Arts Alive! St. Pete Catalyst Podcast w/ Bill DeYoung: Film Commissioner Lisa Dozois 4-20-24

Episode 7442,   Apr 20, 01:14 PM

Published 1 day ago on April 19, 2024
By Bill DeYoung

Today’s Arts Alive! conversation with Pinellas County Film Commissioner Lisa Dozois covers a lot of ground. We talk about the history of movie-making in Florida, the benefits to city, county and region when filmmakers come to the area to work, and about the role of the film commissioner: Facilitator, cheerleader, location scout, lobbyist, advocate.

And, when necessary, a person who has to wear rose-colored glasses.

That’s because for all the independent, low-budget movies shot in Pinellas County, and commercials, and episodes of historic or documentary TV, the big guns – the major Hollywood studios, spending millions to make a film that will be seen by millions – simply don’t come to Florida any longer.

Florida is one of a handful of states that do not offer substantial tax incentives, discounts and rebates to production companies. Before the Florida Legislature nipped this funding in the bud, in 2016 – House Speaker Jose Olivato said incentives for the film industry amounted to nothing more than “corporate welfare” – scenic Florida was the third most popular state for shooting major movies.

Today, it’s not even in the Top 20.

Be that as it may, the county has its own incentive package, not in the multi-millions, certainly, but attractive to movie-makers with tight (or miniscule) budgets. Budgets between $500,000 and $2 million, says Dozois.

The Business Development Marketing Grant program, she explains, involves several counties, including Pinellas. “It is designed, first and foremost, to be able to answer ‘yes’ to the very simple question, ‘Does your area offer an incentive?’

“If we just said ‘no,’ end of conversation right there. But we can say ‘yes’ and that draws in the inquirer to learn more about what the program is.”

Production in Pinellas, as a result, has remained healthy. There’s a lot to offer here.

She also explains how “film-induced tourism” has become a thing – “people are planning their vacations based on areas that they’ve seen on the big screen.” Cocoon, Summer Rental, Spring Breakers and both Dolphin Tale movies were lensed (pre-2016) in Pinellas. Tourists are interested in visiting the filming locations.

Coming April 25-28 is the 19th Sunscreen Film Festival, a celebration of new independent movies (some of them indeed shot in Florida) and filmmaking talks and workshops.

Find Sunscreen information here.

The Pinellas film office is part of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, and is a major sponsor of the Sunscreen Film Festival.