A bill that addresses Florida’s collapsing film industry was presented at a press conference Wednesday. If successful, its sponsors hope it will create a new era of filmmaking within the sunshine state.
Back in 2016, the Oscar nominated movie Hidden Figures released in theaters. The story focused on the three African American women who served as the brains behind launching the first man into orbit. Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the film is located, is a key setting in this historic event. But, not one scene was shot in Florida. In fact, the entire production took place in Georgia where taxes for filming are lower. Many film productions have jumped on this growing trend and are using tax incentives as leverage to film in certain states. Florida is a place that’s been affected by these decisions State Senator Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) says. That's something the Senator is not pleased with.
“These are high paying jobs that support the middle class and infuse local economies with much needed funds,” she says.
That is why the Senator is filing Senate Bill 1606, establishing the Florida Motion Picture Capitol Corporation. Encouraging productions to look at Florida as a safe haven for financing.
The bill also asks productions looking for financing to have Florida be an established setting in their stories in order to combat the false advertisement of Florida presented in other films.
“And what really upsets me is when I’m watching TV, and you see the credits of these shows and these films," says Rep. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), the bill's House sponsor. "And you see some of the shows that are supposed to be filmed in Florida. Look at Ballers, gone right? Look at Claws, right? You have these shows that are supposed to be filmed in my community, in my district, and they have certain screen shots of the district, but then they’re actually filmed in Georgia or Texas,” he says.
His gripes do not just lie with the representation of Florida, but the economic opportunity he says the state is missing out on with tourism.
“The economic impact the film industry here in Florida is huge, but there’s long lasting impacts long after the initial dollar is spent. We have a residual value that gets created with every time that people watch these shows over and over again. It drives tourism to Florida. All you have to do is look at bloodline. I personally went to Key West and visited and went around the Keys and some of the highlights of the show that I saw,” Gruters adds.
Still how to pay for it all - something the bill does not address. However, as the chair of the motion picture association’s Chris Ranung says, the proposal is working outside of those limits - leaving Florida taxpayers alone and focusing on smarter business decisions.
He suggests financing could include asking the state for appropriations and working with other entities to invest.
“There are other sources of capital available. Perhaps smaller sources. But one of the fundamental principles is that the legislation exists, or the corporation exists not to create profit but to create economic impact. So any entity that wants to be involved financially that has that as a priority over profit will be welcomed to join in. But yes, naturally we’re going to ask the state for an allocation and appropriation probably next year,” Ranung says.
Those eventual appropriations will be a one-time request says Ranung. He wants Florida to become a production destination:
“Of course we want productions from all across the country, but we have so many really good and established production companies in Florida, I won’t name them. And there are more coming up. We have our film school graduates. Great opportunities for them to work on the one and two million dollar movies. Those one and two million dollar movies need this kind of financing very much,” he adds.
Movies like Moonlight, produced by a Florida State University graduate, were championed at the press conference as the kind of films Taddeo says Florida’s film industry should be investing in.