Accusing Gov. Rick Scott of chasing it all off to Georgia, and boasting that he has many friends in the industry, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine pledged to bring back large-scale television and film production to the Sunshine State.
Speaking at a packed Seminole County Democratic Party meeting in Altamonte Springs Thursday night, Levine said Florida had never gotten better tourism promotional advertising than in the days of Miami Vice and other shows and movies filmed in the state, and for the promotional value alone he said he is committed to bringing it back.
The former Miami Beach mayor has been consistently and strongly critical of Scott for using financial incentives to try to attract businesses to Florida, as he was again Thursday night. Yet Levine also said the TV and film production industry is different, and an exception he would make, worth offering financial incentives.
“If your core competency at this time is tourism, to not push and promote and incentivize the film and television production industry, allowing for the imagery of this state projected on TV and films worldwide, it’s ludicrous,” he said. “It is peanuts, the cost of whatever it takes to lure the film industry back. It is such small money in comparison in what you receive in worldwide exposure, let alone the production jobs it brings.
“I happen to have a lot of contacts in California, I know a lot of studio heads. They’re dying to come back. It doesn’t take much to get them to come back,” Levine said.
Levine faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessman Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination for governor. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
In further comments to the crowd and later to Florida Politics, Levine accused Scott of pushing the television and film industry to Georgia, “making it very clear that they [television and movie productions] are not welcome here.”
He did not talk about the bill being pushed by fellow Miami Democrat state Sen. Annette Taddeo, Senate Bill 1606, which would create the “Florida Motion Picture Capital Corporation” to subsidize and promote film industry. The idea of incentivizing and promoting the film industry has been pushed by others, Republicans and Democrats, though without much success. The idea of state business financial incentives in general has been staunchly opposed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others. SB 1606 currently appears to be languishing in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
Levine said he considered the prospect of offering financial incentives for television and film production in Florida different from his position to oppose offering financial incentives to lure businesses.
“Having the television industry film, the film industry film scenes of Florida, with incentives, is the cheapest money you’ll ever spend and will have a multiplier effect on tourism to the state,” Levine said. “That’s one side of why it makes sense. The second side is makes sense is actually is something like $1 billion of jobs and business and opportunity.”