Just like every other state not ending in "-alifornia," Florida is scrambling to scoop up Hollywood business. Seeking tax breaks, television and movie crews over the past decade have decamped SoCal for elsewhere, in turn shoveling money and prestige into local economies. Florida already has used nearly $300 million in tax credits to fish for productions like Magic Mike and Burn Notice. But now, with rival states pitching woo with their own deals, we have to up the ante.
So a proposal is churning through the Legislature to add another $300 million in tax credits for film production. It's a good move on the part of the government, sure.
But this isn't any group of politicians. This is the Florida Legislature -- a body that can't even change a proverbial light bulb without injecting culture-war politics into the mix. So instead of just passing a bill that is pro-entertainment business, your elected representatives want to attract "family-friendly" entertainment.
The legislation -- SPB 7128 -- hit the senate's Commerce and Tourism committee this week, where it was approved 7-1. In essence, it would put aside $50 million a year in tax credits, as well as move the Office of Film and Entertainment over from the Department of Economic Opportunity to the private Enterprise Florida Inc.
But while in committee, Republican Sen. Alan Hays tacked on the "family-friendly" amendment. Let's just get up close and personal with the specific language of this idiocy:
A qualified production determined by the department to be family-friendly, based on review of the script and review of the final release version, is eligible for an additional tax credit equal to 5 percent of its actual qualified expenditures. The department must consult with the Division of Film and Entertainment of Enterprise Florida, Inc., to make this determination. A family-friendly production is one that has cross-generational appeal; would be considered suitable for viewing by children age 5 or older; is appropriate in theme, content, and language for a broad family audience; embodies a responsible resolution of issues; and does not exhibit or imply any act of smoking, sex, nudity, or vulgar or profane language.
So the idea is that "family-friendly" productions will get an additional 5 percent tax credit, a little extra kicker.
For a minute, just put aside the notion that economic boost is economic boost, whether it has a G rating stamped on it or not; also, let's table the obvious fact that this is just a nice and easy way for legislatures to stick another "pro-family" feather in their cap.
The whole logistics of this are stupid and vaguely troubling: You can't create a government office tasked with making a call on something as blatantly subjective as "family-friendly" entertainment.
Qualifications like "not exhibit or imply any act of smoking, sex, nudity, or vulgar or profane language," "cross-generational appeal," and "appropriate in theme, content, and language" are pretty open-ended.
Let's say you need some tax credits for a film about a small-town businessman about to go bust who decides to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, but a guardian angel intervenes at the last minute to show him what life would have been like without him.
Denied. Suicide is ewwwy.
How about a movie about a wealthy nobleman who is politically exiled as a slave before coming back to save his family and do a lot of crazy shit on a chariot?
Denied. Chariot races = scary. Too many shirtless men.
Tough-guy American club owner in North Africa gets sad-faced when old girlfriend comes into his club asking for favors and scared of men in crisp brown shirts?
Denied: Smoking, gambling, too European.
Boy and girl fall in love on big boat before it goes on ill-fated first Atlantic crossing?
Denied: Too handsy.
Tiger cub sees father murdered by father's brother, leaves plains for jungle and eventual return after partaking in many musical numbers?
Denied: Global warming, flamboyant songcraft.
So see? And just think: If this bill passes, it's going to be somebody's job to sit around all day and make those decisions. Only in Florida would politicians take a politically neutral act and juice it up with conservative-liberal tension. If there had been a way to throw some automatic weapons into the scenario, no doubt they would have found it as well.