In Madison, Florida, a crew is filming the movie “Prayer Never Fails.” It’s the story of a small town high school basketball coach who is fired from his job after praying with one of his players. It’s also the story of a small production group trying to make a film in a state that provides few incentives.
In fact, making a film in Florida is so difficult actress Kathy Lee Crosby says she wasn’t sure the movie would happen.
“So I’m just going along thinking, you know, this isn’t going to happen. And even after I signed the contract I thought well, the money probably won’t come through, which often happens. But then when they called and said that we had to schedule my flights I thought, well, I guess I’m going to be doing this. But it’s been an extraordinary experience,” Crosby says.
You may recognize Crosby from her role playing the first Wonder Woman in 1974. She’s made her share of films. But she says if the sunshine state wants to stay in the business of the stars, it needs to make changes.
“I hope that the lawmakers in Florida take this into consideration and give them the incentives that they need. Because there is a resurgence in film making that you’re going to see over the next two to three years and that I’m actually a part of and when you see what’s going to happen, Florida is the perfect place to take advantage and to set this up,” Crosby says.
Wes Miller, the movie’s writer and director says he was determined to make the film in Madison. And he says the community helped to make that possible through donations. But he also says the determination cost him. Had he picked a city in a neighboring state like Georgia he would have been eligible for state money. Michelle Hillery, President of Film Florida,that draws projects away from the state.
“We’ve seen scripts completely changed that were supposed to be Florida based projects, completely changed to go to Georgia. Because at the end of the day this is a business,” Hillery says.
Florida has a film incentive program in place, it’s just not funded. Hillery says by her count, the state has lost $675-million in missed opportunities. When productions come to Florida, local crews are hired, food is purchased, props and materials are rented. And Hillery says that’s why the incentive program would be such a sure fire boost for the state.
“No rebate is provided until after the project has shot. They have actually spent their money, they’ve hired their local crews. All of the money that is actually spent in the state of Florida, it’s then reviewed, audited twice, until all of the money that is spent in the state of Florida is then reviewed in a tax credit,” Hillery says.
But Hillery says in Florida “incentive” has become a dirty word and that’s made it hard to get the dollars back. But she says her group is already working with lawmakers to bring the film incentive discussion back to the table during the upcoming lawmaking session. A plan to revamp the program failed in the legislature earlier this year.