State Politics

Legislators seek to showcase Fla. on film

MANATEE — If you saw “Marley and Me,” a film featuring scenes of a goofy dog enjoying daily runs along a gorgeous Florida beach, you’ll understand why legislators are discussing how best to lure film and video production companies to the state.

“Of course, our big hit was ‘Marley & Me.’ That was pretty super, filmed in Fort Lauderdale,” said state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, a co-sponsor of legislation designed to attract the entertainment industry. “Plus, it’s such a great free ad for the state of Florida.”

Detert’s bill, Senate Bill 350, is among Florida’s latest attempts to attract a greater share of the entertainment business as competing states ramp up their offerings.

The legislation would convert the existing incentive from a cash reimbursement based on a company’s expenditures to a transferable credit the company could claim against sales and corporate income taxes, according to a staff analysis of the bill.

“My goal is to not just offer tax incentives to make one film, but to attract the entire industry for full-time film-making,” the senator said. “This is one of the few industries we can promise to provide a fully educated work force.”

In addition to postcard-perfect scenery and an enviable climate, Florida is blessed with many film schools, such as Sarasota’s Ringling College of Art and Design, the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Florida State University in Tallahassee, Detert noted.

Many famous film stars already own homes here and would like to work here as well, she added.

“I’m sure if we offer the right kinds of financing, they’d make films here, and that’s the direction we need to move. We need to be job creators instead of talking about cutting everything,” Detert explained.

“Those are all high-wage jobs and great for Florida.”

Whether almost $20 million in incentives the state has appropriated in years past will still be part of the package is as yet undecided because of the dearth of money available this year due to recession, said Detert.

“Our biggest competition is other states. Everybody would like to have film-making, so our biggest competitor in prior years was Louisiana because they can make Louisiana look like Florida, and they get paid for going to Louisiana,” said Detert. “They put $70 million in their fund; we had $20 million.”

Despite a huge budget deficient, California came up with $100 million to try to hang onto its film industry, she said.

Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, is among the co-sponsors of a companion bill in the state House of Representatives.

Detert predicted the bills would win passage before the end of the legislative session May 1.

“I would think this one is a very easy bill to pass,” said Detert, the Senate’s majority whip.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908 or at skennedy@bradenton.com

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