Tampa officials dedicated to hiring a dynamic film commissioner

Joining Homans to make the critical decision of who will be the next film and digital commissioner will be Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan; Bob McDonough, urban development manager with the city of Tampa; and Santiago Corrada, the new president and CEO of Tampa Bay and Company.

Like many other states and communities, in recent years, Florida has tried to make money by welcoming projects in the film and television industry. Back in 2010, the Legislature approved funding to give a 20 percent production tax credit to such productions. The Hollywood Reporter reported last month that the state budgeted $296 million since 2010 to attract movies such as Magic Mike, Iron Man 3, and Spring Breakers.

They also reported that since those tax breaks are limited to projects that don't exceed $8 million, some productions only spend limited time here, or choose to go to a state with bigger financial incentives.

That might be a good thing, depending on your perspective. Ellen Norcross, a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, wrote an essay in US News & World Report alleging that film tax credits don't deliver to state economies what they cost to treasuries and taxpayers.

Nevertheless, the tax breaks keep on coming. Last month, the state of Maryland tripled its film tax credit program.

About three years ago, we reported that the number of productions that have or have not come to Tampa Bay wasn't simply because of financial considerations, but also the ability of those whose job it is to recruit productions to the region.

The story revealed that producers with the A&E show The Glades wanted to film in the Tampa Bay area, but one of the reasons they didn't was because of a lack of support from the area's film commissions.

Executive producer Gary Randall told CL that he encountered problems in Tampa Bay getting warehouse space, access to public buildings, and police and city permit support.

"We were totally ready to stay in Tampa and make it there," he said, adding that the area "just doesn't have the experience."

Homans wants to change that perception.

"A lot of this has to do with the quality of the crew that you can put forward, and we need to make sure we have a good inventory and that we're marketing the resources that we have," he said. "That can be just as big as an incentive when it comes to winning or losing a production is ... the quality of the crew, and I think we have a really high quality to work with here."

  • Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike was filmed in parts of the Tampa Bay area in 2011

On Monday afternoon, the newly formed Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission announced a nationwide search for an "experienced industry professional to run the reorganized commission." (If you're interested, you can apply here.)

"We need a real pro, somebody who knows the industry, who knows how to recruit it and how to service it, and how to market the community," said Rick Homans, commission chairman and president/CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. Homans knows a thing or two about the position, as he worked closely with a film commissioner in New Mexico when he served as secretary of economic development.

"I've got a pretty good idea from the good ones that I've seen about what we're looking for here," he told CL late Monday afternoon. "I think we are a community that's ready to go to the next level and we've got all the assets here ... we just need to get on the radar screen, we need to market ourselves, we need to recruit the projects, and we need to expand the vision. Not only feature films, but commercials and digital media and infomercials. Whatever it takes."

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