Originally posted on the Tampa Bay Business Journal website.
Hillsborough County got a nearly 4-to-1 return on the $250,000 in incentives it provided to attract producers of “The Infiltrator” to film part of the movie in Tampa. The movie, starring actor Bryan Cranston and set for a mid-July release, had a $957,020 economic impact in the county, according to a study funded by the Tampa Hillsborough Film & Digital Media Commission.
That total impact includes $769,477 in expenditures in Hillsborough County and $187,543 in wages to Hillsborough County residents who worked on the film, the study said. “The Infiltrator” is based on a book by Tampa resident Robert Mazur that chronicles the author’s experiences as an undercover U.S. Customs agent inside the Medellin drug cartel.
Films with Tampa settings are “brand builders,” said Dale Gordon, executive director at the Tampa Hillsborough Film & Digital Media Commission. “I look at it as awareness,” she said. “We’re the sexy side of economic development and it really helps build a more fun, exciting, hip, active and progressive community for us, and a creative community for us.”
While Gordon said the ROI on the local investment was “amazing,” she said it could have been larger. Originally, producers wanted to shoot 90 percent of the film in Tampa, but cut back to filming 10 percent here in April and May of 2015, and much of the rest in England, because state film incentives they hoped to receive were not available.
The Florida Legislature has declined to provide additional funding for state film incentives for several years. Because the state pool for film incentives is depleted, Hillsborough County provided the local incentives in 2014, with Commissioner Ken Hagan calling the production “an A-list movie.”
It was the first time the county had provided local film incentives, Gordon said. “Being that this was our first local incentive that was given, we really wanted to show the county and community the return on investment and make sure that going forward this was a smart initiative,” Gordon said.
To get the incentives, “The Infiltrator” was required to set up a Florida production office and fill at least 700 hotel/motel room nights in Hillsborough. The film also had to spend $1 million locally, including goods and services purchased in Hillsborough County and wages for Florida residents who worked on the production.
While wages for Florida residents counted toward the total spending requirement, only the money paid to Hillsborough County residents was used in calculating the economic impact, the study said. There is no single model for determining the economic impact of a film project. Gordon said the model used in the commission’s study was very conservative, including just direct spending by film producers, or by the businesses they dealt with that increased their supply orders as a result of their work with the film. The economic impact study did not take into account the likely financial boost that will come from increased tourism and visitors who want to see the sites where the film was shot, she said.
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