• Ray Watters

A MESSAGE TO FELLOW FLORIDA ACTORS

Updated: Nov 23

I am going to start this blog by stating some very sad facts that, as actors, should concern us very much. I will follow this with what I feel we can do to help remedy this situation.


I wonder how many of you are aware that Florida is the only state in the Southeast, and one of 16 states throughout the U.S. without a program to compete for film and television projects. As of last year, Florida has lost out on approximately 100 major film and television projects that would have equated to over $1.5 billion spent statewide, and 125,000 cast and crew jobs (I do not have the numbers for this year). This also includes losses to ancillary businesses such as hotels, equipment rentals and many more. However, since this is addressed only to my fellow actors, I will concentrate on how it affects us.


Recently, I booked a co-star role in the Disney series, “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” through my Honolulu agency. I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful cast and crew, had a wonderful time, and was really happy to have been paid above scale. Now the downside. In order to take on the role, I had to accept to be a local hire. Being a local hire simply meant that I would not be paid for transportation, hotels, and not receive per diem. I traveled 4600 miles to Honolulu and paid for my hotel (actors stay at the same hotel at a reduced rate) and meals. Even though I was paid above scale, I returned home pretty much coming out even on money. In short…I didn’t make much $$ at all! While it was a valuable addition to my resumé, it came with a cost.


Before I continue, it would be appropriate to mention a little about me. I have been in the "business" for 62 years (Musician, Radio Broadcaster, TV Show Host, TV/Film Actor, Stage Actor/Director). I often humorously state my claim to fame was that I performed at the Hollywood Bowl four years before The Beatles. I am an old actor…a very old actor…78 years old to be exact. There is less competition for my type since there are fewer of us. Of course, there are also fewer parts for actors my age. So far, I haven’t been asked to audition for the role of a superhero or some handsome hunk (Drat the luck!).


To continue, film incentives in each state will differ, but the reasons for having them are the same…to promote their state, their businesses, and their workers. The latter is important to us because some states require that you be a resident of that state in order for production to get the incentive. Therefore, there are many roles for which we will not be able to book. For those states we can work, booking a role can be made even more difficult. All things being equal, the local actor normally will have priority.


When living in Texas, I was a member of the Texas Media Production Alliance (TXMPA). At that time, we had lost our incentives (much like what happened here about six years ago) and work just dried up. We worked hard to promote local filming and, despite many hurdles, did get the incentive program passed, but it required the work of the members. I remember attending Lobby Day in Austin, where members showed up to promote filming to our elected representatives. A huge number of our members were fellow actors who understood the need to promote more filming in Texas.


Subsequent to my move to Florida four years ago, I joined Film Florida, a statewide organization similar to TXMPA. During the past few years, Film Florida has been actively involved in promoting film incentives to our legislators, and while we still do not have an incentive program, we have received more bipartisan support each year. In short, it’s not a case of “if” we get a program, but “when”. The ”when” part of getting the program depends on those who support filming in our state, which should include our state’s local actors.


The yearly membership cost to be a member of Film Florida is $75.00 for individuals. If I were to add the cost of ongoing training, headshots, SAG-AFTRA dues, IMDb Pro, Casting Networks, equipment needed to self-tape, and other costs I may have left out, I would come up with a significant amount of money that makes the yearly cost of membership in Film Florida seem like pocket change. Yet, without the help of Film Florida, all the money spent on those items will mean little if we don’t have films made in our state.


It's a no-brainer, my fellow Florida actors! Let’s support each other by joining Film Florida. Let’s get back the big films like “Dolphin Tale” and the like! Let's be those local actors production companies prefer! Please check out their website: https://filmflorida.org




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