Florida TaxWatch releases report on Florida film

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.

A Tale of Four Governor-elects

Here’s an article published last week in IndieWire that is a real tough read for Florida’s film community. In “Elections 2018: How the Midterm Results Could Impact Film and TV Production,” writer Chris O’Falt takes a look at four states – Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, and California – from a post-midterm governor’s race perspective. While it’s comforting that O’Falt still considers our state a “major production hub,” the reality is that a new Florida Governor named DeSantis will certainly side with his Republican legislative leadership and not be inclined to push for any changes to the status quo. In whatever guise, under whatever name, any kind of tax dollar giveaway is not likely to get much traction under a DeSantis regime.

Not so with the other three highlighted regions. Georgia’s run on the bank looks sure to continue, although a Kemp administration founded on voter suppression and favoring LGBTQ discrimination holds the potential for a major Hollywood change of heart as regards continuing production in such a repressive environment. With an incoming Democratic governor and the recent Netflix selection of Albuquerque as a production hub, it looks like New Mexico is once again in the catbird’s seat. And California? Will Governor-elect Gavin Newsom take a $1.55 billion program and make it even bigger? Anything is possible in the Land of Milk and Honey.

Just goes to show that Sunshine Staters have to find a different sandbox in which to play. There’s no two ways about it, we must develop something new, something outside-the-box, then start from scratch and build it from there. This coming year will define whether we have the imagination, the will, and the energy to meet the challenge. Not impassible, but surely a bumpy boulder-strewn road lies ahead.

Hollywood is paying attention

An article released yesterday by Deadline Hollywood writer and astute observer of all things film-related David Robb focuses on Florida’s gubernatorial contest between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis. In “Fate of Florida’s Decimated Film Industry Might Hang on Governor’s Race,” Robb measures Mayor Gillum’s repeated expressions of support for film in Florida against the consistent no comments from candidate DeSantis and, by so doing, alerts the outside world that a Gillum election clearly bodes well for the future of filmmaking in the Sunshine State.

The writer does point out, however, that rebuilding our shattered industry will not be easy for Gillum as Governor, especially in the face of continuing ideological opposition to tax incentives in what is expected to remain a Republican-dominated state legislature. Yet in his concluding paragraph David Robb quotes Film Florida executive director John Lux, who says ” . . . we look to the new Legislative Leadership in Tallahassee to have an open mind . . . ”

This is exactly what is needed, what everyone is working so hard to accomplish through meetings with incumbents and challengers of both political parties and, now just six days out from Election Day, what we’re all beginning to sense may actually be possible. New leaders, new opportunities, a new start.

Chris Ranung with Mayor Andrew Gillum

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.

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