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Florida industryites fill confab with optimism

State's showbiz back on track

MIAMI — Some 300 Florida industryites converged on Miami this week and sounded a note of guarded optimism about the state’s showbiz future.

At Film Florida 1999, film commissioners, union reps, above-the-line folk and technicians agreed that Jeb Bush’s ascent to the governor’s seat bodes well for the industry.

After years of floundering, state entertainment industry policy is back on track, panelists agreed; in July, Florida will finally get a state film commissioner with a $650,000 budget.

Gov. Bush is slated to meet with senior execs at Disney and Universal in Hollywood on June 2. They will discuss how all three parties can jointly grow activity at the two studios’ production facilities in Orlando.

TV drives Fla. industry

TV has been the principal driver in the state’s showbiz industry, Florida’s right-to-work status being a major factor in luring production.

Chuck Budt, station manager of Barry Diller’s local programming outlet, WAMI, said the main reason Diller chose Miami for his experiment was the low cost of freelance production talent here.

Still, panelists worried that Florida’s showbiz development is still handicapped by a local ignorance of film financing — among both investors and filmmakers — and by West Coast misperceptions about the cost of location work here.

Disappointments

They also cited a number of disappointments, such as the recent loss of three feature shoots to the Carolinas and the failure of all but one of four Florida network pilots — Spelling’s “Safe Harbor” was the exception — to get picked up for the fall.

Miami-Dade film commish and conference host Jeff Peel said he hoped the new state commissioner would, among other things, survey and clarify the size of Florida showbiz.

“We don’t know whether we’re No. 3 or No. 4. To have a number would be useful for marketing purposes,” said Peel, referring to Texas and North Carolina as other contenders for the No. 3 spot, after California and New York.