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Commercials are next big picture in Hillsborough, film agency says

TAMPA — They may not be as sexy as Bollywood or Hollywood movies being filmed in the area, but commercials may do more to boost Hillsborough County’s economy.

“Feature films are great,” said Tyler Martinolich, production coordinator for the Tampa Hillsborough Film & Digital Media Commission. “They add a lot of money to our economy in a number of ways, but they can only employ so many people and are only here for maybe six months. Commercials, on the other hand, keep production crews employed 365 days a year.”

The commission held a news conference Friday to announce a number of new initiatives, including a logo and website — and a push to do more commercials.

Part of the effort is a new local tax incentive that’s in the works and new laws streamlining the permitting process.

The county hasn’t worked out specifics of the tax incentive, but it will be geared toward projects costing less than $1 million, which would include independent films and commercials, said Dale Gordon, executive director of the commission. To qualify, a set amount of the production’s spending must be done locally.

“The goal is to continue to stimulate the commercial and independent film market in the area,” Gordon said.

When commercial productions set up shop in Hillsborough County, they will find the red tape and bureaucracy easier to navigate than in other markets, shesaid. Previously, a production company reported to multiple government agencies to acquire necessary filming permits.

For example, filming could cross over a city and county road, and make use of a state building. This would require permits from each government entity.

Under the new ordinance, a production company can file requests for all permits with the film commission office and the office takes care of the legwork.

The initiatives have already paid off, Martinolich said.

“We have attracted several major commercials from other markets because we have made the permitting process easier,” he said. “The most recent was a Kia car commercial that was supposed to shoot elsewhere.”

Rob Tisler, executive creative director at Company Man Studios, producers of Tampa Bay Rays commercials, said he was excited to hear about the new ordinance.

“It can be frustrating to have to call a half-dozen people and wait for them to get back to me,” Tisler said. “Anything that can alleviate that bureaucracy and allow us to spend more time on being creative is fantastic.”

Commercial production is a fast-paced industry, Martinolich said. The time between the request for bid and desired start of production may be less than a week.

Streamlining the process will help the film commission sell companies from around the world on producing commercials here and help the area compete against its Florida neighbors, Martinolich said.

“Other Florida counties have a lot of the same locations as we do,” Martinolich said. “But we have the one-stop shop now.”

Gordon called commercials the “bread and butter of our industry.”

Still, the allure of Hollywood was a hot topic at Friday’s news conference, including proposed state film incentives that can help lure such productions.

The state’s film tax incentive pot is dry, but a House bill proposes replenishing it with $200 million a year in state funds through 2020, and a Senate bill offers $50 million a year for the period.

The movie “The Infiltrator,” the true story of a federal agent posing as a Tampa businessman to help bring down a major international financial institution laundering cocaine money, seems all but assured to film in Tampa if state incentive money makes its way through the Legislature.

Hillsborough County has earmarked $250,000 for the film.

To maximize the economic impact on the county, Martinolich said those hired to work on films should be local — and that requires a local talent pool.

Regular commercial work throughout the year can help build that, he said.

“We need to nurture a vibrant production community in the area,” he added.

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