Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Say Hello to Hollywood?

It's only money, so why not give it away to Hollywood?
TAMPA — Florida’s film and television industry has been lobbying for the state Legislature to allocate $200 million in tax incentives a year through 2020 — a total of $1 billion — to help lure major productions to the state.

The House of Representatives agreed will discuss just that. The Florida Senate will consider about one-fourth that amount.
There are differences between proposals in the House and Senate, so the real number will probably be less than $200M per year.  But it needs to be zero.
Producers of the feature film “The Infiltrator” want to film in the city. The story is based on the book “The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel,” written by Robert Mazur of Tampa.

It is the real-life story of Mazur’s two-year investigation as an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration posing as a Tampa-based businessman. The case helped bring down a major international financial institution that had laundered tens of millions of dollars for Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug dealer.

The production already is in the state’s queue of films awaiting tax incentives.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said as long as lawmakers allocate even $30 million in new incentives, “The Infiltrator” would get its share and filming would take place in Tampa.
$30 million of your tax dollars to speculate with for a movie.  $30 million for a film with with $47.5 million budget... and we don't know how much will be spent in Florida?

Will you be eligible for any ticket discounts for the movie?

These people are disingenuous about the benefits for Hollywood tax breaks.  They bring out the Dolphin Tale story, which was minor film, filmed locally, that turned into a big hit. It also helped drive additional visitors to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to visit the subject of the movie, Winter the dolphin.  This is clearly a unique circumstance.  Dolphin Tale received about $5 million in subsidies for a budgeted $35 million film.

Dolphin Tale, shot in Clearwater
But there are other benefits to the state, right?
[Gus Corbella, advisory council chairman with the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment] pointed to a recent report commissioned by the Motion Picture of Association of America showing that 23 percent of “leisure visitors” to Florida consider that viewing a movie or television series filmed in the state was very important of extremely important in their decision to come here.
Who really thinks there will be a great influx of visitors due to The Infiltrator, especially if it bombs like most Hollywood films?  Depending on the MPAA, Hollywood lobbyists, for an unbiased assessment of their economic impact is rather foolish, don't you think?

Even then, be aware of creative Hollywood accounting even for a success such as Dolphin Tale, which created 1288 jobs.  But most went to extras and stand-ins used for as little as one day.  And nearly all jobs are temporary.

If anything, we need to reform all the favorable tax breaks Hollywood with a long history of shady accounting and favorable tax treatment, while the Hollywood lefties lecture the rest of us we need to pay more in taxes.

As we discussed last year on this topic, these tax breaks are very questionable in their value.
In Massachusetts, lawmakers recently discovered a similar program was much more expensive than they thought. After years of subsidizing film productions without looking too closely at how that was helping the economy, state officials put it under a lens and found that taxpayers were spending as much as $300,000 to bankroll each position.
Other states that went in for a close-up after dispensing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks found that every public dollar put into the film industry was generating a few dimes, or less, in revenue.
Meanwhile, back to the local, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan gets behind the tax breaks.
“The Infiltrator” was slated to begin production in March but is on hold waiting for a decision on new tax incentives.

“I am cautiously optimistic that new incentives will be granted,” Hagan said.
Will he be trying out for a role in The Infiltrator?

Perhaps Commissioner Hagan needs to work on his math skills rather than his acting.

Or even better, can we get our politicians to set tax policies and regulations that are equitable and fair to ALL businesses in Florida, or may invest in Florida, rather than a few big money special interests?


  1. Great post. Did you see my comment on the same article? Pardon the cut and paste:

    The MPAA study is hilarious. But before talking about why, I was dismayed this article didn't mention the report from the film office a few months back. According to the objective study prepared by the state and funded by the taxpayers, for every $5 Florida spends on the incentive, the coffers only get $2 back. In short, the state is not making its money back. Not even close. But who wants to hear this? Distraction needed!

    Which brings us back to that knee slapper paid for by the MPAA. Having read the actual study, the ridiculous claims about revenue and jobs is based on the results of an online poll and the whopping 61 people who said a film or show was either important or extremely important in influencing their visit. And those 61 people were in the minority, representing just 23% of total respondents. Who in their right mind would say with a straight face that Florida gets $20 in tax revenue for every $1 paid out in film incentives based on 61 people replying to an online poll???? It's a work of fiction, and should not be referred to as a "study".

    For the $5 gets $2 back stat, see page 6 of the last Florida Film Office report:

  2. Thanks Adrian! Yes, I saw your comment. Thanks for the reference for the data on the economics of film in Florida. I did not have time to get to that detail this morning. But this will keep coming up and they'll try to figure out new ways to waste our money.

  3. I don't see the problem with this.

    1. It's a waste of our tax dollars and we prefer a level playing field instead of picking winners and loser. Why are the barbers and manicurists and beauticians and the rest of us paying for this - where's our break?
      Or are you looking to be an "extra" or your big break in Hollywood?