From Orlando Business Journal – by Richard Bilbao, Staff Writer (May 20, 2011)
Lights, camera, action — and lots of it.
That’s the message from state lawmakers who OK’d major funding upgrades to the state’s film incentive program in the just-ended 2011 legislative session. In fact, Florida’s film and digital media industries not only came out unscathed from budgetary cuts, but actually left Tallahassee with more money. House Bill 143, also known as Economic Development, green-lighted several items for the state’s five-year, $242 million industry tax credit program that was created last year:
• It increased the industry’s state funding for the tax credit program from $38 million to $50 million per year for the next three years.
• It created two 5 percent tax credit bonuses if most of an approved film or project’s production uses a Florida facility for things such as sound synchronizing, filming and editing.
• Productions will be eligible for an additional 15 percent in credits if they hire new graduates and allow students to participate in the production as a learning experience.
The state of Florida experienced $17.9 billion in gross domestic product from the film industry in 2007, the most recent data from the governor’s office. More than 207,000 direct and indirect jobs are related to the film industry in Florida.
“This new legislation shows the long-term effort of the state” to make Florida a film production haven, said Suzy Spang, vice president of film and entertainment technology with the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.
Central Florida has been the location for several feature films and television productions, including The Blair Witch Project, Monster, SeaQuest DSV and the upcoming Transformers: Dark of the Moon film being released this summer.
Since its 2010 launch, the film incentive program has been a boon for many local industry business owners, including Mark Simon, founder of Orlando-based A&S Animation Inc. “We’ve seen an increase in production at our office as a direct result of that incentive program, so that is cash in our pockets.”
For example, in February, Simon was one of more than 100 local film professionals called upon for the filming of Tooth Fairy 2, which starred comedian Larry the Cable Guy.
In addition, the incentives embrace the digital media industry that has proven to be as successful locally — if not more — than the film industry, said Craig Hagen, North America director of government affairs for Electronic Arts, which has an Orlando studio. “This is a reflection of legislators’ commitment to the creation of high-skill, high-wage jobs in Florida that will contribute to the creation of a more digital media presence in the state.”
Pamela Tuscany, vice president and general manager of the Universal Studios Florida Production Group, called the legislation a huge step. “It’s wonderful that we’re in the game now of attracting productions. Now, it’s time to get the word out that the jobs and infrastructure are here. We are open for business.”
What this means to you
• More local investment in film productions creates jobs and new companies.
• Increases the attractiveness of Florida as a destination that can attract or steal major feature films from other states.
• Film crews can consist of several hundred people who would spend money at local shops, restaurants and hotels.