LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Money does change everything. Especially in the entertainment industry.
Ken Sanborn’s television show “Miami 24/7” has pushed its start date back several months and morphed into a movie in order to qualify for a $700,000 tax credit. Five-hundred Floridians could land jobs from the production. Meanwhile, four Sanborn employees have been let go temporarily because business is slow.
The founder/chief executive officer of Lakewood Ranch-based Sanborn Studios LLC said “Miami 24/7” -- currently listed as being in pre-production on the studio’s website -- would be expanded from a 60-minute pilot to a 90-minute feature film, but would be marketed as a TV series, as well.
The program about competing helicopter news teams starring Casper Van Dien (“Starship Troopers”) had originally been scheduled to shoot from June 20 to Oct. 14, according to The Florida Office of Film & Entertainment website, filminflorida.com.
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“The state changed a rule and now we will be able to receive a new credit made available for feature films,” Sanborn said when he called the Herald on Friday afternoon.
The latest version of the Florida Film & Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program also became effective Friday.
Alan Bailey, chief financial office at Sanborn Studios, explained how restrictions on the availability of Florida production incentive money for new television series and pilots prompted the change.
“I know that for sure, unfortunately as of today, Film in Florida cannot certify any new TV series or pilots for the current 2011/12 fiscal year through June 30, 2012,” Bailey wrote. “They are maxed out in the category of TV series!
“However there is still available incentive money for the other categories of motion picture, digital production and commercials production. Accordingly, ‘Miami 24/7’ was repositioned and has qualified as a motion picture production for later this year. (It) can be used as the ‘pilot’ for a subsequent TV series when funds do become available again under the Film in Florida production incentive program.”
A copy of a June 15 letter addressed to Ken Sanborn, on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott, states that “your production is qualified for a tax credit up to $708,963 at an approved rate of 20 percent, based upon $3,544,818 in qualified Florida expenditures, as defined by Section 288.1254 Florida Statutes,” which is an entertainment industry financial incentive program passed by Florida lawmakers last year.
Sanborn emailed the document to the Herald.
“Miami 24/7 The Movie” is scheduled to shoot from Nov. 18 to Feb. 1, according to the project start/end date listed on the letter. As of June 15, Sanborn can accrue qualified expenditures applicable toward his total tax credit amount. Estimated jobs for Floridians is 531, but apparently not a requirement.
State Film Commissioner Lucia Fishburne was not at her office in Tallahassee on Friday and could not be reached. Jeanne Corcoran, director of the Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office was also traveling and unavailable for comment.
The production company for the movie is Miami 24/7 LLC. Its managers are Sanborn and Karinne Behr, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. The same two individuals are also the sole managers of Sanborn Studios LLC. Behr is the studio’s president.
“In regards to ‘Miami 24/7 The Movie,’ (it) is not owned by Sanborn Studios, it is owned by Miami 24/7, LLC,” Sanborn clarified. “ ‘Miami 24/7 The Movie’ is a potential customer of Sanborn Studios but it should be clearly understood that it does not have to shoot at Sanborn Studios because the intellectual property is not owned by Sanborn Studios, it is owned by a separate LLC, Miami 24/7.”
Sanborn also told the Herald on Friday about unpaid vacations for “four people out of a staff of 21.”
“It is customary in the film and television industry business for production companies to take a summer break and Sanborn Studios is giving four full-time employees the next two months off in preparation for the fall season,” his statement to the Herald reads. “However in fact, two of those employees will be working on a part-time basis next week on a job for NASA and as other jobs come up in the summer, these employees will also be given the opportunity to work on a case by case basis until the new season starts.”
Sarasota County officials were also made aware of the cutbacks at the studio.
“I got a call from Karinne Behr today that production was going to be reduced, coinciding with temporary reduction in their work force,” said Jeff Maultsby, manager of business and economic development, late Friday.
Last September, Sanborn Studios promised an economic boon of $164.2 million when fully functional in approximately five years and 117 new, full-time jobs over the next three years with an average salary of $72,000 with about 60 employees hired in the first year. The company also said it could eventually occupy 22 acres in the Lakewood Ranch area.
Sarasota County paid a $650,000 grant to Sanborn Studios and it officially opened in November.
Jeff Seward, Sarasota County’s chief financial planner, remains cautiously optimistic about the film and television company.
“They are still in compliance of the agreement and I don’t see this as anything contrary to what we agreed to,” he said. “I anticipate they will still fill their obligations.”
Seward then referenced the “claw back provisions” of the grant deal that outline retrieving Sarasota taxpayer money if Sanborn Studios ceases operations in the area within five years of the agreement.
Seward also mentioned the Sanborn update due in September.
“If we receive the annual report and they say they’ve created X amount of jobs we will then ask what is the plan to create additional jobs,” Seward said. “We are monitoring them and all grant recipients to keep up to speed on their job creation.”
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog at www.bradenton.com/blogs.