Saturday, February 24, 2018

Editorial: Film industry advocates in Hillsborough should bide time for better days

Hillsborough County is keeping its toe in the video production waters with a new, scaled-down emphasis on encouraging the making of commercials here.

Thatís a far cry from five years ago when advocates of Floridaís film industry, flush with success from the major motion picture Dolphin Tale and the attention it brought Pinellas County, were pushing to replenish the $296 million dollar pot of state money that helped land the production.

But this humble new approach by the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission, as reported by Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times, recognizes political reality. The pot ran dry and was tossed aside by leaders of the Florida Legislature who profess opposition to subsidizing the private sector with public money.

The new approach also allows the publicly funded film commission to bide its time. These political leaders wonít be around forever. And the appeal of film and digital production, a growth industry with jobs any local community would welcome, will endure ó especially for a colorful state that produces a steady stream of its own story lines.

Making the most of this industry, as with any industry, requires establishing a critical mass ó a volume of production large enough for a region to attract personnel, support businesses and overall expertise on a permanent basis.

But there appears to be no magic to this process. California gave birth to the industry and owned it for decades. It still does, considering all the facets of film and digital production, but other places have lured away significant segments. Visual effects have moved overseas. And in an annual study by the agency Film L.A. Inc., Georgia emerged as the production location for more top 100 domestic feature films in 2016 than any other. Next in line were the United Kingdom, Canada, California, Louisiana and New York.

One thing these locations have in common: They all provide some form of public incentives.

That idea doesnít sit well with many critics in Florida. Why hand taxpayer dollars to fat-cat tycoons in an industry whose scions have included the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein?

First of all, most incentives donít involve handing over cash but cutting expenses. Georgia has made a science of using a tax credit of up to 30 percent to lure productions, even allowing recipients to trade in them. The state reported spending about $600 million in 2016 ó about the price of a new Major League Baseball stadium ó to attract $2 billion in production spending.

Whatís more, the Hollywood tycoon is fading as the symbol of an industry that has grown to include independent films, television series, commercials, music videos, animation and game development.

If Florida decides it wants to be a center of this industry, it has a good shot. Makers of the recent major movies Live By Night and The Infiltrator reluctantly did most or all the production on their Tampa-based stories somewhere else.

Leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature donít want this industry, though. And their ideological opposition rings of hypocrisy.

Georgia, which sees film and digital production as a powerful economic driver, hasnít voted for a Democrat in the presidential race for 20 years. And Florida is no stranger, nor should it be, to offering incentives as a means of attracting new jobs to the state. Incentives have helped land Tampa companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Citigroup and USAA.

Itís curious that the legislative opponents of film incentives are actually leading the drive to hand government cash to one of their own private-sector darlings ó for-profit school management chains. These companies stand to benefit as the state shifts more public money away from traditional public schools run by elected local school boards toward privately run charter schools held to relatively little account.

With the right accountability measures baked into any deal, film and digital production is a good investment for Florida. Meantime, the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission should test the waters, keep its shingle up, and stay ready for a day when more open minds see new possibilities for the state.

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18