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New Florida Film Industry Leader Thinks Show Biz Can Give State’s Lagging Economy A Boost

The set of “Graceland” for USA Network; the show filmed 3 seasons in South Florida from 2013-2015.
The set of “Graceland” for USA Network; the show filmed 3 seasons in South Florida from 2013-2015.

Film and TV productions shut down around the country as COVID-19 spread. Film Florida, a not-for-profit trade association, has a new president who thinks shows biz productions could be a major part of Florida’s economic recovery.

Film and TV productions shut down around the country as COVID-19 spread. Film Florida, a not-for-profit trade association, has a new president who thinks shows biz productions could be a major part of Florida’s economic recovery.

Florida is home to the coming-of-age series David Makes Man. It was filmed in Orlando and began streaming last year on HBO Max.

“When an average feature film or TV series films in a location, they spend roughly $20 million in the local community in just 3 or 4 months while hiring approximately 1,500 Floridians,” says Gail Morgan, new president of the Film Florida Board of Directors.

National Geographic’s The Right Stuff is another production kicking some money into state and local coffers. Filming recently took place in downtown Tampa and nearby Sanford, and The Right Stuff series about Mercury Seven astronauts will premiere on Disney Plus later this year.

“$20 million going directly into the pockets of local individuals and small businesses at the tune of $150,000 per day while generating tax revenues for both the local and state government, that can be an important part in getting Florida’s economy going,” says Morgan, who will continue in her role of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Film Commissioner.

She says Florida is losing too many productions to Georgia and other states that offer incentives, like tax rebates. “Florida is only one of 17 states in America that doesn’t have a program, and it’s the only state in the southeast without a program which puts us at a major competitive disadvantage.”

Florida’s film tax incentives program expired in 2016, and the last two legislative sessions saw bills that tried and failed to bring it back. “This legislation has an excellent return on investment (ROI),” Morgan says. “For every one dollar Florida invests, more than 5 dollars will be spent in the state.”

That's the ROI often touted by lawmakers and supporters of film incentives over the last decade. State economists found differently in this 2018 report.

For now, Film Florida is focused on keeping everyone on the set COVID-free. The association was one of the first in the country to release a list of recommendations for maintaining clean and healthy sets. It followed up with two virtual town halls for members and is also distributing personal protective equipment to production teams.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Gina Jordan
Gina Jordanis the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. She left after a few years to spend more time with her son, working part-time as the capital reporter/producer for WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a drama teacher at Young Actors Theatre. She also blogged and reported for StateImpact Florida, an NPR education project, and produced podcasts and articles for AVISIAN Publishing. Gina has won awards for features, breaking news coverage, and newscasts from contests including the Associated Press, Green Eyeshade, and Murrow Awards. Gina is on the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors. Gina is thrilled to be back at WFSU! In her free time, she likes to read, travel, and watch her son play football. Follow Gina Jordan on Twitter: @hearyourthought
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