Originally posted on Orlando Business Journal website, by Matthew Richardson

Michelle Hillery thought it was a mistake when she saw that the new state budget not only doesn’t include funds to renew the film and entertainment incentive program, but it also cut Florida Office of Film & Entertainment’s staff budget by 40 percent.

“We certainly were hoping it was a mistake. The office represents our entire industry,” said Hillery, president of Film Florida, an Orlando-based association that promotes film industry. “They are the state’s marketing arm for the film industry.”

Hillery said the cuts would eliminate two to three positions for the office in Tallahassee, which has five staff members. While the state’s film incentives have been denied for the third year in a row, this is the first time the state reduced the office’s staff budget. “I guess [lawmakers] felt since they weren’t replenishing the program, they won’t need to market Florida,” she said.

While the cuts take place in Tallahassee, it hurts Florida’s chances to land any new projects since marketing for the state as a place for filming will be reduced.

“This is cutting the industry off at the knees to be able to pursue any non-incentivized solutions to keep the workforce and businesses afloat that have been dedicated to this industry for over 30 years,” said Sheena Fowler, director of film and digital media for the Orlando Economic Development Commission.

The film and digital media industry in Orlando has 1,700 companies with 17,800 employees on a $1.2 billion annual payroll, according to Orlando’s Economic Development Commission.

Local companies that provide equipment and services for film projects that come to Central Florida also are upset about the additional budget cuts that will hit the Florida Office of Film & Entertainment on July 1.

“I’m considering moving to Georgia,” said Steve Heller, owner of Attitude Specialty Lighting, an Orlando firm that provides lighting equipment and services for live events, feature films, TV and commercials. “The majority of my work is in Louisiana and Georgia, and when you have to pay for shipping for large equipment, it works as a deterrent for people using my equipment.”

Heller had three projects in Florida last year, with about 15 projects in Louisiana and Georgia. “The main reason people come to Florida is the tax incentives. If you don’t have tax incentives, you lose work, but cutting the office staff by 40 percent is 40 percent less marketing in Florida.”

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