This past Friday was a monumental day for the Film & Entertainment industry in Florida. For the first time in many years, a bill passed in Tallahassee that will put the industry back on the worldwide map when it comes to work. I moved to Central Florida in April 1998. About a month after I started working for this company (at that time we were part of Disney), until Thanksgiving of 2001, we had at least one television project in the building at almost all times. It was Petsburgh, then Donna’s Day, then Good Dog U, then season 2 of Petsburgh, then season 2 of Donna’s Day, then Dooley & Pals, then Sheena then season 2 of Sheena. I may have actually forgotten one or two in there as well. And that’s just what we worked on, not to mention everyone at Universal and other projects that we didn’t work on but were at Disney (Instinct, From the Earth to the Moon, Mortal Kombat, etc.). My point is, there was broadcast work coming out of our ears.
Then it all stopped. I’m not sure what year it was when the state of Florida decided to stop offering incentives to the entertainment industry but it was within a year of September 11, 2001. The combination of those two events devastated the industry in Central Florida and I’m assuming the entire state. Since then our industry has been destroyed by the likes of Louisiana, North & South Carolina, New Mexico, Canada and a couple other places. Those places used direct cash rebate programs but the real key to their success was a tax credit program. In that time our business (our company) has changed a lot. We depend on traditional entertainment far less than in those days. But that doesn’t mean we don’t miss it and want it back. It has taken a number of years and a lot of pain & suffering but Florida is now back in the ballgame by joining the tax credit parade.
Productions can earn up to 30% back based on the criteria, instantly making Florida a choice destination for productions. In this budget-sensitive time that we live in the beauty of tax credit process is that it costs little if anything to the state. My sense is that the bulk of the cost the state is going to incur is going to come from increase in staffing to deal with all the people applying for the tax credits for the many productions that will be coming to Florida.
Since Friday I’ve read how this budget was cut and that budget was cut in the state. At the same time, through a non-cash commitment, the film & entertainment industry was resurrected. Just in the last couple days the film office here in Orlando has seen a significant increase in inquiries about shooting in Central Florida. Who knows where all of this ends up. A year or two from now Florida may be the hottest place to shoot, just like it was 12 years ago. Or maybe this time next year we’ll be sitting around trying to figure out how to get people here. There’s no way to really know but if the past is any indication (the 1990’s) and the recent interest plays out, we will look back on April 30, 2010 as the first day of the rest of our life in the film & entertainment industry. Thanks to everyone in the industry who helped make it happen and to all of the politicians who pushed it through.