Florida stops funding film incentives, Georgia poised to benefit

By David Pendered

Florida is bracing for a slowdown in the film industry because the state Legislature voted in June to stop funding tax incentives. Georgia is winning some of the business, and the shift underscores Gov. Nathan Deal’s trade mission to Hollywood in May, and to England in January.

Ride Along 2

“Ride Along 2” filmed scenes in Atlanta after shortening its stay in Florida because that state stopped funding incentives for the film industry, according to a published report. Credit: projectcasting.com

Florida started its incentive program in 2010. The state allotted almost $300 million and it was supposed to last five years. Demand was so great that all funds were allocated by 2014.

The Florida Legislature rejected proposals to replenish the fund in 2014 and, again, in June rejected a request for $10 million to $20 million, according to a report in miamiherald.com.

The report quoted Graham Winick, the film and event production manager for the city of Miami Beach, who cited three productions that have moved elsewhere or could move elsewhere.

One of the movies Winick said shortened its stay in Florida is “Ride Along 2,” starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. Director Tim Story shot exteriors in Miami and then moved to Atlanta to film other scenes.

The future for Florida’s film industry doesn’t look bright, Winick said:

Sunset Tower

Gov. Nathan Deal attended a reception for leaders of the film industry at the legendary Sunset Tower Hollywood, which offers views from this terrace. Credit: sunsetowerhotel.com

  • “We got two weeks instead of two months with those movies. We lost the (upcoming TV series) ‘Rosewood’ from Fox (starring Morris Chestnut as a Miami pathologist) to L.A. We lost an NBC show called ‘The Fuentes Sisters’ that is going to Puerto Rico now. The ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ series is finally proceeding with TNT, but it could also go to Puerto Rico. ‘Bloodline’ (the Netflix series set in the Keys) is coming back for season two, but this industry we’ve been building for 40 years is going to go away unless we do something now.”

Georgia, on the other hand, is aggressively courting the film industry.

Deal traveled to Hollywood in May to participate in “Georgia Night in L.A.” The reception was staged at the historic Sunset Tower Hollywood on May 21, according to a report in latimes.com:

  • “We think it’s a just good way for us to … say thank you to the industry for their presence and their economic impact on our state and to get to know them on a personal basis,” Deal was quoted in the report.

    Gov. Nathan Deal

    Gov. Nathan Deal

  • “Most people are convinced that it’s a good investment for our state,” Deal said in the report. “It’s good for Georgia and it’s good for business.”

The Sunset Tower has been a landmark on Sunset Strip since it opened in 1931. Stars who lived there include Elizabeth Taylor, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra and John Wayne. Prices for a room for two start at $346 a night, for a room with a queen bed, and top out at $2,000 a night for a suite.

The West Coast trip followed Deal’s visit to England in January, where he met with executives with Pinewood Studios, one of the largest film studios in the world and a partner in the development of Pinewood Atlanta Studios, near Fayetteville.

  • “They have six sound stages that have been completed, and five more are in the works,” Deal told saportareport.com. “They are very happy in Georgia. We have assured them that we will continue to be good hosts for them.”

Georgia offers a film tax credit of 30 percent of qualified production costs, including salaries for actors and crew. Georgia does not cap the limit on credits provided each year. Studios sometimes sell the credits to wealthy Georgians who are seeking a tax break. Studios benefit by getting paid more quickly than if they had to wait for a refund from the state, according to a 2013 story in latimes.com.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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