Originally posted on the Orlando Business Journal website

It would make sense for a movie telling a story that takes place in Tampa to be filmed in Tampa, right? Guess again. The Ben Affleck-directed film Live by Night, based on the crime novel by Dennis Lahane, comes out sometime in 2017. Instead of production crews filming in Ybor City, a neighborhood in Tampa where the story takes place, it’s set is in Brunswick, Ga. That’s because Georgia has film incentives and Florida doesn’t, causing multimillion-dollar, job-creating projects to go elsewhere.

“The budget for Live by Night was$35 million,” said John Lux, chief operating officer of IDEAS, an Orlando-based media and design company. “We’re sick and tired of Florida stories not being shot in Florida. There has been three films with Florida stories being shot elsewhere and it means hundreds of jobs there and not here.”

There have been three attempts to renew the state film incentives program, but the pitch this time is to create a more conservative rebate plan, rather than incentives, said Michelle Hillery, president of Film Florida, a statewide nonprofit entertainment production association.

“We are supportive of rolling back our 20 percent base rebate program to a 15 percent cash rebate base, cutting in half the maximum rebate per project from $8 million to $4 million and suggesting a rating system be put in place to best identify the projects that have the highest return on investment,” she said. “We know we have people who oppose incentives, period, but we are trying to be conscious of that.”

This year could be the most important. Since the program started in 2010, June 30 officially will mark the end of the incentive program, making it even harder to fund if money is not awarded this time.

Florida’s film incentive program was successful when money was available. The $296 million given by the state in 2010 was supposed to last until 2016. Instead, more than 300 projects were approved quickly, running the fund dry in 2014. And while the payoff was nearly $1 billion in total wages for 100,000 Floridians and$1.5 billion in spending, lawmakers have not been quick to give out more money.

While film production companies use the incentives, major video game companies such as EA Tiburon in Maitland use them as well. Renewing the incentive program can help lure bigger companies to Central Florida and give current companies a reason to stay.

“EA loves creating games like Madden NFL in Florida and we remain committed to working here,” said Daryl Holt, vice president and group chief operating officer for EA Studios and EA Tiburon. “It’s unfortunate that the state is no longer on a level playing field with other locations, given the lack of digital media and film incentive funding. These industries have a tremendous positive impact on Florida’s economy, and we will continue working closely with the Legislature and the governor to renew investment incentives and drive new growth.”

The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association “also supports efforts to fund the Florida film and digital media incentive program so our beautiful state may continue to be marketed through film and media projects to those across the globe, increasing visitation to our destination,” said Rich Maladecki, president and CEO of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.

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