Why Aren't Films About Florida Shooting In Florida?

Feb 9, 2016

What's wrong with this picture? Parts of 'Dirty Grandpa,' starring Robert DeNiro and Aubrey Plaza, were set in Daytona Beach but shot in Savannah, Georgia.
Credit Lionsgate Films

Advice to Florida's recent film school graduates: if you want to make a living, pack up and move to another state.

Two Florida film schools are on The Hollywood Reporter's list of 25 best in the country: the film programs at Florida State University and the Ringling College of Art and Design. But film industry advocates warn that if any more big-budget movies leave Florida, the negative impact on the state's film industry will be, well, epic.

Part of the problem is that the state's incentive program for film and television is tapped out. In 2010, the Florida Legislature set aside nearly $300 million in tax credits for film, TV and video production to be awarded only after production had wrapped. It was supposed to last for five years, but about 312 projects (some of them blockbusters like "Ironman 3") stepped up for a piece and the fund ran out of money quickly.  

(Click the graphic below to enlarge.)

Credit Film Florida

Although those 312 film and TV productions added nearly $4.1 billion to Florida’s gross state product, attractive tax incentives from other states are increasingly driving production out of Florida.  

The fact that film versions of stories set in Florida are being shot everywhere but in the Sunshine State has outraged many in the state's film industry. Perhaps the most galling loss to Florida film advocates was "The Unknowns -- Talent Is Colorblind" now shooting in Georgia. The movie tells the story of Florida's Highwaymen, a group of black painters who sold their own landscape paintings along highways during a time when Jim Crow laws forbade African-Americans from exhibiting at galleries.

"This should have been done here in Florida. This is where all of that took place," says Michelle Hillery, Palm Beach County deputy film commissioner and president of Film Florida, a nonprofit entertainment production association.  

Two Republican state senators, Nancy Detert of Venice and  Jack Latvala of Clearwater, are seeking to include a film and TV incentive reform package in the Senate's economic development bill. The package would replace the old program, which sunsets on July 1..

And what does Florida stand to lose if legislative action isn't taken soon?

Hillery says film and TV projects that decided to shoot outside of Florida have cost the state more than $650 million in lost revenue.

"Our legislators will be sending a very clear message to our state that it doesn't care about these types of jobs," she says.

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