Bollywood star wants to film in Tampa despite tax credit challenges

TAMPA - Indian superstar Anil Kapoor, whose stardom back home matches Brad Pitt, fell in love with Tampa after visiting in January.

He told ABC Action News he’s scouting locations, including the University of South Florida and University of Tampa campuses, for a film.

"Nothing can give you more exposure than a film today," Kapoor said. "That has been proven again and again."

The benefits of luring producers like Kapoor to Tampa seem like a no-brainer, but Florida poses a major challenge to filmmakers: A lack tax incentives.

Dale Gordon, the woman charged with bringing major productions to Tampa, said films bring money to the local economy.

"They hire a lot of people at a very high wage," Gordon said. "They stay in our hotels. They eat in our restaurants."

Pinellas officials said "Magic Mike" brought in $900,000 in just seven days of production. And there's a ripple effect, Gordon said. The popularity of "Dolphin Tale" brought in $1 billion in tourism.

"The number one question that (filmmakers) always have is what kind of incentives are you able to offer," Gordon said. "And we have no tax credits to offer film clients."

The $296 million approved by lawmakers back in 2012 is already spent. But there's a statewide effort to lobby lawmakers during the March session for $200 million per year through 2020.

"That sounds like a lot of money,” Gordon said. “But that is on par with the other states that we compete with.”

For now, Gordon wants Kapoor's movie to happen. She's looking at creative alternatives thanks to the flexibility of his team.

"At the end of the day we might not be able to write a check, but perhaps we can find a local organization that can partner with them," Gordon said.

Kapoor said he is looking forward to the partnership. He plans to bring a crew of about 50 people to film for a couple of months. He is optimistic it will give Tampa another boost.

"You know how it is in film or any other industry – someone makes a film and others start following blindly," Kapoor said.

With the immense popularity of Bollywood movies, Gordon and other industry leaders agree that can only mean good things for this community.

"It is fabulous," Gordon said.

"Over 2 billion people will know what Tampa Bay is and the university because of this film, you can't buy that," Kapoor said.

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