For the past two years, the Speaker of the Florida House has consistently blocked all efforts to put the issue of restoring Florida’s decimated motion picture industry on any committee agenda in that chamber. We have as yet no indication of the new Speaker’s stance but do not anticipate any change of heart or position in 2019. We logically surmise, furthermore, that the ideological right will quickly resume its challenge at the first flickering of any new incentives push for film. In the face of all this, coming across an article like “Georgia Speaker Ralston forms group to support entertainment industry” is certainly enough to make any advocate of the Florida film industry howl with despair.
Why is there minimal (if any) conservative opposition to film incentives in the Peach State? Why are tax dollar giveaways okay there and cries of “corporate welfare” not raining down from the perches of leadership at the Capitol in Atlanta? And why is the Speaker of the Georgia House so vocally, vigorously, deliberately supportive of continued and increasing incentives for the entertainment industry in his state?
Along with Florida, over the past few years Texas, Louisiana, and the Carolinas have all felt the keen edge of the sword from groups like Americans for Prosperity. Meanwhile, the impact on Georgia’s economy from incentives-weighted film production has soared to over $60 billion annually – at a cost of many hundreds-of-millions of Georgia resident tax dollars and nary a conservative whimper.
We hear no criticism from the right, ever. On the contrary, repeated ballyhoos of how great this all is pour forth in a steady stream from every corner of the media. Why? Big dollars weigh large among Georgia power brokers, of course, and clearly they seem more than willing to keep things purring along at all costs.
But here in Florida – with jobs lost, businesses shuttered, and hopes so dim – we can only ask: what’s the difference between the two neighboring red states? Same business principles, right? Same free market ideology? So is it just Peach State dollars that keep the lid screwed down tight on Sunshine State leadership? Can this really be all there is to it?
It’s a new landscape at the Florida Capitol. Maybe not the one we wanted. But check it: the cards dealt last November are the ones we’ll be dealing with for the next two years.
So in a just few days we’re all back it. On the calendar, it’s billed as the second interim committee week; however, it’s the official start of everything that matters, really.
Governor-elect Ron De Santis takes the oath of office on Tuesday, already indicating that his new administration is going to hit the ground running without delay. On Wednesday, after the Inaugural festivities and parties die down, a bevy of new and re-elected senators and representatives will roll up their sleeves and get to work. COMPASS will be there then, saying hello to our established allies and welcoming new friends to their new offices. It’ll be time to find out which end is up, what’s possible and what’s not, who’s who and who wants to help, and whether there may be any rays of light and hope and promise for our industry in 2019.
Yes, we plan to re-introduce legislation to establish a financing program for feature films. Yes, we will keep fighting for a pragmatic approach to film funding that legislators of all political stripes can support. Yes, we will continue to seek common ground with those who oppose state-level engagement with the motion picture industry. Yes, we anticipate impossible odds and a Sisyphian climb and, yes, there’s no question that we have a mountain of hard work ahead.
But we are bringing new people and energy to our effort, developing alternative courses of action, considering different pathways that can take us to the same goals, and facing the realities of this new landscape with eyes wide open. So yes, we’re dealing with it. New cards; same game.
Highly respected conservative research institute and government watchdog Florida TaxWatch released an analysis yesterday on the state of Florida’s film and television industry that certainly warrants careful reading by anyone with a genuine interest in restoring motion picture production to the Sunshine State. Although this comprehensive report, as so many previous accounts have exhaustively done already, once again relates the well-thrashed story of Florida’s production decline, it ultimately and very significantly gets to the actual heart of the matter, addressing pragmatic truths about the realities of our industry just as we begin to look ahead to the new legislative landscape of 2019.
Click the TaxWatch logo below to read the full report: “Is the Sun Setting on Film in Florida?”
The implication is powerful when, on the last page of the analysis, TaxWatch states that “maintaining the status quo is not a viable option” if ever Florida problem-solvers want to see a return of motion picture production jobs and impact. Even more pointedly on page 13, the research team incontrovertibly asserts – and this from a careful and conservative point of view – that “state-level incentives to stimulate Florida’s film and entertainment industry are both necessary and important.”
Continuing on these final pages to outline four options to rebuild our industry, the TaxWatch research team lists 1) relaunching a tax credits incentives program, 2) extending the focus on local incentives (while underscoring how ineffective this level of incentives actually is at luring large-budget production), 3) encouraging increased private sector involvement, and 4) developing an entirely new program format. We are pleased to see here a reference to the COMPASS-initiated public-private partnership model put forward last year by Senator Annette Taddeo and appreciate that TaxWatch joins us in subscribing to a search outside-the-box for innovative new approaches and other “business-oriented” strategies as an advisable course forward for those of us trying to effectively resolve Florida’s motion picture muddle.
We understand that this work was compiled with the participation of trade association Film Florida, for which we express deep appreciation. Without a doubt, FloridaTaxWatch has produced an insightful analysis, giving all of us a rational and potent reference tool applicable at all levels of Florida government for use in the critical months ahead.
COMPASS Chair, Chris Ranung is twenty-plus years a filmworker and president of Local 477 of the I.A.T.S.E. – the AFL-CIO affiliated labor union that represents working crew in Florida: grips, lighting technicians, paint & scenic, wardrobe, construction and propmakers, craft service personnel, greens, set dressing, special effects technicians, sound mixers and sound department personnel, studio teachers, animal wranglers, first aid, the marine department and much more.
Chris believes ardently that Florida’s film community – its actors, working crew, production teams, supplementary personnel, support businesses – ranks among the best in the United States. He sees COMPASS as the necessary vehicle to reinvigorate production and restore jobs, revenue, and dignity to the Florida men and women who work in motion picture production and the Florida small businesses that sustain this historically important Florida industry.