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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Politics

Tampa would see quick results if state OKs film incentives

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TAMPA — Florida’s film and television industry has been lobbying for the state Legislature to allocate $200 million in tax incentives a year through 2020 — a total of $1 billion — to help lure major productions to the state.

The House of Representatives agreed will discuss just that. The Florida Senate will consider about one-fourth that amount.

House Bill 983 sponsored by Republican Hialeah Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. proposes the full $200 million.

Bill 2014 offered $50 million. The Senate bill does not yet have a sponsor. It will be discussed in the Committee on Commerce and Tourism.

Industry leaders expect the final dollar amount to fall somewhere in between but even the lower figure represents an increase over funding that had been planned and would provide enough to pay immediate dividends in Tampa.

Producers of the feature film “The Infiltrator” want to film in the city. The story is based on the book “The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel,” written by Robert Mazur of Tampa.

It is the real-life story of Mazur’s two-year investigation as an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration posing as a Tampa-based businessman. The case helped bring down a major international financial institution that had laundered tens of millions of dollars for Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug dealer.

The production already is in the state’s queue of films awaiting tax incentives.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said as long as lawmakers allocate even $30 million in new incentives, “The Infiltrator” would get its share and filming would take place in Tampa.

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The state allocated $296 million in film incentives for 2012-16 but all the money was spent just a year into the four-year cycle.

“The Infiltrator” was slated to begin production in March but is on hold waiting for a decision on new tax incentives.

“I am cautiously optimistic that new incentives will be granted,” Hagan said.

Despite the $150 million difference between the two proposals facing the two houses, Gus Corbella, advisory council chairman with the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment, also is optimistic that a happy medium will be found.

Corbella’s organization is the state economic development office for feature films and television productions.

Corbella said the Senate’s “overall philosophy has always been more conservative with incentive programs,” which he learned from discussions with Republican Sen. Nancy Detert of Venice, chairwoman of the Committee on Commerce and Tourism.

Corbella said he hopes both houses will see “that a substantial investment in the film industry will only create a larger financial impact on the state.

He pointed to a recent report commissioned by the Motion Picture of Association of America showing that 23 percent of “leisure visitors” to Florida consider that viewing a movie or television series filmed in the state was very important of extremely important in their decision to come here.

What’s more, the study said, the state receives $5.60 to $20.50 in tax revenues for every dollar of tax credit provided to a film or television production.

“You’d be hard pressed to find another industry with those kind of numbers,” said Dale Gordon, executive director of the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission

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“Dolphin Tale” illustrates the economic impact film can have on a community.

In August 2012, the USF St. Petersburg College of Business released a study that estimated 73 percent of all visitors to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium — the backdrop for the film — do so because of the film.

The study also estimated that the economic impact of “Dolphin Tale” on the Clearwater and St. Petersburg area would reach $5 billion.

Last year, Florida lawmakers allocated $5 million in state money as incentives for making a sequel to the movie here.

The recent Motion Picture of Association of America study also addresses employment effects, concluding that from 2010 through 2013 tax incentives for film and television helped created 190,681 jobs in Florida with an average salary of $70,811.

To further entice “The Infiltrator” to the area, Commissioner Hagan is proposing a special county tax incentive.

“The Infiltrator” has a tentative budget of $47.5 million. How much would be spent in Florida is unknown.

The Legislature’s 2014 session convenes Tuesday.

“Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” said Gordon.

“We could have gotten nothing. If we fall somewhere in between the $50 million and $200 million, I think that lands us in a really good place.”

pguzzo@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7606

How to sound off

HB 983/SB 2014 would allocate $50 million to $200 million in state money, under certain conditions, as incentives for film and TV producers to shoot their projects in Florida.

The sponsors include Republican Hialeah Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., Manny.Diaz@myfloridahouse.gov or (850) 717-5103

To find and contact your own senator or representative, visit www.leg.state.fl.us. You’ll also find helpful tips at the Information Center there.

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