Gus Corbella is serving his third term as chairman of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council, the lead advisory body to Florida government on entertainment issues. He is also the director of government law and policy for Greenberg Traurig in Tallahassee (www.gtlaw.com).
I can’t help but smile when I read in Variety about the mayor of Los Angeles begging film and television studios not to take work out of his city.
A recent study by Film Works LA finds that movie production in Los Angeles has plummeted 60 percent since its peak 15 years ago. Increased taxes and regulations are driving the entertainment industry out of California in a sort of reverse manifest destiny, and studios are farming out productions throughout the country, including here to Florida.
The Sunshine State has been successfully utilizing tax credits to attract the industry to shoot major motion pictures, television series and other independent productions here. The benefits to Florida are many: high-wage jobs, boosts to the local economies and worldwide publicity for our state. However, entertainment incentives in Florida are at a critical juncture, and our state could suffer unless we act during the upcoming legislative session.
Here’s why: The $296 million in tax credits appropriated for the industry since 2010 by the Legislature have mostly been committed. That is a testament to the success of the program and the industry’s interest in our state.
As legislators struggle to identify where to best invest limited resources in the coming months, I hope they’ll see the incredible value that has come from luring these productions to Florida. Legislation will be considered in the coming months to reseed and modernize the financial incentive program to keep Florida competitive with other locations trying to attract these productions. Providing a reliable and stable funding mechanism that will guarantee Florida as the “go-to location” for entertainment production is an opportunity that Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature should not pass up this spring.
Any resident of South Beach can attest to the transformative powers of television. “Miami Vice” changed the landscape of South Florida in the 1980s by re-energizing Miami as one of the emerging entertainment capitals of the world and the global center for Hispanic media.
“Burn Notice,” one of four major television shows recently produced in South Florida, wrapped up a seven-season run this year and is now in syndication in more than 200 countries. The movie “The Truman Show” helped convert the sleepy town of Seaside and State Road 30A into a major beach destination. Many of the top video games played by enthusiasts globally are produced in Maitland, which is also becoming a high-tech hub for military, medical and training simulation development.
Don’t forget the little dolphin named Winter, who starred in “Dolphin Tale.” The modern family classic re-energized the city of Clearwater and made the Clearwater Marine Aquarium a tourist destination for children and families throughout the world.
Considering all our years of success, it would be regrettable for Florida to suffer an entertainment exodus simply because we failed to take the necessary steps to cultivate this blossoming industry in our state.
Without a doubt, the entertainment industry can continue to play a substantial role in our state’s economic recovery and diversification. According to the Office of Film and Entertainment, production in Florida has created more than 100,000 jobs for Floridians in the past three years alone, paying more than $658 million in wages to talented professionals who call our state home.
This creative economy also has tremendous ripple effects on our local communities. Feature films and television productions spend on average $225,000 per day on-location, providing an infusion of new money to local businesses, including hotel rooms, rental cars, restaurants, legal and medical services, security, office space and equipment rentals. “Burn Notice” alone generated more than $120 million in total local direct spend during its run, employing more than 200 cast and crew and thousands of extras. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the promotional value of the show to be $170 million a year.
Florida is uniquely poised to permanently attract and grow this vibrant industry within our state. Legislators should capitalize on this opportunity and commit in the months ahead to renew our efforts to lure these productions to Florida. From the big screen to the iPad screen, it’s time to hear “lights, camera, action” being barked out once again in Florida – not time to yell “cut!” to our efforts.
This Op Ed appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat and was featured on Tallahassee.com on October 29, 2013