Greetings Film Florida Members, Stakeholders, and Friends ~

I hope you had a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year, and that 2022 is off to a good start for you. I wanted to reach out with a quick look back on 2021 as well as look forward to 2022.

The past (almost) two years have been very difficult on everyone. Whether it was due to the pandemic or otherwise, all of us have experienced significant loss, whether it was a loved one, a colleague, an acquaintance, or loss of professional opportunities. The last two years have brought unprecedented challenges and sacrifice. Very recently, the Film Florida family has experienced significant loss. Just after New Years, we lost a great friend in Film Florida Board member Marty Lewis. Marty moved to Florida from Texas in the mid-1980’s when he was offered a job in the casting department of Miami Vice and he never left Florida after that. Shortly after Miami Vice, Marty settled in St. Augustine, where he founded and ran the St. Augustine Film Office. In November Marty was presented with the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Lifetime Achievement Award. We will miss seeing Marty both in person and on Zoom as he was very present within our organization.

Then just last week we lost another tremendous friend in Mel Maron. Long before Mel joined Film Florida he was an advocate for the industry. Mel served on the Palm Beach County Film and Television Commission’s Board of Directors for more than a decade. In addition, Mel was an active member on the Executive Branch of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and was named to the Advisory Board of the South Florida Motion Picture & Television Film Society. Mel had a storied career in the entertainment production industry, starting as an office boy at MGM before rising to become the Road Show Sales Manager, where he was responsible for the distribution of films like Ben Hur (1959), Doctor Zhivago (1965), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and many more. Experience and titles aside, Mel was a warm, genuinely nice person, always willing to sit and visit. While he had plenty of stories to share, he was always willing to listen.

As Marty and Mel did their entire careers, we press on. As many of you know, marketing and professional development are the core of Film Florida’s mission. Our top priority has been and will always be to market the state of Florida, the industry, and our members in order to bring more projects and to help grow and strengthen the industry while diversifying Florida’s economy. Our focus will always be to convey the message that Florida is open for business and interested in competing for high-wage jobs in the film, television and digital media industry.

We also continue to focus on legislative efforts. The 2022 Legislative Session began recently and is scheduled to end on March 11, 2022. As Florida’s economy continues to rebound, the film and television industry can and should be a major part of Florida’s economic recovery and diversification. Film Florida will be advocating for bills that will create the Film, Television, and Digital Media Targeted High Wage Production Program. SB 946 from Senator Joe Gruters and HB 217 from Rep Dana Trabulsy would bring more high-paying jobs, widen the industry’s impact on the state by giving a bonus for underutilized areas, enhance tourism by choosing projects that encourage visitation to the state, and attract more family-friendly productions to the state.

While a bill has not passed in recent years, great progress has been made with building relationships with legislators. Our membership has done a tremendous job, on a completely volunteer basis, meeting with legislators to help educate them on the importance of the film, television and digital media industry. Our goal continues to be to build relationships with legislators that put our industry in the best position for success in Tallahassee. Significant progress has been made the last few years in building noticeable momentum and garnering positive media coverage for the industry. With the continued help and support from groups like Florida TaxWatch, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, etc. we will continue to push legislators to pass a program that helps the industry while provides a positive return on investment to Florida taxpayers.

While our state doesn’t have a statewide incentive program, Florida continues to offer an entertainment industry sales tax exemption. We encourage everyone to take advantage of the program, CLICK HERE for more information. Additionally, numerous counties have local programs that attract business. Those continue to be excellent marketing tools.

After migrating our meetings and events to Zoom in 2020 including quarterly meetings and town halls, 2021 brought the rollout of Film Florida Fridays. Film Florida Fridays are free interactive conversations about current topics, initiatives and relationship-building in Florida’s film, television, commercial, photography and digital media industry. These conversations take place one Friday each month at 9:30am EST on Zoom, where industry professionals and up-and-comers are encouraged to gather with a cup of coffee, ask questions and speak directory with industry leaders. Our first edition of 2022 is Friday February 11, 2022 as we host multiple entertainment lawyers as they discuss a variety of topics within the entertainment industry including intellectual property, contracts, music licensing, COVID-19 and more. CLICK HERE to register.

In addition to Film Florida Fridays, 2021 brought the launch of the Florida Emerging Filmmakers Fund. The Florida Emerging Filmmakers Fund provides cash in the amount of $500 – $1,000 per project to deserving filmmakers needing help for their film projects. As its name implies, the goal of the fund is to provide financial support to emerging filmmakers in Florida. The Emerging Filmmakers Fund was added to existing Film Florida programs, the Don Davis Finishing Fund and the Sara Fuller Scholarship.

The Film Florida Podcast is currently in season 4. Season 4 topics and guests have included Producer Elayne Schneiderman Schmidt, Former Florida State Film Commissioner Paul Sirmons, Slamdance Miami, Meredith Shea from ARRAY (and ARRAY Crew) while upcoming episodes will feature Scott Edwards, Executive VP, Head Of Creative Advertising FOX Entertainment, Jay Roewe from HBO and more. The podcast has released more than 80 episodes and is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, the iHeartRadio app and on the Film Florida website. Please make sure you subscribe, rate and review the podcast.

Last year we hosted multiple focus groups for our individual and student members. The sessions were informative and revealing. We sincerely appreciate everyone that participated, and immediately following the sessions (and in some cases BEFORE the sessions were completed), we started implementing things that we learned from the sessions. This level of feedback is what will help shape Film Florida for the future.

I want to thank our members for their continued support. Without that support from our members, we are not able to provide the representation that we do throughout the year. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our membership has grown! We are proud of that during these challenging times, but our members deserve the credit for that. They have continued to support and believe in us and for that we are eternally grateful. If you’re not a member, we encourage you to join Film Florida and get involved to ensure your voice is heard. Corporate memberships start at $500, individual memberships are just $75 and student memberships are just $25.

2021 was a challenging but productive year for Film Florida and 2022 is shaping up to be even more active. Our goal is to be back in person for our Quarterly Meetings starting March 28-30, 2022 in Tampa. A final decision about that will be made in a few weeks. As difficult as the last two years have been, I am immensely proud of everything Film Florida does and stands for. I am honored to be the President of this great organization. Working in our industry isn’t easy in ideal times and as we know, these still are not ideal times. My concern, more than anything else l have spoken about, is keeping everyone safe and healthy. Productions in Florida, for the most part, have been safe and healthy since the beginning of the pandemic. I strongly encourage everyone to take personal responsibility for themselves. If everyone takes care of themselves, that will in turn take care of your set and crew mates. Film Florida will continue to encourage everyone to do whatever they can to maintain safe and healthy sets as that’s the best way to ensure people continue working.

We appreciate your ongoing engagement and support and look forward to a great 2022.

Gail Morgan
President, Film Florida