Miami-Dade filming off 25%; focus on new incentive
By Scott E. Pacheco
Miami-Dade filming outlays plummeted 25% in 2009 to about $100 million, far worse than forecast.
The plunge in industry spending was down from $130 million in 2008 and about $150 million in 2007, according to local film offices.
Jeff Peel, Miami-Dade film office director, in December forecasted 2009 spending at $110 million to $120 million.
"The numbers are pretty stark," he said. "To drop over $50 million in two years and not to see any feature film work here at all is really disconcerting."
Pundits blame lack of competitive state incentives for feature film spending of just $4 million for 2009, the first year in many without extensive feature work here.
Senate Bill 1430 and companion House Bill 697 could help. If passed, a law effective July 1 would boost state incentives from this year's $10.8 million covering a few projects to $75 million in annual tax credits.
The House bill would make qualified productions eligible for tax credit equal to 20% of actual qualified spending.
For offseason filming, certified feature films, independent films, commercials, or television series or pilots could get an extra 5% tax credit.
South Florida Rep. Julio Robaina, bill co-sponsor, said Miami has more to gain than other cities.
He said he's spoken with numerous major industry players who say that with South Florida's climate they'd follow a competitive incentive here.
"It's necessary because the state of Florida must be able to compete with other states for a piece of that industry's money," he said. "We've always said that if we were at least competitive we would probably become the most active state to this industry because of the year-round weather."
Many supporters call an incentive vital this year from the standpoint of not only economic impact but employment. Without it, they say, production crew members living in Florida may move to states with strong film incentives — and plentiful jobs — such as Georgia and Louisiana.
Florida's film industry is at a "critical juncture," Mr. Peel said.
"What we are seeing already is crew are going elsewhere," he said. "There's no work here for them. Until that turns around, those people will go away. They are still maintaining homes here. Once we lose that crew and once we lose the businesses [such as film labs and lighting houses] because they can't get work here, then the Florida advantage is going to be diminished."
Mr. Robaina agreed.
"If it doesn't pass I see it as a very bad message sent to this industry all around the US [that] Florida is really not committed to making this a film-friendly state."
Rick Feldman, president and CEO of National Association of Television Programming Executives Market and Conference, which just unveiled a move of its conference and 5,000 attendees from Las Vegas to Miami Beach, said Florida must monitor other states' incentives.
"It's a very, very big deal," he said. "The competition to get the business is really intense.… Florida would be a wonderful place for many shows."