Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., now leading the polls in the final weeks of the Democratic gubernatorial primary, says the film industry is in need of help and promises, if she is elected governor in November, to pump state tax dollars into incentives to draw more film makers to Florida.
Meeting with area leaders and members of the industry at Adrenaline Films in Orlando this week, Graham said it has been painful to watch shows like “Bloodline” shut down in Florida while other productions moved to states like Georgia.
“There are so many opportunities to grow our economy,” Graham said. “Not just with the film industry, but with tourism, people coming to Florida to see where these shows area being filmed with other opportunities for restaurants and hotels.”
Flanked by a University of Florida graduate and a representative from the University of Central Florida, Graham listened to accounts of the frustrations of watching recent graduates with training in the entertainment industry leave for other states. Graham promised to keep more of those graduates in Florida by giving the industry cash to make movies and television.
“The opportunities for economic growth and working together with our university system to provide training and support for students who can then go out and get a terrific job here in the state,” Graham said. “We’ve got to start taking advantage of what has been a growing business.”
Graham laughed as she said binge watching is a real thing but says there is more to the industry than just film and television, citing apps and gaming. She even mentioned her son works for Blizzard Entertainment in California, adding that she wants him to come home to the Sunshine State.
Film, television, gaming and app development incentives can expensive. Florida Daily asked Graham how she intended to pay for these incentives.
“We have an $89 billion budget and, a lot of that budget, we have no idea how those resources are being spent,” Graham answered. “When I am governor, every single dime is going to be spent efficiently and effectively, helping the people of Florida in whatever way those resources should be spent.”
If she prevails in November, the former congresswoman from North Florida will also have to get help from a likely Republican controlled Legislature to pass these incentives. That possibility did not seem to faze Graham.
“I am willing to do the hard work of sitting down with the Legislature and finding out how do we reach compromise so we can actually get progress. Inaction is not acceptable to me,” she said.
Graham has garnered quite a bit of airtime recently but is also drawing fire with less than three weeks to go until the primary on August 28. Primary rival Jeff Greene, a billionaire who is battling with former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine for second in the polls, has been hitting her on a number of fronts in recent days.
Weighing in on Greene’s attacks, Graham told Florida Daily that politics is a contact sport so she expected the jabs. One of Greene’s ad focuses on a highly controversial development by her family’s company that many say encroaches on the Everglades.Graham tried to put some distance between herself and the project.
“What I have done with my relationship with the Graham companies is I have removed myself,” she said. “I have recused myself from the entire projects, discussions of that company because I want to be in a position where no one can accuse me of saying that I have any appearance of a conflict of interest. It is really important to me.”
The American Dream mega mall would be built just west of Hialeah adjacent to the Florida Turnpike. Graham is facing off in the Democratic primary for governor with Greene, Levine, developer Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.