Florida’s film industry is really starting to dry up now that the state government there is no longer providing any financial incentives to studios. And the latest casualty is HBO’s Dwayne Johnson comedy Ballers which will take the shenanigans of the Miami Dolphins to California.
The series will say good-bye to Florida after two seasons, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It’s not clear if the story itself will shift to California, or if Ballers will take the route of many television shows and movies – create your location on the streets and soundstages of the country’s largest state.
The move comes as Florida’s film and television tax incentives program expired earlier this year after the state legislature voted down a measure in March to replenish the funds.
That means television and film production will likely start evacuating the state, looking for incentives that would reduce production costs (and create more profit for those making decisions at the top).
Florida has had a very rocky history when it comes to film incentives. Although other states like Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina have aggressively courted both television and film projects with tax abatement and other incentives (like outright handing cash to studios), Florida shyly dropped only a toe into the pool.
That seemed to change in recent years with lawmakers creating a longer-term incentive program and bankrolling it with $300 million. Yet, once that money dried up, there seemed to be no more Florida was willing to let loose.
Production spending within the state has plummeted in recent years, down from $366 million in 2011 to $175 million in 2015 in Miami alone.
The last two major television productions to take advantage of the program were Ballers and Netflix’s Bloodline in the Florida Keys. Netflix pulled the plug on Bloodline earlier this year, and now Ballers will continue thousands of miles away.
The move should be no surprise to Florida film officials. HBO told the trade publication in a statement back in April that without incentive money, the cable channel would have to take another look at where Ballers would be filmed.
“We have a long history of shooting projects in Florida, and we’re obviously disappointed in the recent vote to not renew the incentive program. We will be assessing its impact on any future productions like Ballers who have established Florida as their home.”
With a lot of production moving out of Hollywood in recent years, it seems California has become bullish, offering all kinds of incentives to compete not just with other states, but also Canada. Both Vancouver and Toronto have been solid competitors in the film industry for years, and both have renewed those efforts to attract even more from the United States.
Ballers is expected to earn about $8.3 million in credits during Season 3 because it’s moving production back to California, The Hollywood Reporter said. That’s based on $33.5 million in “qualified” expenditures. It will cast 135 people, employ 209 crew members, and seek out 5,700 paid extras.
Film Florida, the statewide advocacy group that helps attract and manage projects to the Sunshine State, had yet to release a statement on the Ballers move as of Wednesday evening. However, when Netflix ended Bloodline after three seasons, Film Florida president Kelly Paige lamented publicly on what the state was losing.
“Bloodline has brought riveting television to viewers while being a tremendous postcard for the Florida Keys and South Florida region. With production and tourism impacts for Season 1 totaling $95 million, 1738 jobs and $9.4 million in state and local taxes, Bloodline will be missed both on screen and in our state economy.”
Earlier in the year, Paige boasted that Bloodline helped bring $65 million in travel spending over a seven-month period after the first season of the Netflix series debuted – money that wouldn’t have occurred if Bloodline didn’t exist. At the same time, Paige said Bloodline viewers were 20 percent more likely to positively promote the Florida Keys by word of mouth to their friends and family.
Ballers debuted on HBO in 2015, and wrapped its second season last September. It stars Johnson, Rob Corddry, John David Washington and Omar Miller.
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