Originally posted on the Orlando Business Journal website.

Florida’s once-thriving film incentive program is dead, but John Lux isn’t giving up on efforts to create a new one.
In the last three years, Florida lost more than 50 film and TV projects that wanted to come here but couldn’t because of the lack of a funded program, said Lux, who serves as the executive director of Film Florida.

“Those projects would have spent more than $875 million in Florida and used approximately 140,000 hotel rooms nights,” Lux said. Despite those kinds of economic-impact numbers, renewing the incentive program was denied by state legislators last year, causing the program to close. But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

“A totally new program would need to be created to bring this back, and this gives us a clean slate,” Lux said. “Now, we’re focused on looking at other states that have working film incentive programs to help create our own. We’re looking at the things the Legislature was pleased with and not pleased with to find a solution.”

Right now, no bills are on the table for consideration, but several legislators have expressed support for creating a new program. Film Florida released a statement in January that it talked with nearly half of the 132 new legislators: “We have since been in touch with each legislator that has been elected to the Florida House and Florida Senate and have begun the extremely important process of educating the newly elected officials about the importance and impact of the industry here in Florida.”

Part of the incentive program’s importance is tied to workforce retention, said Daryl Holt, vice president and group COO of Electronic Arts. When Florida’s film and entertainment industry financial-incentive program began, it enabled EA’s local growth. The EA Tiburon studio in Orlando was chosen to support projects that resulted in the hiring of hundreds of new high-tech, high-wage jobs — bringing EA’s Cenral Florida employee and contractor count to a record high.

“Unfortunately, the film incentive program did not evolve,” Holt said in a previous interview. EA Tiburon employees had since transferred to other areas of growth or new opportunities to work on projects Florida couldn’t green-light.

“Local digital media talent exists, but Florida now is forced to play on an uneven field against states where a well-designed incentive program better supports an environment for growth in this industry,” Holt said. Lux agreed, noting that Central Florida is home to top digital media education programs, which produces a healthy pipeline of talent. But the state is not supporting the creation of jobs to hire that talent.

“Our state rightfully puts a huge emphasis on education, and we are proud that the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy is the No. 1 graduate schools in America for game design, and Florida is home to two of the top 25 film schools in America,” Lux said. “There are more than 5,000 students graduating each year in Florida with film or digital media degrees. We are educating the workforce of other states, and that is a horrible use of taxpayer dollars.”

By the numbers:
The last two significant productions to benefit from the now expired film incentive program were the television series “Bloodline” and “Ballers.” Here’s the impact of both TV programs shot in Florida:
$65M: New travel spending for crew and actors associated with “Bloodline”
1,738: Number of jobs created in Florida from “Bloodline”
$9.4M: Total amount in state and tax revenue for “Bloodline”
$30M: Total amount of production spending
$20M: Amount spent in Florida by “Ballers”
2,800: Number of jobs created in Florida by “Ballers”
4,000: Number of hotel and short-term rental nights from “Ballers” production crew
Source: Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council

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