Charlie Crist says Florida has lost out on $1.5 billion in revenue from the film and TV industry under Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate snapped the clapperboard Friday on a plan, which he’s calling “Entertainment Florida,” to diversify and strengthen the state economy. In doing so, he hopes to bring hundreds of thousands of production jobs to the Sunshine State.
“Florida’s once iconic film and television production industry has been decimated under Ron DeSantis’s failed leadership. We will rebuild it under the Crist Administration,” Crist said in a statement. “Gov. DeSantis has let hundreds of millions in economic activity leave our state, and countless thousands of jobs slip away. We’re going to bring it all back to Florida, reestablishing the Sunshine State as a global hub for making the best movies and TV shows in the world.”
Speaking in Miami, Crist said Florida was the No. 3 state for film production more than a decade ago, back when he was Governor. Now, the Sunshine State isn’t even in the top 20.
Crist said he’ll work with lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, to restore industry incentives and work with city and county film commissions to get industry credits running smoothly. Specifically, he plans to elevate the Film and Entertainment Advisory Council to report directly to the Governor’s Office.
“Each one of those films is like a two-hour commercial for the Sunshine State. It’s all upside, no downside,” he told reporters. “Why Gov. DeSantis hasn’t embraced that is beyond my comprehension, except that, probably ideologically, he’s not a big fan of Hollywood, and that’s a shame. I think it’s important that we embrace these wonderful people who do so much for the best entertainment industry in the world.”
DeSantis has made a point to combat “woke ideology” in Florida schools and businesses, including with a “Stop WOKE Act” he signed this year that is currently under litigation. The Republican Governor has also extended his complaints about social justice to the film industry.
In June, DeSantis told reporters he took the First Lady to see “Top Gun: Maverick” for her birthday. Even before the First Family saw the movie, DeSantis predicted it was doing so well at the box office because it is relatable to the average person. Later, he invoked the film to bemoan the U.S. Navy “focusing on pronouns.”
Joining Crist on Friday were industry support staff. Leah Sokowlowsky, a location manager and scout who has worked in Florida for 30 years, outlined the ways the film and TV industry brings billions to the state economy.
“The bottom line is, I’m supporting Charlie Crist for the next Governor of Florida because he supports Florida small businesses, he supports high-wage jobs for working Floridians — like me — and he supports my industry, which is really nice to see,” Sokowlowsky said. “He understands the impact this industry can have in promoting Florida throughout the world.”
Americans for Prosperity Florida, the state branch of a nationwide fiscally conservative advocacy group, called the plan a bailout for the TV and film industry. In a tweet, AFP Florida State Director Skylar Zander likened Crist’s proposal as a gift to the Democrat’s “liberal Hollywood donors.”
“Rep. Charlie Crist just announced that he wants to provide incentives for the film and television industries, which is a clear bailout for his rich industry related donors, ”Zander said in a statement. “Charlie Crist wants to use Floridians hard earned taxpayer dollars to then hand it over to the rich film and television industry.
“This is the very definition of wasteful government spending and he’s putting it on the backs of voting Floridians. He should be ashamed for pushing the voting public to support such an endeavor. Charlie says he’s for the middle class yet he’s willing to give our money away to billionaires — the same thing he did when he was Governor previously and it was a failed policy.”
John Lux, the executive director of the nonpartisan trade group Film Florida, welcomed Crist’s announcement in a statement to Florida Politics.
“Anytime anyone wants to discuss high wage job creation and telling the Florida story, we want to be at that table,” Lux said.
Lux also criticized U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who succeeded Crist and preceded DeSantis as Governor, for letting the state’s incentive programs lapse. But Lux noted Film Florida has been working to pass new legislation with a bipartisan team of lawmakers — namely Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Dana Trabulsy, both Republicans, and Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. David Silvers, both Democrats.
“We are grateful for the bipartisan support (and) we are looking forward to working with policy makers to create a successor program,” Lux continued.
Until his resignation this week, Crist had represented Florida’s 13th Congressional District since winning the seat in the 2016 election. Crist was elected Governor as a Republican in 2006 but left the party and did not seek re-election in 2010, opting instead for an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.
DeSantis currently holds the polling and fundraising lead in his re-election bid. The latest polling commissioned by one progressive coalition put DeSantis up 3 points over Crist, within the poll’s margin of error. However, FiveThirtyEight puts DeSantis up 7 points over Crist, a large margin compared to recent Florida history. The outfit also gives DeSantis a 93% chance of winning in November.