Study: FL Film Office Needs More Transparency
The watchdog group Integrity Florida is out with a study of the Department of Economic Opportunity’s attempts to lobby the Legislature for one billion dollars through 2020. The cash would be used for movies, TV shows, video games and other entertainment industry productions.
Television’s “Burn Notice,” the movie “Dolphin Tale” and the Madden football video game are produced in Florida.
Integrity Florida lists five key research findings. Number one, says the group’s Dan Krassner, is a lack of disclosure in the state’s Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program – in whose name almost 300 million dollars in state money was allocated in the past three years.
Number two is questionable compliance with state laws. Integrity Florida’s report suggests that the Office of Film and Entertainment may not be properly utilizing the Film and Entertainment Advisory Council in decisions about incentives. And it could possibly be working with the Council's Executive Committee out of the sunshine.
Another finding is that rather than vetting all applicants and deciding on projects based on the best return for taxpayer funds, it’s a policy of “first come, first served.”
Also in the report, contentions that there’s the subjective use of family-friendly incentive bonus awards. Krassner says the legislative definition of “family-friendly” should be changed to “Florida-friendly” and applied in a constant manner by the Office of Film and Entertainment.
The fifth discovery is that the nonprofit group Film Florida is floating a proposal to create a public-private partnership with the Office of Film and Entertainment. It would be based on the Enterprise Florida model that could receive taxpayer funding from the legislature.
A call to James Landsberg, DEO’s General Counsel, requesting an interview was answered by an email from an agency spokeswoman, who said nobody from DEO would be available for comment.
Along with the findings are five policy recommendations from Integrity Florida. The first two deal with more disclosure of film and entertainment incentive agreements, with production company names and details of tax credits approved and awarded, on the DEO website – and to ensure that the open meetings law is obeyed. The other three recommendations: scrap “first come, first served” in favor of vetting projects and avoid privatization.
Dan Krassner at Integrity Florida says the report’s message is: when it comes to money out of the taxpayers’ pockets, make sure that they’re spent well.