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Florida Lawmakers Try To Revamp Film Incentives For Economic Development

Ilya Sedykh

Films like “Magic Mike” and “Edward Scissorhands” were filmed in Florida. Due the states struggle to compete with other state incentives Florida lawmakers make an effort to revise the state’s tax credits for film productions in Florida.

The Sunshine State is featured in popular movies such as “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Dolphin Tale” parts one and two. With four consecutive years of record-breaking tourism, films in Florida play a big part of the state’s economy.

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there are more than 4,000 established businesses in the state’s film and entertainment industry that employed more than 22,000 workers. Wages in film also exceed the state average, and film industry officials think that’s justification enough to keep state funding going.

Film Florida President Michelle Hillery was recently part of a gathering of tourism businesses. She says film and tourism are a perfect marriage, and notes other states have increased funding.

“The film and television industry has left a legacy that has enriched Florida’s brand and attracted tourist from around the state of Florida,” Hillery says. “We’ve fallen behind here in the state of Florida so working together, we hope to make that change this year.”

But not all films have been box-office winners. The state has funded more than a few duds and some projects that get state and local dollars, never get off the ground. Republican Rep. Mike Miller (R-Winter Park) wants to change how filmmaking incentives are awarded. His bill creates a new application and certification process for qualified production companies to receive tax credits. It also eliminates a first come, first serve provision that grants money to whoever applies first.

“I think this bill will create tens of millions in economic development. It will also create thousands of good high paying jobs,” Miller said during a recent reading on the bill.

Miller and Senate sponsor Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice), portray the bill as a quality-control mechanism. But not everyone is behind the effort.

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity calls the incentive program ‘broken’, and says the money could be spent elsewhere in the state budget. AFP spokesman Andres Malave says the film incentive program is a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

“The legislature, quite frankly, is, they’re playing games with Florida taxpayers. And they’re trying to rebrand a bad product because they know Floridians don’t support their hard earned dollars being used on film incentives,” Malave says.

The bill has several committee stops left, and lawmakers have yet to come up with a budget for the bill. The state has spent nearly $300 million on the film incentive program in past years.

Vanity Duran is a Broadcast Journalism senior at Florida A&M University. She currently writes for The Famuan, the school newspaper, serves as a reporter for Brand Newz, an online multimedia portal, is founder of UNIDOS (Uniting Nations to Inspire Diverse Opportunities in Society) and serves as an aspiring motivational speaker through her brand LIFE5TYLEZ. Vanity is excited to be interning with WFSU while preparing to graduate with a bachelor's degree in May 2015.