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$1 million impact from Hillsborough’s ‘Infiltrator’ investment, film study says

Two years ago, Hillsborough County commissioners approved a $250,000 incentive package for “The Infiltrator,” a motion picture portrayal of Tampa resident Robert Mazur’s role in bringing down a Colombian drug cartel.

Small in comparison to the millions of dollars some states give to lure movie productions, the county’s investment still returned four times as much value in economic impact, according to a new study.

The eight days of filming during April and May of last year yielded direct and indirect economic effects of nearly $1 million, according to the study by HCP Associates, a national research and marketing firm located in Tampa. The Tampa-Hillsborough County Film & Digital Media Commission paid for the study.

“This was the first time ever that Hillsborough County had given out an incentive for a major film production,” said Dale Gordon, the county’s film and digital media commissioner. “We just wanted to make sure going forward we were ensuring fiscal responsibility of taxpayer dollars ... that this was a smart initiative that we could continue investing in.”

The Infiltrator” stars Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame as Mazur, who as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent helped bust a financial institution laundering millions of dollars for Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Shooting started April 23, 2015, and continued for eight days at 28 sites around Tampa. The film is set for U.S. release Aug. 31.

The study looked at direct, indirect and induced effects the film had on the economy in Hillsborough. Direct effects — the spending directly injected into the economy as a result of production— was estimated at $490,192.

Indirect effects — purchases made by local companies to meet the demand stemming from the production — came to $145,942.

And induced effects — additional spending made possible by payments received from the production — were put at $320,886. Gordon said an example of induced spending would be a local company buying a software package to provide services related to the movie-making.

HCP used a modeling program called IMPLAN that analyzes changes to a local economy resulting from some type of stimulus, such as a film production. The program uses data from federal government sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Geological Survey.

According to the study, the film crew carefully recorded local spending. The receipts and other records were turned over to HCP for the analysis.

“Due to the Tampa Bay filming representing a small fraction of the total filming days, careful attention was paid during this analysis to ensure that the expenses included in the analysis truly reflect local spending and therefore local benefit of the overall operation,” the report stated.

Of the $490,192 in direct spending on goods and services, the largest share — 17 percent — went to hotels and motels. Second at 16 percent was rental and leasing of commercial and industrial machinery and equipment, followed by automotive rental and leasing at 14 percent.

More than one-third of economic impact, $337,665, came from labor income paid to people working on the production. Of the 191 people who were paid to work on the film, just 25 came from Hillsborough County. Their pay totaled $252,303, resulting in an induced economic effect of $187,543, according to the study.

Gordon said it was difficult finding local crew to work on the film because many Tampa area film professionals travel to states that give hefty financial incentives to film companies. The Florida Lawmakers declined to restore funding for a state incentive program during their past two sessions.

So instead of choosing to work just eight days here on “The Infiltrator,” those local professionals took jobs lasting months instead in states including Georgia and Louisiana where incentives help provide longer production periods.

“I’ve got to be honest: The workforce was definitely a problem for us with this project,” Gordon said. “We’re seeing the effects of not having a state incentive program in place.”

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