For many years Florida was the top television and film location outside of Hollywood and New York with productions filmed here such as Caddyshack, Flipper, Parenthood, Miami Vice, My Girl and Edward Scissorhands. In the late 1990s other states began to compete aggressively for these multi-million dollar productions and the high wage jobs associated with them by offering economic incentives. Production companies, sound stages, and post production facilities emerged in those states and Florida saw a sharp decline in film and television production. In 2004, state leaders recognized the value of investing in our industry and implemented a program to bring the jobs back.

Unlike some states, Florida did not offer incentives on the front end. Instead Florida offered a small tax rebate after Florida residents were hired and production was completed. As a result, Florida quickly re-established its film, television and digital media industry growing to 16,000+ companies with 100,000+ Floridians with an average wage of more than $72,000 per year. Due to the state’s program, diverse locations and skilled workforce, popular television series such as Burn Notice and The Glades and movies like Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2 were filmed in Florida, directly injecting more than $1 billion into Florida’s economy. Florida’s incentive program was good for industry professionals, good for the tourism industry and good for the tax-payer. Since 2004, for every $1 Florida invested, more than $5 was spent in the state. Much of the spending came from other states, new money injected into Florida’s economy.

Unfortunately, the program was allowed to sunset by the legislature and no successor program was passed to compete with other states for these jobs. The last two significant productions to receive the credit and showcase our beautiful state to the world while creating thousands of jobs, were the hit television series Bloodline and Ballers. In large part because of the infrastructure cultivated by Florida’s tax credit program and Florida’s workforce, Netflix announced Bloodline would return to Florida for a third season absent the incentive. According to the Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council season 1 of Bloodline was responsible for generating $65 million in new travel spending, 1,738 jobs and $9.4 million in state and local tax revenue in addition to the $30 million in production spending. Unfortunately, the coup was short lived. The number of episodes for season 3 was reduced and the decision was made to end Bloodline after the 3rd season, a huge loss for the Keys and the South Florida economy.

On the heels of losing Bloodline, HBO recently affirmed the incentive was a key factor in deciding to set up production of Ballers in Miami. It has now been confirmed that with the Florida incentive no longer available, HBO is moving the show to California after two seasons. In Florida, each season of Ballers produced more than $20 million in spending; more than 2,800 Floridians hired, including cast and crew; 1,000+ hotel room nights and another 3,000 condo/short term rental uses.

The confluence of losing Bloodline and Ballers further demonstrates that absent a program to allow us to compete for new productions, Florida will be stuck watching a “Groundhog Day” with the jobs losses of the 1990’s.

Film Florida is committed to rebuilding this industry and ensuring there are Florida-based jobs for the 5,000 film and digital media students graduating annually who are currently moving out of state to find jobs. Specifically, many of our graduates are moving to our neighbor to the North – Georgia, where Governor Nathan Deal reports, “film and television productions generated an economic impact of more than $7 billion this year.” Meanwhile Florida, absent a state program, more than 50 projects in the last three years that would have spent more than $875 million, used more than 140,000 hotel rooms and would have had an economic impact of more than $2 billion WERE LOST.

Florida has come back before and we will come back again. As the President of Film Florida, I am committed to working with legislators and stakeholders to send the signal that despite the recent losses, Florida is open for business and competing for high wage jobs in the film, television and digital media industry. I sincerely believe putting Floridians back to work at home, generating new revenues and increasing tourism is an important step toward growing and diversifying our economy. Let’s put Florida back on the map as a perfect destination to do entertainment production.

Kelly Paige, President, Film Florida