Originally posted on the Palm Beach Post website
What’s wrong with this picture? A new movie about Florida’s Highwaymen — African-American painters who sold their canvases on the side of the road because under Jim Crow laws they couldn’t show them in galleries — is currently in production. In Georgia.
When Robert DeNiro, playing the title character in the recent “Dirty Grandpa,” lets loose at Daytona Beach, the beach on screen is not Daytona. This movie, too, was shot in Georgia.
Another Florida-set movie, Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night,” is now in post-production. It’s a story of Prohibition-era Ybor City, the historic neighborhood in Tampa. But lured by Georgia’s generous tax incentive program, the movie makers built a fake Ybor City in Brunswick, Ga., and shot it there in November.
“This was once-in-a-lifetime,” fumed Dale Gordon, the Tampa-Hillsborough film and digital commissioner. “We’re losing real jobs and real revenue to Georgia because of the state’s failure to invest in the film and digital media industry.”
A decade ago, Florida was the third-leading state in film production, behind only California and New York. No longer. As more and more states have sweetened the pot to attract productions, Florida has let its supply of tax credits run dry – with no sign of a refill.
In 2010, the Legislature set aside $296 million in tax credits for film, TV and digital production to be awarded after a production had wrapped. Supposed to last for five years, the money went fast, supporting 312 projects, including the movies “Ironman 3,” “Dolphin Tale” and “Tomorrowland;” TV shows “Ballers,” “Bloodline” and “Burn Notice;” and “Madden NFL” video games. Industry advocates say the tax breaks sparked business that added nearly $4.1 billion to Florida’s gross state product.
But the incentive program ends by law on July 1. Unless the Legislature passes a new program, Florida will lose movie-making opportunities to the 37 other states that offer rebates, grants or tax credits.
The fund’s depletion has already cost the state more than $650 million in film and TV projects, says Michelle Hillery, Palm Beach County deputy film and TV commissioner and president of Film Florida, an industry association.
It’s absurd that Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, while pushing hard for a $250 million drive to attract new businesses to Florida, would weaken an industry that employs 100,000 Floridians at more than 16,000 production companies. But a school of conservative thought believes these incentives are a bad investment; one legislative study found that every dollar spent on film industry tax credits brings back only 43 cents of tax revenue.
This analysis, however, ignores other economic benefits, such as the positive impact on tourist business after viewers see Florida locations on screen. Netflix’ dramatic series “Bloodline,” for instance, inspired at least 30,000 overnight trips to the Florida Keys last year, the visitors spending more than $65 million, according to a marketing study commissioned by Monroe County. The $30 million production itself created more than 1,700 jobs, Hillery said.
It’s time for legislators to end this cliffhanger and give the incentive program a sequel. Action!
Click HERE to read the article on the Palm Beach Post website.