Why did Ben Affleck Build Ybor City in Georgia?



In theaters now, Live by Night, a crime thriller adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel of the same name, sees actor Ben Affleck taking on the role of a Boston gangster sent to Florida’s own Ybor City to manage bootlegging operations during Prohibition. But when it came time to film, Affleck, who also wrote, directed and produced Live by Night, opted to construct a new Ybor City in Georgia instead of heading 300 miles south to the real thing, citing largely economic reasons and the lack of film incentives in Florida. SRQ sat down with Jeanne Corcoran, director of the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office, to talk film incentives and why Sarasotans should care.

How do these tax rebates, or film incentives, work and why is Georgia looking more attractive right now? Corcoran: An incentive works differently in different states, but basically refunds back a specific portion of spending in that state. Sometimes that refund is in the form of a check, sometimes in the form of tax credits, which then have to be brokered and sold within a state against tax debt a company may owe, sometimes a combination of those things. It is now often a mandatory element that productions require to be in place before they will even consider filming in certain states or regions, countries or nations. The many competing countries, states, regions or other locales, who seriously want filming and the millions of dollars a year in direct spending it can represent, must use incentives to remain in consideration, to be compared to their competitors.

Why should Sarasotans care about film incentives, even if they're not involved in the film industry? Besides driving potentially millions of dollars of direct spending into all kinds of local companies and individuals, helping our community's economic stability and diversity, helping valuable people and businesses to stay in our community, buy homes, raise families and stay current with the technology of communications throughout the world of entertainment, it is also a clean industry—one of the few in the United States that still has a positive trade balance and generally a trade surplus. It also benefits the entire community by complementing and strengthening our legacy industries of tourism, real estate and the creative arts.

How do we change that? Support Sarasota County through the vision of its county commissioners, who recognize that a sensible rebate program is a valuable tool to not only attract film, television and other omnimedia for production and post-production, but it is a tool our local resources—people and companies—can use to promote themselves against their own competition outside of the county.

Pictured: Ben Affleck in "Live by Night." Image courtesy of "Live by Night."

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