Lights, camera, Tampa Bay! Florida is experiencing something of a film renaissance. From critical hits like Tangerine, The Florida Project, and Moonlight, to recent major releases like Waves, and the celebrated TV drama David Makes Man, the spotlight is on Florida, and specifically Florida stories.
Don’t worry, I’m not ignoring Florida’s long film history. You can see parts of the Sunshine State in the cult classic flick The Creature from The Black Lagoon, and in Tim Burton’s opus Edward Scissorhands.
Another more recent project starring Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick Jr. filmed in St. Petersburg and Tampa earlier in 2019. You can see an interview with the stars of I Saw a Man with Yellow Eyes shot in downtown Tampa here.
The director of The Blair Witch Project also has a series set to film in historic Ybor City next year. You can learn all about the show, some details about episode 1, and see its creepy poster in a report by the Tampa Bay Times.
Retaining talent in the Sunshine State
Academic institutions such as The University of Tampa and Florida State University, in addition to an emerging production department at Eckerd College, are producing some of the leading talent in the industry. For some time, it seemed those gifted and ambitious students had to leave Florida if they wanted to cut their teeth in the film industry.
Where do they go? Georgia, the Hollywood of the South.
The state of Georgia provided nearly $800 million in tax credits back in 2017. The next year, the productions those credits lured in poured $2 billion into the state of Georgia, according to a report from U.S. News & World Report.
Recently, Georgia’s governor boasted a record year for film in the state. He claims that 399 productions generated an economic impact of $3 billion.
Hillsborough takes a DIY approach to bringing in projects
While Florida officials continue to work out potential film tax incentives, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties have taken it upon themselves to bring the bright lights and buzz to their communities. The buzz comes with big bucks, too.
This last year, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties collectively brought in over $25M in film business, this is despite having no state backed incentives.
“Tampa bay has been and will continue to be one of the top commercial filming destinations in the state,” said Hillsborough Film Commissioner Tyler Martinolich. “[Tampa Bay] has taken a leadership role over the past year in helping to attract productions that otherwise would be shooting elsewhere.”
Growing median salaries in the film and digital media industry
439 companies are currently working in the film and digital media space in Tampa Bay. In Hillsborough, 232 companies employ an average of 1,123 people per year.
The median salary for these employees? $74,359.
That number is up from a median salary of $70,262 in fiscal year 2017/18.
It seems it won’t always fall on individual counties to pony up the cash to lure these projects to the state.
New rebate program proposed for Florida
Productions would need to meet a few key pieces of criteria in order to qualify for a rebate.
TV shows would need to spend at least $500,000 an episode, and film projects would need to have at least a $1.5 million production budget.
60% of the jobs on set would need to be set aside for Florida residents, and the production itself would need to spend 70% of its shooting days in Florida.
The bill next moves on to the Innovation, Industry, and Technology committee.
Impact of The Infiltrator
A prime example of the impact a production can have on the county is The Infiltrator.
In 2014, the Hillsborough County Comission put together a local incentive package amounting to $250,000 to lure The Infiltrator, a film based on the autobiography of the same name by Tampa resident Robert Mazur, to the city.
Good Films, a production company based out of Britain, spent eight days shooting portions of the film adaptation in the Tampa Bay area. The company originally wanted to film a bulk of the project in Tampa Bay but had to pull out when they could not get a $4 million pre-approved tax credit toward production.
HCP, a research marketing firm in Tampa, reports that in that eight day span the film had an economic impact of $957,020. The analysis found that Hillsborough took in $490,192 in direct expenditures, $145,942 of indirect spending, and $320,886 from an “induced effect” to the local economy.
Stay in the know
Are you a film fanatic in the state of Florida? Then I encourage you to keep up with all of the local film and digital media news by following Film Tampa Bay on Facebook. You can also keep up with state news by following Film Florida on social media.