Lights. Cameras. Jobs.

Under The Hood

Image courtesy Pixabay.

There’s few industries that rival film in terms of what’s the most fun to cover. Sure, part of it is the glitz — chances to interview movie stars at the Sarasota Film Festival prove the easiest way to impress high school friends on Facebook. But there’s also a tentacle effect filmmaking has on the local economy that’s virtually unrivaled.

Want to develop a creative class? Film feeds every kind from writers penning scripts to sculptors building props and technology geeks innovating special effects. Help with higher education? Ringling College of Art & Design in a short time built up one of the best film schools in America and started attracting A-level talent to shoot or edit their work in Sarasota to boot. Want an industry with trickle down? A film production frequently ends up hiring local caterers to man craft services tables, local retailers to wardrobe actors and even area furniture shops to furnish sets.

That’s why it’s been so sad over the last decade to see film incentives be derided on the left and right as some sort of corporate welfare. The result has been to see Florida’s economic bait for Hollywood reeled in (pun intended) as other Southern states effectively stole the shows.

There’s a series called “Florida Man” that ended up shooting in North Carolina this year. “Ballers,” an HBO series set in Miami, started filming in Florida but wrapped its final seasons up elsewhere because the state’s incentive funds ran out of gas in 2016. Locally, the series “Claws” allegedly told the story of a Palmetto salon but conducted virtually all of its shoots in New Orleans with little action filmed here.

Those are just some of the indignities that have come with allowing a successful program, one which less than a decade ago made Florida the No. 3 state in the union for productions, to wither. Florida, unfortunately, has lost the plot.

Sen. Joe Gruters for several years has tried to get hold of the storyline once again. He just filed new legislation this year that would set up a tax credit program for productions that employed Florida cast and crew and offered better than average wages.

That’s not as generous as the state’s film incentives program of yore, which enjoyed peak action during then-Gov. Rick Scott’s incentives-galore years of gangbusters economic development. The enthusiasm for that type of lure being tossed to industry in Florida collapsed after the state saw many incentives deals go south and substantial sums of money were paid out for jobs that never came to be. Unfortunately, Sarasota knows a bit about that too, and deals like one offered to Sanborn Studios soured the public fairly on incentives but unfairly on film in general.

So Gruters and other film incentives backers have worked to make a program with greater accountability, less opportunity for abuse and the chance for as conservative political messaging as possible. I hope that’s enough to win over skeptics, at least those who represent areas like this one with a strong stake in film. Gruters has long viewed film as a win not just for the specific industry but tourism, with the picturesque Gulf Coast broadcast on TV or movie screens around the globe.

Meanwhile, Atlanta has become a second Hollywood with Marvel shooting the biggest blockbusters of the last decade a few hours’ drive north of the Georgia-Florida line. There, travelers buy tickets for tours of the area so they can see the locations where famous superheroes clashed in city streets.

If the chance to see the Guardians of the Galaxy land here isn’t exciting to you, then look beyond the glitz and ask where you want our talent, those young filmmakers graduating from Ringling College, to land themselves, creating jobs with creative concepts and helping area industry along the way.

Jacob Ogles is senior contributing editor for SRQ MEDIA.

Image courtesy Pixabay.

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