Politics

Family Friendly? Tiger Woods Video Game Shoots for ‘Wholesome’ Tax Credits

By: William Patrick FloridaWatchdog.org | Posted: June 14, 2014 3:55 AM
Tiger Woods video

On-course rants and tantrums, a divorce and a sordid love life.

That’s Tiger Woods. A great golfer? Yeah, at one time, sure.

But a wholesome paradigm for children and young adults? Probably not so much.

At its base, whether a video game featuring Woods should be categorized as “family friendly” is a subjective question, a purely individual interpretation.

So, apparently, is providing a half-million in tax dollars to finance it.

It’s up to the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment to either open the public vault or slam it shut.

It’s all part of the Florida Film and Entertainment Industry Incentive Program, to which production companies apply for a 5 percent family-friendly bonus -- on top of other tax credits totaling up to 30 percent in production costs.

The tax credits are transferable, so companies have the option to sell them to other companies for cash.

In the case of Tiger Woods PGA 2014, video game maker Electronic Arts could score $516,938 in tax discounts, in addition to $2.6 million in base credits and other incentives. The California-based firm also stands to collect a $726,261 family-friendly bonus for NCAA Football 2014, a $14.5 million project worth $4.3 million in incentives.

In all, 18 video games are up for family-friendly bonuses worth an estimated $5 million to $10 million.

Chris Ranung, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 477, a South Florida labor union representing film workers, told Watchdog.org applying the family-friendly bonus to sports video games is “inappropriate” and “exploits” the program’s limited resources.

“We have a dysfunctional incentives program to begin with,” Ranung said. “By taking these tax credits we have fewer incentives available for other kinds of entertainment productions that could make an economic impact.”

Local 477 members don’t work on video-game projects, and some economists dispute the benefits of targeted incentives.

Matt Mitchell, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, says film tax credits effectively spread production costs over a large number of people unaffiliated with the actual productions.

“The main costs of film tax credits ... everyone else in Florida will pay so a production company can skip out on part of its tax bill,” Mitchell said.

Florida law requires that family-friendly productions have cross-generational appeal, be considered suitable for children 5 or older and appropriate in theme, content and language for a broad family audience.

Tiger Woods PGA carries the Entertainment Software Association label of “E for Everyone,” meaning content is generally suitable for all ages.

Florida law also requires family-friendly productions to “embody a responsible resolution of issues,” and prohibits smoking, sex, nudity and vulgar or profane language.

“Dolphin Tale” and its sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2,” are films that more clearly meet the resolution-of-issues clause. The films received tax incentives, were produced in Clearwater and are based on a true story about a boy’s effort to save an injured dolphin. Tax incentive advocates often cite the films as economic success stories.

In a report called Florida Film Incentives: “Action” or “Fade to Black,” Integrity Florida, an independent nonpartisan research institute, found that family-friendly incentives “may not be applied in a consistent manner.”

The report also notes that OFE online incentive disclosures often lack specific information relating to actual tax credit awards and the names of recipients.

OFE’s interim Commissioner Niki Welge has authority to allocate family-friendly tax credits, along with the advice of the Film and Entertainment Advisory Council. But Ranung, a council member, says the advisory group isn’t so influential.

“It’s one of those bodies that never really does anything,” he said. “It meets once a quarter usually by teleconference and nobody has any clue of what they’re talking about. They talk for two hours and three months later they talk again.”

The Congress of Motion Picture Associations will hold a public forum June 30 in Tallahassee on sports video game family-friendly tax credits in conjunction with the FFEAC.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said in an email that family-friendly bonuses are made after certified productions are finished and the final version for release is reviewed by the state.



Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org.


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