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Lights, Camera, No Action: State’s Production Business Fades To Black

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) –The days of motion pictures in South Florida are about to fade to black.

About $100 million and thousands of jobs are about to move North as the motion picture and TV production business is abandoning the area and calling lights out. It seemed the state has been cast as a “bad business decision,” with Tallahassee politics playing the role of villain.

Miami-Dade County’s Film Commissioner said the county alone stands to lose more than $100-million in Film and TV Production this year because of inaction by the State Legislature. Lawmakers failed to approve tax breaks and other incentives to major productions seeking to shoot in Florida.

“This is all about economic development and job creation. Our area is losing out big time,” said Sandy Lighterman.

Without any incentives, shooting movies and other film projects in Florida has become a bad business decision for Hollywood, as northern states are now offering better deals to entice production.

“Take away the glitz and glamour, and what you have is another big industry for the Sunshine State, just like agriculture or tourism,” said Lighterman. “This industry needs to be saved, or it’s going to force local business to close and skilled professionals to move away.”

Lighterman said the number of production jobs in Miami-Dade has been dwindling.

“In 2012, there were roughly 22,000 production jobs here, last year that number dropped to 16,000. This year, it will probably be less than 10,000,” said Lighterman.

The telenovela production business may also be moving to Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela, if incentives are not approved to keep them shooting here, according to Lighterman.

“There’s already infrastructure in place in those countries. I’m concerned the big producers may return to Latin America because they’re being offered better deals,” said Lighterman.

The Film Commissioner said she’s worried Miami scenes won’t be popping up in scripts much longer.

“It’s likely you may see a scene set in South Beach and it’s really a sound stage in Savannah,” said Lighterman.

According to Lighterman, Florida’s failure to pass incentives mean our communities will be missing out on millions in new spending.

“With a $15 to $1 return to the State’s GDP, which is a study that was done by the State’s EDR department, it should be an easy idea for the legislators and governors to understand the worth of this industry,” said Lighterman.

Industry insiders say it’s all about politics.

The deal didn’t go through because legislators from rural areas wield considerable power and influence. Members of the South Florida delegation didn’t vote for it because they wanted to make sure other legislators opposed to it would support them on other issues.

The last big movie to shoot in the area was “Change of Heart” with Jim Belushi. It brought nearly $4 million dollars into Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties and hired 450 cast and crew.

Before that, Iron Man 3 was the big shoot in 2012. That film employed 700 and is estimated to have brought around $25-million dollars to the area.

“The loss of big shoots like these are a major loss to the hotel industry, small catering companies, and other ancillary businesses that support this type of work,” said Lighterman. “I’m worried you are going to see businesses closing.”

Daniel Livschutz was overseeing the production of Brianna Perry’s new music video at the Caleb Auditorium in Miami this week.

“Miami, by far, provides the best filming environment from all the vendors to the city. What we can get done here in Miami, we cannot get done anywhere else,” said Livschutz. “It’s a shame because I already know that production here is starting to dry up.”

Lighterman said she will be working with what’s left of the Film industry here to start a new push to educate Tallahassee lawmakers about the importance of the industry.

“We need to educate our legislators and the Governor on the importance of this industry,” said Livschutz . “It is important to this area. It’s important to our job creation. It’s important to our businesses staying afloat. It’s important to our image.”

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