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Front Page » Top Stories » Burn Notice Other Local Productions To Benefit As Florida More Than Doubles Film Incentive

Burn Notice Other Local Productions To Benefit As Florida More Than Doubles Film Incentive

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Written by on May 14, 2009

By Zachary S. Fagenson
Florida’s film industry received its own stimulus when the Legislature agreed to increase the film- and entertainment-industry incentive from $5 million to $10.8 million in the state’s 2009-2010 budget.

While the appropriation fell short of industry hopes for a change to a transferable tax credit, the money will be put toward a handful of projects, including Miami-based "Burn Notice’s" third season.

"Right now we have $200 million in production lining up and wanting to come into the state," said State Film Commissioner Lucia Fishburne. "At a 15% rebate we would need $30 million to do that.

"These are projects that if we pulled the trigger today we’d have tomorrow," she added.

The Legislature cut the incentive from $25 million to $5 million in May 2008.

The move put Florida well behind such states as Michigan, which offers a 42% tax break on in-state filming expenditures, and New York, which launched a $350-million incentive program in late March.

Although Ms. Fishburne and Florida Film Production Coalition President Maria Chavez believed the additional funds were a step in the right direction, legislators also delayed until the next session the bills that would have overhauled the incentive program.

That legislation, according to sponsor state Rep. Kevin Ambler, a Hillsborough County Republican, would help keep the film industry’s money out of heated appropriations battles.

"Until we get serious about converting into the tax-credit model, we’re going to be continually plagued with an annual problem of how much to appropriate [for] filming," he said.

Under the current structure, the industry’s appropriation competes for funds with such programs as healthcare and the justice department.

"You can’t pit the film industry against those [programs]," he added.

Rep. Ambler’s bill proposed a $75 million transferable tax credit over three years, with individual tax credits varying depending upon the type of project being produced.

It offered a 5% increase in the tax break if companies shot during hurricane season. Feature film producers would enjoy a 15% tax credit on expenses while digital media projects would only be eligible for a 10% tax credit and incentives on commercials.

And while the change to a tax credit would help end the political battle over film incentives, it would also help sow the seeds of a profitable statewide industry.

"For ever dollar of those incentives [the state] is getting seven back," Rep. Ambler said. "Florida needs to understand that in terms of weighing its priorities this is not an expenditure, it’s an investment."