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Jax Filmmakers Push State To Beef Up Tax Incentives

Ryan Baxter

An effort is underway by some members of Jacksonville’s entertainment industry for lawmakers to put more money into the state’s film incentive program.

In 2010, the legislature approved nearly $300 million in tax credits to lure more productions to the state.

Just three years later, most of that money is said to be either gone or spoken for, leaving Florida unable to compete with other states.

62-year-old Dean Phillippi works as a part-time actor in Jacksonville. He’d like to get more work here, but he says the state makes that difficult.

“People who are in acting, they’re having to go to Savannah, Georgia or Atlanta," he said.

"They’re having to go into Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and when you get there the film crew tells everybody, 'Well, we originally wanted to film this in Jacksonville or St. Augustine, however we can’t afford to do it.'”

Jacksonville used to be a popular location for production companies, says Todd Roobin, head of the city’s Film and Television Office.

Without strong state incentives Roobin says filmmakers are staying away.  

“That’s where it’s really painful: when you have a Florida setting that’s leaving to go film in another state such as Georgia or Louisiana because of the current state program is over- subscribed and the production company would have to be put on the waiting list,” he said.

According to the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment, feature productions spend an average of $225,000 a day on-location.

The industry has also reportedly created more than 100,000 jobs and paid out more than $658 million in wages over a three year period.

Orlando-based media production and promotion company IDEAS released a short video earlier this month describing how the state's film tax incentive program works and how it could be improved.

"On a regular basis I'm contacted by companies from all over the world asking if Florida has funds available in it's incentive program. I have to say no," says IDEAS CEO John Lux, describing how the company loses projects because the tax incentive program isn't adequately funded.

Click below to watch the video:

Films shot in Jacksonville include G.I. Jane, The Devil's Advocate, Tigerland, the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and the 1954 horror classic Creature form the Black Lagoon.

You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctjax.