First, I hope everyone had a happy holiday and here’s to a positive 2024! Let’s first thank all who participated, in person or virtually, at our Quarterly Meeting last month in Orlando. Also, a huge thanks Women in Film and Television Florida for hosting Jingle Mingle. We proudly awarded 10-year-old Film Florida member Ella Grace Helton with a Sara Fuller Scholarship. Ella is our youngest scholarship winner to date. And we honored Susan Simms (photo right), the former State Film Office Los Angeles liaison for her decades of commitment to our industry.

2024 promises to be an eventful year! Florida’s Legislative Session began January 9. As always, Film Florida, and our numerous partners, will be vigilant in monitoring Tallahassee. Our goal is to get through this Legislative Session unscathed and look to favorable future leadership in the legislature.

Over the last six months, Film Florida has conducted surveys for both our membership as well as non-members. This was a priority of mine to understand what our membership needs and why others are averse to join Film Florida. With nearly 400 responses, the information gathered will help our Board of Directors to map out priorities for the next few years. Where appropriate, we have begun following up to better understand the landscape of the industry’s necessities. Forthcoming will be more details about the findings from the survey and next steps. We appreciate all those of you that took the time to offer constructive input.

We are excited to have just launched two new philanthropic initiatives:

  1. Initiating a food drive at each of our Quarterly Meetings (Spring, Summer and Fall). Attendees will be asked to bring non-perishable food items and a local member of Film Florida will collect and drop off the food items at a local shelter or food bank.
  2. Initiating a toy drive at the December Quarterly Meeting. Members will be asked to bring an unwrapped toy. The toys will then be donated to needy organizations in Central Florida, where the December Quarterly Meeting traditionally takes place. The other Quarterly meetings rotate locations throughout the state so the food drive will be distributed more evenly throughout the state.

Throughout 2023 Film Florida awarded more than $10,000 in grants and scholarships to Florida filmmakers and students. Film Florida continues to support Florida filmmakers through the Florida Emerging Filmmakers Fund, the Don Davis Finishing Fund and the Sara Fuller Scholarship. The grants provide cash in the amount of $1,000 – $2,000 to deserving filmmakers needing help for their film projects. We look forward to continuing in 2024 and encourage filmmakers to submit for consideration. We’ve had some tremendous success stories with recipients and look forward to expanding the grant and scholarship programs in the future.

With the transition of the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment to the Florida Department of Commerce, Film Florida has become the primary marketing entity to attract potential projects to Florida. As our former colleague Susan Simms was famous for saying, “you must be present to win.” Film Florida has significantly increased our external marketing presence (photo right) but many of you probably won’t see those efforts because they are not seen in Florida.

In addition to our external marketing efforts, our best sales and marketing tool is ourselves. 2023 saw an increase of in-person marketing opportunities, both in-state and out of state. Recently, Film Florida members attended the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), American Film Market (AFM) and FOCUS. In the next month Film Florida members will be at NATPE Global in Miami, Realscreen Summit in New Orleans and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. It’s important that members, and non-members, can travel outside Florida to promote the state to worldwide content creators. Networking opportunities are vital for local film commissioners and industry professionals to meet and connect with potential partners and clients. IMPORTANT NOTE: when Film Florida coordinates for the out of state events, the organization does NOT pay for those to attend. We only coordinate group discounts for those paying for the trips. In short,  each person that attends pays for themselves.

Film Florida members participate in out of state events and in-state events, and those include Florida film festivals. Local film festivals are positive economic drivers for communities and allow areas to show off to those traveling from elsewhere while being tremendous networking opportunities. Film Florida has 20 film festival members. We promote the festivals with monthly email blasts highlighting the events, as well as including them in our newsletters and regularly on social media. Film Florida takes great pride in supporting those film festivals that support our organization through their membership. Film Florida also hosts multiple networking events (photo right)throughout the year and promotes events for our members and partners.

Tune in to our Film Florida Fridays (FFF) professional development series each month (photo right). Film Florida Fridays are free interactive conversations about current topics, initiatives, and relationship-building in Florida’s screen production industry. FFF airs one Friday each month at 9:30am ET on Zoom. The next Film Florida Friday is February 2, 2024 at 9:30am featuring a discussion about video editing and motion graphics. Click HERE to register. You can also view previous editions of FFF HERE. Season 6 of the Film Florida Podcast also continues. They are available on many podcast platforms, click HERE to listen.

Finally, If you’re not a member of Film Florida, please become a member! Film Florida is a not-for-profit association run by volunteer members that represent all sectors of Florida’s screen production industry. Our goal is to Unite, Inspire and Innovate to build a more robust and retentive industry in Florida. As a not-for-profit, we are funded entirely by our members so our ability to work on behalf of the industry is completely dependent upon the support we receive through our membership efforts. And those membership dues pay for marketing and lobbying efforts to better Florida’s position in the industry marketplace. If you’re not a member, please 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. All new and renewing members in 2024 receive a free Film Florida umbrella because Film Florida has you covered.

I appreciate your engagement, participation, and support and thank you for allowing me to serve as Film Florida President. We look forward to seeing everyone either virtually or in person at our next Quarterly Meeting March 19-20 in Vero Beach.