Hollywood: Tampa and Hillsborough County want you.
Frustrated by a fall-off in both movie- and ad-making, Hillsborough's economic development officials on Monday announced a fresh initiative to reinvigorate its film-recruiting business.
At a news briefing, officials introduced Dale Gordon, 37 and a former director at the Metro Orlando Film Commission, to head the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.
Her role: to sell city and county locations to be used in filming movies, advertisements, corporate content, music videos, video games and other digital media and production opportunities. To do so, Gordon must rebuild area film and production resources and encourage local universities and high schools to train young people in film and digital media.
Gordon's arrival comes in the wake of the success of the 2011 family drama Dolphin Tale and the new commitment of $5 million in the state budget to speed production of a Dolphin Tale sequel. The movies (and the state funding) are an economic coup for Pinellas County, Clearwater and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and a catalyst for a planned $160 million aquarium in downtown Clearwater.
The economic ripple from a movie about a dolphin without a tail is not lost on Hillsborough officials.
While Hillsborough has not had a full-time film commissioner since 2010, County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan insists the county is not "starting from scratch" to rebuild a film industry. He acknowledged "frustration" that other counties have had high-profile successes, naming South Florida TV series The Glades and Burn Notice, which alone has generated 1,600 jobs.
Miami and Orlando dominate today's Florida film industry. But Hillsborough is out to regain its mojo. It once ranked third in the state's film industry market share.
"We want to lead this state out of this job recession," Hagan said.
In Orlando, Gordon was involved in film projects that included Charlize Theron's role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003's Monster and the 2005 movie of author Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Tampa/Hillsborough's film production business has had a $3.4 million economic impact and employed 1,046 locals in the first half of 2013.
The new film commission will operate under the Tampa/Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.
A big question mark for Tampa/Hillsborough's movie ambitions is money. Florida's state incentives already are committed until 2016. The county will fund the bulk of its new film commission, and Tampa's added $65,000 to the pot. Hagan said the county might consider "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of its reserves to attract the right movie opportunity, if it has sufficient stature.
Gordon, who will be paid $75,000, agrees that a big-name movie would be welcome. But she cautions that projects to create national corporate advertising, TV content and lower-profile projects also will be key in creating jobs and boosting the economy.
"You will hear me say that often in the days ahead," Gordon said.