Originally posted on the Orlando Business Journal website from Matthew Richardson:

Florida’s film and digital media industry leaders are working on a different strategy this year to get the state to fund film incentives.

While the last two attempts to net funds were a no-go by the state Legislature, the plan this time is to not make an immediate funding request, but first to determine a correct number based on what is available.

“The amount of tax credits still is being discussed,” said John Lux, chief operating officer of IDEAS, an Orlando-based media and design company. “There’s no point for the industry to want a certain amount if that amount isn’t realistic within the Legislature. Right now the focus is on getting the language right, and then we’ll determine the right ask.”

SB 1046/HB 451 were filed by Sen. Nancy Deter, (R- Venice) and Rep. Mike Miller, (R-Winter Park), respectively. Detert’s bill focuses on the entertainment industry as a whole and Miller’s bill focuses specifically on incentives.

“Basically, the bill is to restart the program, but we’re trying to move away from the word ‘incentive’ and focus on being a rebate program,” Miller said.

He wants to change that language of the program to operate more as a rebate to better attract long-term projects that will use Florida resources and hire Florida-based companies. After a film project is completed, the production company would get a certain amount of funds, which will ensure money goes back into the state.

When the program started in 2010, its $296 million in funds was supposed to last until 2016. Instead, more than 300 projects were approved quickly, running the fund dry by 2014. And while the payoff was nearly $1 billion in total wages for 100,000 Floridians and $1.5 billion in spending, lawmakers weren’t anxious to give out more money for future projects.

“While we were riding the wave of productions wanting to do work here, ultimately the [incentives weren’t] available,” said Sheena Fowler, director of film and digital media for the Orlando Economic Development Commission. “As a result, we lost business.”

And while Florida lawmakers have not renewed incentives, states like Texas are, said Daryl Holt, vice president and group chief operating officer for EA Studios and EA Tiburon in Maitland. That means plans to grow the workforce here get stalled.”

EA, which contributes to a $70 billion gaming software industry, has developed Madden football games thanks to the incentive program, and those kind of deals called on the help of surrounding gaming companies.

“This is a jobs program. The annual average wage is more than $70,000, making it the type of high-wage jobs that help the Florida economy diversify and grow,” Lux said.

By the numbers
When the Florida film and digital media incentives program was in full operation from 2010 to June 30, 2014, it funded $296 million worth of production projects, ranging from movies, TV shows, commercials and video games. Here are related stats for that time period:

342: No. of projects funded

$926M: Wages for Floridians working on film and digital media projects

$1.5B: Amount spent in Florida by film production firms and workers

248,660: Estimated hotel room nights for people working on film and digital media projects in Florida

Click HERE to read the article on the Orlando Business Journal website.