2015 was supposed to be the year that the Florida Legislature authorized funding to replenish its depleted film tax incentives package, allowing the Sunshine State to compete with Louisiana, Georgia and other Southeastern states in getting its fair share of movie and television production work.
It didn’t happen.
Despite the reshaping of the incentives and the advocacy of Tampa Bay area state lawmakers like Jack Latvala and Nancy Detert, once again the entertainment community struck out in Tallahassee.
One of the biggest casualties of the lack of such incentives is the fact that the Dennis Lehane/Ben Affleck production of Live By Night will not be filming in Ybor City this fall. That’s despite the fact that the best-selling Lahane’s novel is set in the Tampa historic district.
As reported by The Tampa Tribune’s Paul Guzzo on Tuesday, a “fake” Ybor City is being constructed in Brunswick, Ga., where the production will employ around 100 people as filming takes place for the next three months.
It’s a bitter, bitter pill for folks like Dale Gordon to accept. Gordon is the Tampa-Hillsborough Film and Digital Media commissioner who has energized the area ever since the powers that be in Hillsborough County realized they wanted to emphasize film and TV productions as part of their focus on bringing more jobs to the region.
There have been some successes for sure, but even though it was exciting when the Bryan Cranston-starring picture The Infiltrator came to the Bay area earlier this year, it was only for a few scenes, vs. the entire production taking up residence here.
Tax incentives for film productions have become controversial in recent years. The whole idea took off in the 1990s, when Vancouver, British Columbia, started to woo productions away from Hollywood because of tax breaks. Then many states got into the incentive war. It’s now at the level that if you’re not offering such incentives, you’re going to lose out on certain work.
But the question about whether it brings in a sufficient return on investment has ignited furious opposition in recent years to those incentives, and not just in Florida.
However, this year the Koch Brothers-led Americans For Prosperity linked film incentives with stadium subsidies (a political loser) and did their best to persuade lawmakers in Tallahassee that they would upset a lot of folks if they committed to an incentives-laden bill. Those same critics were emboldened back in January when a state report was released.
That’s a reference to a report published in January by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research showing the state receives just 43 cents back per dollar it awards in tax incentives to productions. That amounts to a loss of almost $170 million on the $296 million in incentives that were first released in 2010.
Members of the entertainment industry scoffed at the report, and say that it stimulates the economy and brings jobs -and exposure to the Sunshine State.
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