At a quarterly meeting last week, leaders for Film Florida decided to hold the organization’s annual meeting in Sarasota. The event, tentative slated for late June, will bring the biggest voices in film to this area for an annual awards event and to discuss its policy agenda. Of course, one of those voices is here full time. Jeanne Corcoran, Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office director and co-chair for the Florida Film Commissioners Council, spoke with SRQ about Film Florida’s policy focus in the coming year.
What is the top priority of Film Florida right now as far as state policy? Our biggest concern is getting the incentive program revamped, revitalized and replenished. We know there will be an entirely new kind of program when we see it again, and will now see if we can get the [state] House and Senate on board and get something the governor will sign. In the past five years, it has been a tax credit rebate program, and prior to five years ago it was a cash rebate. It’s a very cyclical nature of incentives that they change, and it looks like we may be going back to a cash rebate, but until we see the bill there is no way to know. Right now we have Sen. Nancy Detert as a champion in the Senate and Rep. Michael Miller is the champion in the House. I know Sen. Detert and Rep. Miller are both focused on this being a very conservative program, perhaps one of the most conservative film bills in the United States. Some states give 30, 34, 40 percent in whatever format an incentive is crafted. Ours would probably not exceed 20 percent.
Will that still allow us to compete with states like Georgia? Georgia is really a leader nationwide across all states for incentives, and is taking the bulk of business from other states like us that have temperate climates, beaches, jungles. Nobody is doing the numbers Georgia is doing. But people need to understand Florida has a different structure in its finances. Florida is a mandatory balanced-budget state, which means we can’t spend more on paper than we get in a fiscal year. A lot of states are not restricted in that way.
What else is Film Florida doing to attract projects? A lot of businesses are lined up and eager to come here. Right now, even with the current program, which has no tax credits left, we have 40 projects on a waiting list. That’s pretty flattering. So we feel very privileged that so many have come to us, and that this state has opportunities for individuals. We want more people to become a part of Film Florida to make it a success. We find strength in numbers. Growing our membership in the number of individual people–contractors, self-employed people, gaffers, electricians, etc.– we know the more people we have working together, the stronger a voice we will have in the Legislature.