Joe Gruters again seeks to revive Florida’s film industry with incentive program
Joe Gruters

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Will this help bring productions back from Georgia?

Sen. Joe Gruters has filed a fresh take on film incentives. But will this year’s bill make the cut?

The Sarasota Republican on Tuesday filed the latest legislation (SB 946) to offer a financial incentive for the film industry to shoot in the Sunshine State. His bill, as filed, calls for creation of a “Targeted High Wage Production Program,” a performance-based program to be overseen by Florida’s Film Commissioner.

It’s Gruters’ latest attempt to reinvigorate Florida filmmaking, an industry with wages 60% higher than the state average and one that produced family-friendly content presenting Florida in the best possible light — studio lights, that is.

Film leaders in Florida hope this will be the key to bring more film back to Florida.

John Lux, executive director for Film Florida, said he was “extremely pleased that someone with the stature of the Chair of the Republican Party of Florida supports the industry enough to file a bill in support.”

“The bill is excellent and would do a lot to bring high paying jobs to Florida for our residents,” Lux said. “The bill has great minimums for required spending and Floridians hired along with a minimum for veterans being part of the cast and crew. Those points are the same as in previous years.”

The program as imagined in the legislation would offer tax credits to film productions, but only if they meet certain criteria. Only film or digital media projects with a budget of $1.5 million or more and television shows with an episode budget of $500,000 or more (and producing at least seven episodes) could apply.

But to receive the credits, a production must have at least 60% of its cast and crew be Florida residents with at least one military veteran on payroll, and 70% of production must take place in the state. Filmmakers must promise a good faith effort to employ local providers for equipment and other costs whenever possible.

Like a proposal filed by Gruters last Session, the program would offer value worth 20% of a project cost or $2 million, whichever is less. But Gruters is using a tax credit model instead of a rebate as in past versions of the bill.

Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Fort Pierce Republican, has already filed companion legislation in the House (HB 217), still using rebates.

“From an industry perspective, a tax credit or a rebate are both industry standards,” Lux said. “Legislatively speaking, we believe the tax credit in the Senate offers additional flexibility, which we support as our goal is to pass a bill.”

Gruters, who has worked to reinvigorate a film program for years, has held off until now out of a desire to improve last year’s legislation and finally get something that can pass in the Legislature.

Florida had a program a decade ago after budgeting $300 million on a first-come, first-serve basis, an incentive to filmmakers that quickly made Florida the No. 3 state in the union for film production. But the money quickly ran out.

Meanwhile, other Southern states, most notably Georgia, have offered continuing financial rewards to studios and grown production substantially, often at Florida’s direct expense. Production started this year on a show called “Florida Man” set in Florida but shot in North Carolina. Meanwhile, shows like HBO’s “Ballers” started with primary production in Florida but left the state when the incentives ran dry.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Concern Citizen

    November 18, 2021 at 10:01 am

    Looks like socialism to me. What is next? Giving money for child care or more benefits to those on Social Security.

Comments are closed.


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