twice, but was postponed both times. Then, in a surprise move, the Speaker of the House adjourned the regular session three days early because of a budget impasse with the Senate. After convening for Special Session, the Entertainment Industry Financial Program was stunningly removed from any consideration. “A very small but powerful minority of our state leaders ultimately decided against the well-being of 16,000+ companies and 100,000+ film, TV and digital media professionals in Florida,” stated John Lux, Chief Operating Officer of IDEAS, an Orlando-based media and experience design company.
Florida’s Capitol is sending the wrong message by turning away billions of dollars in spending in our state that would have positively impacted jobs, tourism and economic development. 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 under Governor Jeb Bush and Chair of the Valencia College Film Program in Orlando. “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.”
“This is not the message our industry wants to send to its longtime industry workers, and the rest of the world,” stated Michelle Hillery, Film Florida’s President. “Florida’s hard-working and dedicated entertainment professionals and businesses have remained steadfastly committed to showcasing our State through eyes of our lenses, and the art of our animators and media creators. Both Senator Nancy Detert and Representative Mike Miller were unrelenting champions for the thousands of Floridians who want a chance to put their talents to work and continue working here in the state. But the legislature’s ultimate decision to abandon our film, television and digital media professionals has them frustrated, shocked and outraged by the State’s lack of support. Four years ago, our industry was asked to be part of helping to revitalize Florida’s economy, and it exceeded expectations. Since then, we have spent several years educating legislators about the need to level the playing field for Florida’s entertainment businesses to compete with the companies in other states. 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; it is seeking a resuscitation of a proven, conservative program that will restore Florida to the elite few states in the industry, and back on the path of being a global hub for entertainment production.”
Florida once owned the #3 spot as a thriving destination for the entertainment content production business. With the leadership of Florida’s former Governor Jeb Bush, the legislature restored the state film commission in the Governor’s Office, increased its marketing budget and created a successful film incentive program to protect and build Florida’s valuable film, TV and digital media industries and their high-skill, high paying jobs that help diversify and grow Florida’s economy. 40-plus local film commissions around our state and an active State/industry marketing partnership have paved the way for decades by cultivating relationships to establish infrastructure, attract studios and provide top quality services to develop a successful, promising industry. “Counties and communities around the state fund their own film and digital media commissions because they see the real economic value the industry brings to their area,” said Dale Gordon, Executive Director of the Tampa Hillsborough Film & Digital Media Commission, “as well as the proven impact on tourism. But they need the State to do its share by funding an incentive so we can compete against Georgia, Louisiana and others who are actively poaching our cast, crew and infrastructure with robust incentives.”
Florida has enjoyed powerful and concrete economic impacts from the success of television shows like Burn Notice, The Glades and Magic City, and films like Fast N’ Furious, Dolphin Tale, 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 tourists to come to Florida. Since the program’s inception in 2004, close to $219 million in tax rebates/credits have been invested leading to $1.1 billion spent in Florida on vendors & wages for Florida residents, that’s a ROI of $5:1. In addition, a recent survey conducted by VISIT FLORIDA showed 22.7% of domestic visitors to the state of Florida indicated viewing a movie or television series filmed in Florida contributed to their decision to travel here.
By again refusing to fund our state’s incentive program, the legislature has ensured that Florida families and businesses will continue to face a worsening crisis in which jobs and projects continue to flow to competing states, and increasingly, families must relocate out of state to chase the work that could have been performed here. Film Florida, the local film commissions, many of the businesses across the state and the entire production community will now address what urgent measures must be taken to preserve the industry at their annual meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, June 28th – 30th. “We urge our workforce to continue to spread the word about our industry’s strong impact on job creation, economic development and tourism,” Hillery said. “We all need to visit our legislators in their home offices over the summer months and let them know what they must do to protect this important industry, or it will be too late to save. This has never been about handout to Hollywood productions—it’s about supporting the hard working Floridians and businesses who have made Florida their home.”
Entertainment Industry Financial Program Background: The program was established by Florida statute in 2010. The program began July 1, 2010 and sunsets June 30, 2016. The Florida legislature allocated a total $296 million over the life of the program. Due to the success of the program funds were quickly certified to 342 projects within the first three years, leaving $0 funds for any new business. The $296 million in tax credits is projected to generate $4.1 billion in positive impact, $1.5 billion in FL expenditures with close to $1 billion going toward wages for Floridians. 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%.
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 industries 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.