State legislators should help keep Netflix’s ‘Bloodline’ in the Florida Keys

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Nexflix’s Bloodline, the tale of the Rayburn family, Conchs from the Florida Keys, is an annual nailbiter.
Nexflix’s Bloodline, the tale of the Rayburn family, Conchs from the Florida Keys, is an annual nailbiter. Nexflix

Netflix’s acclaimed dark family drama Bloodline, which is filmed in the Florida Keys, just premiered its second season. While this is the beginning of a new season, it may mark the end of any appreciable future film-making in the Keys and the infusion of dollars that follows.

Despite the tremendous success of Season 1, it’s a distinct possibility the series will conclude with Season 2 because the state of Florida discontinued its film production tax-credit plan earlier this year.

Our conservative Florida Legislature considered the credits Hollywood handouts. We disagree.

Here’s how things have changed. In 2006, Florida ranked as the third-largest film-making state in the United States, behind California and New York.

Now, it’s unlikely Florida would even be in the Top 10 since production spending has plummeted from $366 million in 2011 to $175 million in 2015. And that’s in Miami-Dade alone.

Local industry workers are the ones feeling the impact because of the loss of business and jobs for truckers, caterers, make-up artists and the like.

Those tax credits are a real incentive to film anywhere in Florida, and their absence can be especially harmful to small communities like the Keys.

Sure, there are many Keys locals who would prefer that truckloads of film crews simply stay away. But the reality is many businesses in Islamorada, where Bloodline is based, benefited.

Cast and crew lived, ate and spent money there and for months dined at Keys restaurants and shopped at local stores.

Monroe County’s Tourist Development Council conducted a study of the monetary impact of Bloodline and it revealed that Season 1 generated $91.2 million and created more than 1,000 jobs, albeit many temporary, in the Keys.

More significant, the study showed that active travelers who tune into the show from say, Buffalo, New York, were more keen to take a Keys vacation or stay longer on their next trip.

But the lack of state tax credits for film-making is a huge deterrent to shows and movies coming here and represents a loss economically and creatively.

Florida is not alone. Other states like Alaska, Michigan and Montana have also canceled their film industry tax incentives in the last year.

So Hollywood productions are instead going to Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky and New Mexico, which are courting Hollywood filmmakers with lucrative incentives.

For instance, Georgia offers a one-time tax credit of 20 percent based on a minimum investment of $500,000 by a production company.

But it also will sweeten the deal — an additional 10 percent can be earned by including an imbedded animated Georgia logo on the screen. Florida used to offer a base tax credit of 20 percent to 30 percent.

We know the power of Hollywood, which loves our bright blue skies and waterways. We can look at how 30 years ago the popular television show Miami Vice played a huge role in revitalizing South Florida tourism.

We hope that in the next legislative session, state lawmakers will stop viewing film production tax incentives as a handout to the wealthy entertainment industry and start seeing them for what they are: strong drivers of the Sunshine State economy.

This editorial first appeared in the Florida Keys Keynoter, a McClatchy newspaper.