Film Tampa Bay Reception Convenes Legislators to Discuss How to Bring More Feature Films Like “The Infiltrator” to the Region

December 1, 2014

Last month, The Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission, or Film Tampa Bay, announced that Good Films had selected Hillsborough County as a principal filming location for “The Infiltrator,” a feature film starring Emmy award-winning actor Bryan Cranston.  Adapted for the screen by Ellen Brown Furman, “The Infiltrator” is an investigative thriller based on acclaimed author and Tampa resident Robert Mazur’s autobiography of the same name. Cranston will play Customs and Excise Agent Mazur, and his undercover alias, Bob Musella. Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) will direct. Local production is scheduled to begin in February 2015 in Tampa.
“This is a big win for Hillsborough County, and one that validates the time and resources we’ve dedicated to rebuilding our local film industry,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan. “By attracting a big-budget motion picture like ‘The Infiltrator,’ we’re proving that we can, and will, compete for projects that were regularly going to Miami, Orlando or elsewhere in Florida.”
Good news indeed. But if it weren’t for the actions of Commissioner Hagan and other community leaders, Tampa and Hillsborough County would have been talking about this film as the one that got away. Considering that the average annual wage for workers in the film and digital media industry is over $77,000, we need to do all we can to avoid losing feature films and the jobs they create to other markets.
The project first came to the attention of the film commission last summer. Producers applied for and were preapproved to receive $4.3 million in tax credits through the State of Florida Entertainment Incentive Program to offset the cost of filming. However, when state legislators failed to fund the program during the 2014 legislative session, local officials took steps to preserve the community’s competitiveness by developing an unprecedented package of support.
In March, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a local incentive package of $250,000, which is performance-based and subject to the creation of a minimum number of room nights and jobs. In-kind contributions will also be provided by a variety of local partners, such as the City of Tampa, Port Tampa Bay, and the University of Tampa.
“Due to the lack of state incentives, it is incredibly challenging to attract a production of this size and magnitude to our market,” explained Dale Gordon, executive director of the film commission. “Fortunately, our community partners and local leadership, including Commissioner Ken Hagan, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation and Visit Tampa Bay, have demonstrated a strong commitment to growing this high-impact industry and positioning Hillsborough County as a competitive destination for feature film production.”
To ensure that our legislative delegation and regional leaders were given a chance to learn more about the economic importance of the film and digital media industry within the state of Florida, Film Tampa Bay hosted its First Annual Film & Digital Media Tampa Bay Area Delegation Legislative Reception on Tuesday, November 20th at the Seminole Hard Rock Café. The invitation-only event focused specifically on the vital necessity of funding Florida’s Entertainment Industry Incentive Program.  Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner John Travolta met with legislators and discussed the critical importance of these incentives and why they are essential for Florida’s film industry to be competitive.  He also danced on to the Hard Rock Café stage to “Stayin’ Alive,” the track from Saturday Night Fever that rocketed him to global stardom, to the delight of reception guests. Once at the podium, he explained how other states are competing and winning major feature films, and offered suggestions for how Florida could regain its competitive advantage as a top film production destination. “Florida is my full time home,” Mr. Travolta said. “I would love to make more films here.”
Knowledge is power.  Now that our legislative delegation has learned just how much of an impact our film and digital media industry has on local jobs, tourism, infrastructure development, and the hotel and lodging industry, we’re confident they’ll put it back in the spotlight.