Bill expanding Florida filmmaking incentives clears committee

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 5:19 pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Legislation that would encourage movie and TV production across Florida -- and especially on the Suncoast -- has cleared a Florida Senate committee. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Nancy Detert of Venice, has the potential to be a strong economic boost for the local and state economy.

Ringling College of Art and Design is one of the top 25 film schools in the nation according to the Hollywood Reporter, but both film students and professors say Florida lacks in opportunity once school is over. They believe senator Detert's bill could provide the opportunity for a more permanent film industry in the state.

"We're training young filmmakers who want to be a part of the film industry, and have a lot to offer the film industry, but aren't interested in moving across the country,' says C.J. Julian, a film teacher at Ringing College.

Krystal Boersen grew up in Florida with a passion for film. Now a film student at Ringing, Boersen believes the new, stricter incentives could help Florida become the next California when it comes to film.

"We have pastures, we have forests, we have cities, we have the ocean and it's not taken advantage of,” Boersen say. “California and New York have been exhausted."

Senator Deter is pushing Senate Bill 1640, which focuses on creating more permanency for the film industry in the state by preventing the available funds from getting used up in a short amount of time. The bill would also extend the current incentive program until the year 2020, and provide $50 million annually in additional tax credits while also granting more tax breaks to film companies and crews establishing themselves in the state for a long period of time. There are also incentives for filming in underutilized counties and hiring Florida residents.

"Florida is a great place to live and work, and so you start to build an infrastructure,” says Bradley Battersby, the head of the digital film department at Ringling. “You start to build a crew base."

Those in opposition are concerned over where the money will come from, but Battersby believes making Florida a production hub will positively affect the economy by providing in-state jobs state and bringing in more tourism.

For now, SB 1640 still has to go through the legislative chambers, and it remains an open question as to where the funds for the incentives will come from. Senator Detert says she is focused on tracking down that money.

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