Film interests scramble for incentives
Written by Catherine Lackner on June 4, 2014
Film Florida’s legislative committee on Monday reviewed this year’s state legislative defeat of new film incentive funding and strategized how to win funds next year, ranging from new leadership for a return legislative trip to a tax on online purchases.
Despite a nearly year-long campaign by the advocacy group to educate lawmakers on the economic contributions of the state’s entertainment industry, Tallahassee added no new incentives to the budget for a second year running.
Though two bills had been filed, and support for one sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Detert appeared strong, no deal had been reached when the legislative session ended May 2.
“It was a matter of philosophy, of necessary game-playing in Tallahassee,” Dave Caserta, lobbyist and managing member of the Caserta & Spiriti law firm, said at CAMACOL’s Miami Media and Film Market. “We get stuck in the game-playing. It’s not right and it’s not fair.”
“We came back with an empty bag two years in a row,” said Kelly Paige, a principal of the Level Talent Group in Tampa.
Educating legislators on the return on investment (ROI) from film incentives – generally recognized as $5.6 for every dollar – seemed effective, Mr. Caserta said.
“The ROI point has been handled,” agreed Jud French, director of research and innovation initiatives at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts. “The governor said he would sign a bill.”
“Do we need new champions?” asked Graham Winick, film and event production manager for the City of Miami Beach.
Sen. Detert “wants to be our champion,” said Sandy Lighterman, Miami-Dade County film commissioner, who led the statewide effort to have a bill passed.
“She doesn’t like to lose,” Ms Paige said. She suggested the film group begin working with Sen. Detert early in the legislative season to hammer out a new bill that will be added to the budget in 2015-2016.
“She was there for us,” Mr. Caserta agreed. “But she has to work with the leadership.”
Seeking a means of preserving the industry that does not rely solely on Tallahassee, he has collected information and ideas from other government relations and industry groups.
For instance, a revolving trust fund that would draw revenue from hotels would “let the industry fund itself. Hotels are ancillary businesses that benefits from the film industry,” he said. Productions use 3,000 to 4,000 hotel room nights per year, so a 20- to 30-cent charge per movie could add up quickly.
A sales tax for online purchases or point-of-sale purchases might support the trust fund, Mr. Winick suggested.
“With any new revenue source, there will be a lot of people at that trough,” Mr. French warned.
The group also considered forming alliances with the state’s Visit Florida tourism organization, which has money for films promoting the state, and with the state’s Enterprise Florida economic agency.
There was also discussion of calling the next proposed legislation a jobs creation or economic investment bill, rather than an incentives bill, as incentives seem to have a negative connotation.
But then, Mr. Winick said, productions considering the state might ask, “What happened to that incentive?”