INCENTIVES WATCH: A CLOSER LOOK AT FLORIDA’S FILM CREDIT

Incentives Watch: A Closer Look at Florida’s Film Credit

In many states, the film credit debate rages on. Although some states are actively trying to increase their film credits to entice new productions to their state, other states are wondering whether the film credit is worth it. We are now starting to see the effects of film credit legislation from prior years. Florida let its film credit sunset on June 30, 2016 without an extension, and the Florida film industry is starting to see the repercussions of the decision.

In this interview, John Lux, the Executive Director of Film Florida , a not-for-profit association representing the film, TV and digital media industry in Florida, talks about the Florida film credit. He discusses the effect the film credit has had on the state and why Netflix’s “Bloodline” has chosen to continue filming in Florida despite the fact that the film credit is no longer available.

Bloomberg BNA: Can you give a brief history of the film credit in Florida?

Lux: Florida began offering an incentive in 2004, first as a rebate then, starting in 2010, as a tax credit. Since 2004, the program has been extremely successful with more than $5 spent in the state for every $1 awarded through an incentive. For many years, Florida was the #3 film production center in America, serving as a driver in Florida’s economy, creating high-paying jobs in high-tech arenas and tourist-attracting products. Until recent years, we thrived as a sought-after destination for our diverse locations, infrastructure, resources and generation of a talented crew base.

Bloomberg BNA: What effect has the film credit had on the Florida film industry? What has changed since the credit has sunset?

Lux: While the most recent program sunset on June 30, 2016, we’ve been seeing the impact of the end of the program for multiple years. Since our state legislature hasn’t extended the program or added funding for the last three years, we have seen a steady decline of work with the lack of available incentive funding. In the last three years, more than 45 feature film, television and digital media projects that expressed interest in working in Florida ended up elsewhere because of the lack of available state incentives. These projects would have brought more than $650 million in direct spending to our state with an economic impact of close to $2 billion. The program sunset June 30, 2016, but our industry in the state has been feeling the negative economic impact for the last three years as evident by no new feature films or television series shooting their entire run in Florida.

Bloomberg BNA: Despite the expiration of the film credit, why do you think the TV show “Bloodline” has chosen to stay in Florida?

Lux: “Bloodline” benefited from Florida’s tax credit program for seasons one and two proving that the investment Florida made in the series worked. It appears that “Bloodline” has chosen to stay in Florida because they have built an infrastructure with locations and crew that made it more economical to stay in Florida than pick up and move. Two plus years ago, the show came to Florida and benefited from the incentive program; now they will remain, bringing more jobs, more spending and enhancing tourism for another season. I believe this is the textbook success story of an incentive -- it entices a series to your state, and the positive impacts remain years after the incentive.

Bloomberg BNA: Based on what you've seen in Florida and in other states, are there any particular provisions that help a film credit be effective?

Lux: The most important aspect of a program is that it has to incentivize what is most important for the state. The entertainment industry in Florida has always been an advocate for a program that is best for Florida first and foremost, as evident by the fact that any program would only offer incentives for expenditures for Florida residents and Florida companies. We would never want to incentivize out-of-state expenditures. Some states just want the work in their state so they will give incentives for any expenditures, but, in Florida, we want the projects to spend money on Floridians.

Continue the discussion on LinkedIn:  How has a film credit or lack of film credit impacted the entertainment industry in your state?

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