Filmmakers Campaign For Incentives
By Catherine Lackner
Florida film leaders are launching a campaign to show legislators the economic impact of filming after the Legislature ended its 2013 session without creating new incentives for film production.
They discussed strategies at CAMACOL’s Miami Media and Film Market in late May.
"We are sitting with a program that is still active," said attorney and film industry lobbyist David Caserta. "We as an industry have proved ourselves. But there was a lot of infighting and a lot of issues this year."
"It was a game of chicken," said State Rep. Manny Diaz. "We would have loved $42 million to $80 million in new incentives."
Neither the Florida House nor the Senate wanted to add a line item that might draw Gov. Rick Scott’s veto, so incentives were discussed but never added to the budget. While Gov. Scott privately said he supports the film industry, he never made a public statement to that effect, Mr. Diaz said.
Most of the incentives, in the form of tax credits, have already been allotted to projects in production, and those are due to be used up within two years. To keep the program alive — amid aggressive competition from other states — the legislature must fund fresh incentives in its next session.
Even so, "there will be a steep falloff in production late this fall," predicted Andy Schefter, an independent producer and member of the Florida Film Production Coalition, "whenever it is that current productions in the queue finish."
"We don’t have a state income tax, and this program is fiscally responsible," said Sandy Lighterman, Miami-Dade film commissioner. "The legislature is very conservative; we’ll never have an unlimited program."
"They run a balanced budget," agreed Graham Winick, film and event production manager for the City of Miami Beach. "California is underwater in debt, whereas this legislature is responsible. They will spend enough to get people here, and our having no income tax is a good reason for talent to relocate here."
"We need to get out in front of the game," Mr. Diaz said, "to flex more muscle and make it clear to the governor that there is a strong return on investment. Telemundo is a brick-and-mortar business. We need to convey to the governor that we don’t want him to veto this item."
"The legislature hasn’t heard from the industry," Ms. Lighterman said. "They need to see how many people are employed by this industry. We need to talk to the Department of Economic Opportunity, to Enterprise Florida."
In conjunction with the Film Florida advocacy group, she plans to visit legislators around the state in August and September. "We’ll be asking "What do you need from us?’ as well as showing the economic impact. The sheer numbers will send a huge message."
Film industry representatives should also address chambers of commerce, hotel associations and real estate boards, Mr. Caserta suggested, as all of these organizations have members who would be affected should the industry flounder.
"We need the governor to look at the film industry as a business," Mr. Diaz said, and he applauded the summer kick-start. "If we wait until March or April, it’s too late."To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.