Pinellas incentive program attracts filmmakers

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County Film Commissioner Tony Armer has successfully attracted filmmakers to shoot made-for-TV movies in the area, even as the county’s incentive program budget has shrunk due to the pandemic.

“We have a lot of projects that are interested in coming to the area,” Armer said. “We’re doing our best to bring the business here.”


What do you want to know

  • The incentive program varies from 10 to 20% per project
  • The 2022 incentive program budget is $800,000
  • The film commissioner said 10 other possible films are looking to shoot in Pinellas County
  • BELOW: Breakdown of budgets, films shot locally

The movie “Spring Break Nightmare” has been filming throughout Pinellas County since February 1 and wraps at the end of the month. This is the fifth film shot in the region since last fall.

Penalty Vox Productions owner Dylan Vox is also the director and producer of “Spring Break Nightmare.” He said the incentive program attracted him.

“We kind of looked for incentives because we have a bit lower budget,” he said. “You need it to come back and pay for our hotels and all that kind of stuff.”

Armer said the incentive program ranges from 10 to 20 percent per project depending on budget and marketing deliverables. Vox recovers 20%.

(Pinellas County Film Commissioner Tony Armer (Josh Rojas/Spectrum Bay News 9)

The 2022 incentive program budget is $800,000. That’s more than 2018, which was $500,000, but not as much as 2020, when the program had $1.1 million. Last year the budget was $1.4 million.

Armer noted that the budget is drafted a year in advance. This means that extreme COVID-related budget cuts have been made without knowing what the total tourism development tax revenue would be. The 6% hotel tax funds St. Pete-Clearwater tourism in Pinellas County.

“We’re just focusing on what we can,” Armer said. “What we can do is these small projects of $2 million or less.”

Last year, two feature films were shot locally with a combined budget of $4.2 million. So far this year, four feature films have been shot with combined budgets of $1.6 million.

Armer said 10 other movies are looking to shoot in Pinellas County, with budgets ranging from $400,000 to $1.5 million.

“I’m talking to a family film that wants to come to the area,” he said. “A few more dramatic films that want to come to the area.”

As for “Spring Break Nightmare,” Vox said it was an adventure film about a woman who is a professional surfer and gets kidnapped for a gambling debt.

“Some things go wrong,” he said. “Then mom comes in and she has to save the day.”

Vox said Tampa Bay featured prominently in her film.

“They’re going to do spring break in Pinellas,” he said. “They’re surfing. Which, I kind of cheat.”

Vox said they have yet to sell the film to a network. Armer said bringing big-budget movies to Florida requires a statewide incentive program.

“I hope someday soon the state will get an incentive,” he said. “So we can bring those great ‘Dolphin Tale’ type movies back to the region.”

Incentive amount budgeted, according to Vist St. Pete Clearwater

  • FY18 $500,000
  • FY19 $500,000
  • FY20 $1.7m (reduced to $1.1m due to COVID)
  • FY21 $1.4 million (cut due to COVID)
  • FY22 $800,000 (reduced due to COVID)

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