Film industry leaders lobby Florida Legislature to pass stronger film incentives
By Zachary S. Fagenson
After cuts reduced Florida's filming incentives by 80%, members of the industry are lobbying the Legislature to pass a bill to restore Florida's competitive edge.
Organizations such as the Florida Film Production Coalition and Film Florida have made their desires: tax credits of 25% to 30% for in-state spending on such projects as feature films and digital media.
Such tax breaks, they say, would help the state regain lost ground after it cut incentives from $25 million to $5 million in May 2008 and states such as Michigan passed large incentive programs.
"We're still not competitive as far as the percentages across the bill," said production coalition President Maria K. Chavez. "Our concern is to get a satisfactory piece of legislation we can use in the years to come."
The film industry's favored legislation, House Bill 47, includes tax credits on 20% of in-state expenditures on feature films and digital media, 15% on independent films and 10% on commercials and music videos.
Michigan's film incentive program offers production companies a tax break of up to 42% on in-state expenditures.
While industry lobbyists have been working with legislators to create a competitive program, a separate bill, filed by State Rep. Kevin C. Ambler, a Hillsborough County Republican, and State Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Broward County Democrat, also has been presented to address the industry's need.
A Dec. 15 film production coalition meeting looked closely at that bill; House Bill 43, which combines the industry's desire for tax credits with educational incentives and a phantom cash rebate.
While the bill differs distinctly from the legislation the industry has been working on, coalition members were optimistic that attempts to improve the incentive landscape will continue when the Legislature reconvenes in March.
"We're backing the legislation," said Ms. Chavez. "What may happen is that elements of both are in the final bill."
House Bill 43, however, is significantly more confusing and intricate than the industry's bill, according to the coalition's legislative representative, Mitch Harbeson.
The overall bill would offer a $75 million transferable tax credit over three years, with individual tax credits varying depending upon the type of project being produced.
It would offer a 5% increase in the tax break if companies shot during hurricane season. Feature film producers would enjoy a 15% tax credit on expenses while digital media projects would only be eligible for a 10% tax credit and incentives on commercials. Music videos would be capped at $500,000.
Both Mr. Harbeson and Graham Winick, film and event production manager for Miami Beach and president of Film Florida, said simplicity would also strengthen any incentive.
"There's an inherent understanding that we all want to be on the same team," Mr. Winick said. "Currently we are very much in support of the [industry's] bill. It simplifies it and that's something we can sell very easily."