Tax incentives called key to filming’s revival
Written by Catherine Lackner on February 11, 2015
Restoring Florida’s moribund tax incentive program is key to expanding Miami’s film industry, said Bruce Orosz, CEO of ACT Productions and new chairman of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which has hatched an action plan.
“We have been spending a lot of time, effort and energy putting together a lobbying group of industry leaders and people who have been impacted” by the Legislature’s failure to revive the incentive program for the past two years, he said.
That group includes not only directors and stakeholders who work on productions, but also hoteliers and other businesspeople who benefitted from the television shows and films that were drawn to South Florida several years ago, when incentives were robust.
Demand for Miami and South Florida remains strong, Mr. Orosz said. “We just got back from Sundance [Film Festival] and spoke to people who would love to film here. We have the beaches, the Everglades. Thematically we have it all.”
But “without the incentives, we have lost seven potential TV shows,” he said. “They have gone to Georgia and even Michigan. There’s a show about Miami that’s being filmed in San Diego. It’s crazy. These are incentive tax credits, not taxpayer dollars.”
In 2010, a Jobs for Florida bill designated $242 million over five years for tax credits for film studios and other production companies. By March 2011, $227 million of the credits had been committed, with the majority going to so-called high impact television shows like “Magic City,” “The Glades” and “Burn Notice,” all of which have since ended. Some of the earmarked incentive monies went back into the program, but not enough to revive it.
The state’s film incentives come in the form of tax credits based on the scope of the production, number of local people hired, the season in which filming occurs and several other variables. The credits can be sold at the end of the term if the production doesn’t need the equivalent tax relief. Forty states offer incentives, and some of their programs – particularly those in Louisiana, North Carolina and Georgia – are well-funded and aggressive.
“We want to create a stronger voice, because this is a vital industry that is a very important segment not just on its own, but also for tourism,” Mr. Orosz said.
Because productions can get bonuses for filming off-season, many owners of boutique hotels were able to fill rooms during times when demand is historically low, he added.
Rolando Aedo, the visitors bureau senior vice president for marketing and tourism, is working with the office of county Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Graham Winick, Miami Beach film and event production manager, to craft a strategy. The Visit Florida tourism organization, which is now aligned with the Film Florida advocacy group, has also taken a role.
“We’ve got great supporters,” Mr. Orosz said.
There might eventually be local incentives, and some other things that could be done independent of Tallahassee, he added. Miami Beach at one time offered a discount card to productions so that they could buy needed goods more economically. “It said, ‘We want you here.’ It sent a message and built goodwill,” Mr. Orosz said.
“We are pushing hard on this piece of business,” he said. “We recognize not only the short-, but also the long-term effects on this community. We need to educate people on how this affects everyone and benefits the tax base.”