Film Florida hosting Tallahassee reception as it fights to preserve film programs

Lawmakers are considering ending three programs that support the entertainment industry.

House Speaker Paul Renner has placed Enterprise Florida (EFI) on the chopping block, but it’s not the only economic development program imperiled under a new bill sponsored by Rep. Tiffany Esposito.

In addition to axing EFI, the Fort Myers Republican’s proposal (HB 5) would shut down three programs that support the state’s film and television production industry: the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment (State Film Commission), the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption Program (STE) and the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council (FFEAC).

These programs have faced potential elimination before, but previous efforts were thwarted by legislative supporters and industry groups such as the trade association Film Florida.

Film Florida said it supports lawmakers looking at all state programs to ensure they are effective, and is convinced they will find the State Film Commission, STE and FFEAC have delivered — and their repeal would negatively impact the state and the industry.

Members of the Film Florida board of directors are in Tallahassee this week to communicate their concerns as well as host a reception Wednesday evening at the Historic Capitol in the Senate Chambers. The event will feature special guests Glen Roberts, the Chief of Entertainment Media for the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as Catherine Bell, an actress, producer and Florida resident known for productions including “JAG,” “Army Wives” and “The Good Witch.”

“Florida’s Film and Television Production Industry has a long history of working with our military, so what better way to highlight that than to have a real-life industry professional from the Department of Defense as well as an extremely accomplished Florida resident that has played multiple military roles on screen,” Film Florida Executive Director John Lux said.

The reception coincides with concerns about HB 5.

“We applaud the Florida House for examining these programs, but what they will find is that if the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption Program is eliminated, it will constitute a tax increase on Florida’s small businesses,” Lux said.

Film Florida noted about five out of six applicants for the sales tax exemption program during the current fiscal year have five or fewer full-time employees.

Lux continued, “This would be a tax increase not just on small businesses in Florida, but micro-businesses. At a time where most everything is more expensive than it was just a few years ago, a tax increase would be challenging.”

Film Florida stressed that beneficiaries of the tax exemption program extend beyond the direct industry. When a carpenter, electrician, painter, dry cleaner or food truck owner work on a project, select project-related expenses are tax-exempt.

According to Film Florida, the State Film Commission facilitated more than 2,132 productions last fiscal year, converting 1,788 into new business for Florida (an 83.3% success rate). The Office works to make Florida more business-friendly by cutting red tape and aiding in location, permitting, employment, service providers, industry association, and insurance requirements necessary to do business in Florida.

Film Florida said without a State Film Commission, the question is who will answer the phone or respond to the 2,000-plus inquiries from people wanting to produce content in the Sunshine State.

Finally, the FFEAC consists of members appointed by the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker. Appointees are unpaid volunteers, and the council has an operating budget of $0 while providing guidance and support to the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment.

Film Florida said it will continue to advocate for policies that will grow and strengthen the industry by trying to attract projects that could be done in California, Georgia, New York and Texas and bring them to Florida.

“There’s no better way to stick it to our competitors than to take high-wage jobs that would be in their state and provide them to taxpaying Florida residents and Florida-based small businesses,” Lux said.

The first stop for HB 5 is the House Commerce Committee. The measure does not have a Senate companion.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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