Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Film commissioner: Tax snub will keep movie out of Florida

Dale Gordon awoke Saturday to gray, drizzly skies and an immediate future for her industry just as depressing.

"This weather is sure mirroring how I'm feeling right now," Tampa-Hillsborough County's film commissioner said. The state Legislature declined on Friday to replenish Florida's flat-broke entertainment tax incentives program.

The program is vital to attracting film, television and digital productions, because it provides tax credits on money spent for wages, materials and services in Florida. Other states including Georgia and Louisiana offer such incentives.

Gordon expects Florida's budgetary snub to chase away production of The Infiltrator, based on Robert Mazur's memoirs as a U.S. Customs undercover agent infiltrating drug cartels.

"I have not had confirmation from the (producing) clients yet, but I would be shocked if we are able to land … The Infiltrator," Gordon said. "They literally have been waiting around because they were prequalified for the state incentives, and we were just waiting basically for money to get back into the pot.

"When you're talking about $4 million worth of tax credits, that's not something that a production of that size is just going to eat when they can literally go next door to Georgia and get that all day long."

Gordon estimates that The Infiltrator would have had a $20 million impact on Tampa Bay's economy. "That's a tough pill to swallow right now," she said.

Gordon said her office isn't giving up on landing Ben Affleck's next directing job, Live by Night, based on Dennis Lehane's novel largely set in Ybor City. Since announcing the project in 2013, Affleck was hired to act in Gone Girl and Batman vs. Superman, delaying production of Live by Night.

"We have a little bit of time on that one because it has been pushed (back)," said Gordon, who expects the incentives issue to be revived next year.

"At the same time, this sends a message to Hollywood and to the studios that Florida is not necessarily interested in this industry," she said. "And it's the wrong message."

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.

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