The word on the street, again.

The word on the street, again, is that yet another made-for-Florida project will not be produced-in-Florida. Even though it was our Florida production crew and their great work on the pilot that helped create a winning look for this sexy drama, it looks like “Grand Hotel” is California bound after all. The network recently announced its pick-up of the episodic without even giving a nod to its Sunshine State origin and seductive Miami Beach locations.

Here’s the pilot; check out what we’re losing.

We applaud the City of Miami Beach for making “Grand Hotel” the first recipient of its production incentive; however, $10,000 is simply not enough to convince ABC execs to shoot where the real action is. Will we get the occasional pick-up days á la “CSI Miami?” More than likely, especially if the show continues to use the beautiful Fontainebleu Hotel for background. But somehow we have to bust out of this cycle of getting just bits and pieces. Perhaps this would be a good time for South Florida’s business community to step up to the plate with some out-of-the-box ideas. Any chance of that happening?

Tampa keeps it alive

Paul Guzzo’s article yesterday in the Tampa Bay Times sheds light on a couple of factors that remain favorable to Florida filmmaking in this era of rampant film incentives and runaway production. “Who books 42,000 room nights in Hillsborough?” focuses on hard numbers, specifically the results produced by interim film commission Tyler Martinolich who has notably upped revenue from commercials shot in Hillsborough County. Because of similar efforts across the state, Florida is still a go-to location for big-budget commercials, which – if wisely promoted – can go a long way toward curbing the collapse of our endangered production infrastructure.

Counties like Hillsborough that are willing to put skin in the game – Miami Dade, Pinellas, and Palm Beach counties also come to mind – ensure that there will be crew and support businesses ready to meet rising demand when we can find a way to make that happen. Couple these with forward-thinking film commissioners like Martinolich who look for local production sectors that can be nurtured and enhanced, and we can hold some hope that our production infrastructure will be kept from evaporating entirely.

This article emphasizes, however, that commercials can’t do it all. Real growth requires the economic shot-in-the-arm that only sustained feature film and episodic television production can generate. Thankfully for all of us in the Florida film community, a growing number of counties appear to grasp the importance of keeping the Sunshine State in the filmmaking game. Because of this, Florida is still on the global radar for motion picture production.

Looking ahead

The facts speak for themselves in this good article from Florida Today, “Should ‘Florida’ movies be made outside Florida?” However, it’s certainly debatable whether outgoing Governor Rick Scott “has been a fairly good producer for the film and entertainment industry in the Sunshine State.”

Our state continues to get its clock cleaned, losing Florida-themed shows and millions of production dollars to incentives havens across the country, in particular Georgia and California. The downside began under Rick Scott’s tenure and has only accelerated over recent years due to the tenacity of conservative opposition, the bull-headedness of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and the unwillingness of our Governor – at any point over his two long terms – to make a stand and defend this historically important Florida industry.

So what’s the moral of this story? Look ahead everybody . . . to November.

Reporter Wayne T. Price makes a key point in his article by asserting that “a looming question for the industry is where dozens of new legislators and a new governor will stand on incentives for Florida’s film and entertainment industry.” Who the new governor and those new legislators will be is up to us. In just six months we can help our industry by voting in the mid-term elections. So it’s now time for every advocate of Florida film to look locally, evaluate upcoming primaries, and identify and support state Senate and House candidates who will work on our behalf.

And it’s now time to look statewide, to identify and support a candidate for governor who will fight for us.

The next six months is our critical window to meet potential candidates in person and grill them on where they stand – will they fight for our jobs, will they help rebuild our infrastructure, do they believe in us? Then we must take it one step further: ultimately when we decide which ones warrant our support, that support must be active and visible.

Once again, it’s election season in Florida. The work is just beginning.

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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