New incentives recently introduced in Florida have already impacted on the state’s audiovisual production. While Florida has attracted theatrical feature productions like Marley & Me and Confessions of a Shopaholic in recent years, the state is an especially popular location for television projects.
Successful spy drama Burn Notice has been based there for the past three years. In addition, ten further series are among the 52 separate projects – including theatrical features and documentaries – that have been granted incentive support in recent weeks.
Jocelyn Mock, Communications Coordinator at the Office of Film & Entertainment, said: “News spread quickly when the legislators passed a comprehensive jobs bill this past legislative session that included a five-year, transferrable tax credit for the film and entertainment industry. Our office has been fielding calls and inquiries about the programme and how to take advantage of the opportunity before the bill was signed into law.”
The different environments and looks available in Florida form part of its appeal as a shooting location. The state is routinely used to double for many locations throughout the US, while also doubling for places like Panama, Nigeria and even Peru. John Vizzusi, a filmmaker with Central State Productions in Apopka, said: “[Florida can double for] any global tropical climate environment: jungles and rainforests, waterways, old historical southern USA communities and most southern states. Also, the big cities such as Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville can be doubled for other major cities in the USA.”
Jacksonville, in the north, has become popular as a result of offering differing environments within a short distance of each other. Houses and office buildings from several different periods of American history can be accessed easily and in the past the city has made a point of tracking down the necessary facilities to encourage productions to film.
Todd Roobin, Film Commissioner at the Jacksonville Film Office, said: “Another reason [for Jacksonville’s popularity] is the cost savings. The average nice hotel rooms (beachfront, riverfront, etc) cost much less than our competition. Production executives consistently say that location fees for homes and businesses are much lower in Jacksonville than other metropolitan/large cities. Also, it’s free to film on city property like streets, parks, city buildings, sport complexes and so on.”
According to Ms Mock Florida offers America’s third-largest crew pool so productions have the option of hiring locally. These individuals and companies are generally based in four distinct production hubs in Orlando, Miami/South Florida, Jacksonville and Tampa/St Petersburg. In addition, there are extensive studio facilities providing everything from back lots to virtual studio resources.
In the Keys resources are thinner on the ground but are accessible nonetheless. Equipment is not available locally so crews tend to import from Miami. Rita Brown, Film Liaison with Film Keys, said: “There is one property in Islamorada – The Moorings – where many fashion shoots and commercials take place as well as feature films. That has a screening room, make up, wardrobe, a studio for shooting stills and a dedicated liaison for film crews on their property.”
Ms Mock concluded: “We are pleased with the programme’s early success and confident that we will begin to see production spread across the state and begin to take advantage of the beautiful and diverse locations of Central and North Florida.”
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