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Detert Set To Call 'Action' On Film, TV Incentives

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TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Senate Commerce and Tourism Chairwoman Nancy Detert plans to continue trying to bolster Florida's film and television incentives program as a legislative report indicates the industry is in decline because of competition from Georgia and Louisiana.

Just don't expect Florida to offer more money than its rival states, the Venice Republican said.

Detert said she is revamping an incentives proposal that failed to pass during the 2014 legislative session.

"Everybody who has a vested interest will be telling me their great idea, and I have my own great idea, and we'll see who wins," Detert said.

Her 2014 proposal would have made about $200 million a year in tax credits available to production crews. The House had its own proposal, offering $50 million a year in incentives to the industry. That proposal also failed to advance.

The efforts were to be an addition to a 2010 package in which the Legislature allotted $296 million for film and television. That money was quickly designated to 351 different projects out of nearly 700 applicants, and no additional funding has been approved.

The incentives program holds the money or tax credits until work has been completed. So far, 142 of the projects have received money, totaling $114.3 million.

Detert's committee will hear a presentation Tuesday on the entertainment-industry financial incentive program. Similar discussions are underway in the House, where Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said no decisions have been made regarding incentives for film and TV production.

"They will need to work through the committee process and clearly demonstrate to our members that the public is getting a positive return on the investment of their tax dollars in terms of creating jobs," Crisafulli said.

Rep. Mike Miller, R-Winter Park, is heading the House effort to review film and television incentives.

Still, film industry backers hope this year will be better than the past couple of legislative sessions as Crisafulli, Miller and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, all represent Central Florida, where Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are among the largest employers.

Gus Corbella, chairman of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council and a lobbyist with Greenberg Traurig, said legislative leaders have been educated about the amount of work and jobs Florida has missed out on and lost to other states by not offering incentives.

"Without the money you have a beautiful car with no wheels on it," Corbella said. "Film and television and other entertainment products and projects are like road projects. They take multiple years to plan, to write, to location scout, and the industry needs to have the certainty to know that Florida isn't going to be in it for $100 million one year, then be out the next year. That roller coaster creates great uncertainty and it works against us."

Detert's committee meeting comes after a report from the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, evaluating the state's economic-development programs, found that production crews are opting to film outside of Florida. The reason is because the Sunshine State's tax-credit program is not as generous as other states.

The report added that as crews go outside Florida to shoot, with Georgia and Louisiana the strongest competition for production projects, employment by Florida's historically strong film and entertainment industry is in decline.

"Other competing states offer more robust incentives than those provided in Florida," the report, posted Jan. 1, said. "Industry stakeholders identified Georgia and Louisiana, due to their proximity and generous incentive programs, as Florida's strongest competitors for production projects."

Industry representatives and local film commissioners told staff putting together the report that the annual allocations should be between $50 million and $200 million.

"While the lowest amount is significantly less than incentives offered by other states, some stakeholders believe it is enough to make Florida competitive," the report said.

The Florida Office of Film and Entertainment, in its annual report for 2013-2014, estimated the recipients of incentives spent $1.5 billion in the state and created roughly 172,000 jobs.

Tax credits have gone to shows such as "Magic City," "The Glades" and "Burn Notice," all of which have since ended production, as well as to ongoing telenovelas created by Telemundo, Univision and Cisneros Media Distribution.

Industry officials most often talk about the 2011 movie "Dolphin Tale," which received $5 million from the state. Production resulted in 1,288 jobs, which paid $7.5 million in wages, spread another $9.4 million into local businesses for food and rentals, and has spurred local tourism to the point that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where the film was partially produced, has made expansion plans.

"The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report."

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