By Richard DeAgazio
Another battle by the US film industry has come to a close. Florida’s Film Tax Credit has been around since the program was created in 2004 has been allowed to sunset by the Florida Legislature. This incentive was created to provide rebates to approved films, TV shows and other projects to be made in Florida.
Historically it has been a success for the state. Following the blockbuster TV series Miami Vice, the Florida legislature recognized the collateral benefits for the state. Not only the economic benefit of the jobs created by the production, but more the public relations aspects that created a major boost for tourism.
As the 2016 Legislative session came to a close recently, the existing Entertainment Industry Financial Program was allowed to sunset after the Herculean efforts of the in state movie industry efforts failed to pass an extension or get a new bill. The industry has been working for four years to convince members of the legislature to support a program that has numerous benefits, including job creation, economic development, and proven increases to tourism.
The Florida’s Movie industry has worked tirelessly to convince legislators that this tax incentive should be continued. The same battle is going on in other states most notably Massachusetts. In both states, the industry has developed highly trained professionals who deserve to be supported by their elected representatives in their efforts to build a serious entertainment infrastructure.
In the last three years, more than $650 million in projects has been lost. These projects would have created over 110,000 hotel nights and an estimated $1.8 billion in economic impact for the State of Florida. Not to mention that the skyline, familiar venues and buildings appearing on TV and the big screen to showcase the state to entice tourists to come and visit.
Florida also is a center for education with more than thirty colleges and universities offering degree programs in media, filmmaking and other associated skills. It is estimated that over 5,000 students graduate each year with these industry degrees.
In the same vein, Massachusetts has similar statistics to back up their case. Over the past 10 years 99 major motion pictures have been produced in the Commonwealth.
The success of the Film Tax Credit in the past has created a skilled work force that will be hard pressed to utilize their craft and skills in other industries. That creates unemployment and other economic distress. Many will move to more fertile ground.
The effect of the mere discussion of Tax Credit incentive change has ensured that families and businesses will continue to face a worsening crisis in which jobs and projects will flow to competing states. Massachusetts industry participants and their partners will need to address what urgent measures must be taken to preserve the industry and create a dynamic, universal change in the approach moving forward.
Finally, the Massachusetts Film industry (and Florida) has not asked for excessive support but seeks to maintain a program that would allow it to continue to grow and continue to be recognized as a global hub for film, television and digital media production.
Richard DeAgazio is an industry professional on assignment for IMAGINE Magazine in Florida.