Q&A: Dale Gordon, Tampa Hillsborough Film & Digital Media

Placing Tampa and Hillsborough County top of mind when it comes to film and digital media production is Dale Gordon's ambitious goal. She is the new executive director of the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission, which aims to nurture filmmakers already here while attracting big budget films that create jobs and provide a significant economic boost.

With the launch of a new website and a renewed emphasis on convincing the Florida Legislature to up the state's game when it comes to offering incentives and marketing dollars dedicated to the film industry, Gordon answers a few questions posed by 83 Degrees Media Writer Ash Withers.

83 Degrees: What is particularly innovative about digital media in Tampa Bay?

Dale Gordon: There is a lot of crossover pertaining to digital media within the major industries here in Tampa Bay. Recognized as an anchor of the High Tech Corridor, Tampa Bay has a large footprint in this new and transformative medium. From traditional TV and web-based content companies such as MindClay and Diamond View Studios to new and emerging technologies working in military and medical training facilities, such as USF Health CAMLS, the world of digital media is constantly changing and evolving in our market.

83D: How do you plan to innovate as Film Commissioner?

DG: My plan is to bring these crossover industries together. Recognizing that digital media is not specific to just film, TV and commercials has been an immense catapult for many markets. I want to see our creative class in Tampa Bay celebrated. Every successful effort is started with a creative thought. It's not about thinking singularly, but how to be multifaceted in our approach going forward. Collaboration will be the key to our success as a market. 

83D: Who do you have on your team?

DG: In addition to myself and our amazing production coordinator, Tyler Martinolich, we are fortunate to have the backing of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

83D: How do they contribute to your vision?

DG: Tyler Martinolich brings experience in both traditional film production as well as in academia, having been a professor at the University of Tampa's College of Film & Media Arts. Being housed in the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Commission gives us a great advantage in being able to focus on the film & digital media industry holistically.

83D: What progress, if any, has been made on studio and sound space in the Tampa Bay region?

DG: Having a soundstage is obviously a great asset to any region that is marketing to the film and  digital media industry. However, I want to see a model that incorporates education and on-the-job training. Anyone can convert an old warehouse into a soundstage with the right design and financial backing, but it's about the business model going forward that determines the success of the venture.

83D: What do you think attracts filmmakers to the Tampa Bay region?

DG: Location. Location. Location!!! Did I say location? Truthfully, I've traveled to just about every part of this country and I don't think you're going to find a more diverse, yet unique sampling of locations such as we have here in the Tampa Bay market. From the Port of Tampa Bay to Hyde Park, Ybor City to the farm fields of Plant City, and let's not forget a gorgeous Downtown skyline that winds down Bayshore Boulevard. One would be hard pressed to NOT find a filming location they need.

83D: What is the biggest challenge for filmmakers here?

DG: When it comes to high-impact film and TV production, incentives are the major deciding factor. Florida's Entertainment Incentive Program is currently depleted and offers no tax credit incentives. We are working closely with Film Florida and state representatives during the 2014 [legislative] session. Check back for a status update in May 2014, but in the meantime, tell your local representatives how vital incentives are to the Film & Digital Media industry.

83D: What are some of the latest technologies you're looking at in digital media?

DG: Web-based content. We are seeing a shift. Just as when analog television turned to cable, now we are seeing new and original content moving to the web. This shift has been so prominent that Hollywood has even added this medium to industry union standards. With the break-out success of such formats as Youtube, Amazon and Netflix, viewers are using the web for more traditional entertainment. Additionally, this has allowed many filmmakers a distribution outlet to get their work in front of audiences, an option that would not have been available 10-15 years ago.

83D: Where do you see the Tampa Bay film industry in the next 10 years?

DG: I see a thriving and diverse market that is leading Florida's film & digital media efforts. We will be known as the Southeastern hub for commercial production. Tampa Bay will be considered a leader in educating the workforce of tomorrow's new and emerging creative talent in all aspects of the entertainment industry. Our infrastructure will be deep and progressive, consistently working on exciting and transformative projects.

Ash Withers is a freelance writer living in St. Petersburg. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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