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Joey "Hollywood" Giordano had a breakthrough year in 2005. The 40-year-old Kendall native did some casting work for network television, scouted locations for a few big-budget films, went over scenes and dialogue with William Morris-quality talent (Farrell, Caruso, Foxx) and, perhaps best yet, Joey, who looks eerily like Joey from Friends,accumulated enough small-screen action to earn his Screen Actors Guild card. "I can finally have speaking roles," he says excitedly. But Joey's SAG card isn't exactly wowing his colleagues. In fact co-workers tease him mercilessly. Earlier this year office pranksters recorded the Miami Vice theme song on his cell phone voicemail.
And then there's that's nagging nickname. "Hollywood," he says, rolling his eyes. "I hear it every day."
Joey is, after all, Detective Joey Giordano of the Miami-Dade Police and he's paid $69,000 a year plus another 30K in off-duty time to handle one of the department's most unusual jobs. Location scouting, casting, prop procurement, taking care of the talent (i.e., advising Jamie Foxx) this is Giordano's beat. One of six members of the MDPD media relations office, Joey is the force's chief link to all things Hollywood. And there's so much cop filming going on in Miami-Dade from South Beach and CSI: Miami to Animal Police that Joey estimates he spent most of last year on Hollywood projects. Indeed he worked for more than nine months full-time on Miami Vicethe movie, which is slated for July release and will star Foxx as Tubbs and Colin Farrell as Crockett.
So is it a problem that an able-bodied cop is spending his time, say, hunting for the right T-shirt for Farrell while roughly 25 people are violently attacked in unincorporated Miami-Dade every day? Joey ticks off a few points in defense of Hollywood time. A single episode of CSI: Miami only a week of shooting pumps $600,000 into the local economy, he contends. "And," Joey says, "look what Miami Vice [the TV show] did for this city. It put Miami on the world map."
The county's film office, which is charged with luring moviemakers to the city, claims the impact of a major Hollywood film like Bad Boys II or Miami Vice is easily more than $20 million. "Hotels, cars, catering, lumber suppliers, wardrobe, location fees," says Jeff Peel, director of the Miami-Dade Mayor's Office of Film and Video, "it's spread all over." But Peel says the biggest value of films is their impact on tourism: "Nothing commands the world audience like a major picture."
Hollywood cops like Giordano are not unusual, Peel says, because police scenes are such a large part of film and television. The New York Police Department, for instance, has a 27-plus-member movie/TV unit. Law enforcement in smaller cities, such as Atlanta and Chicago, also has appointed cops.
Some filmmakers believe the presence of a cop liaison is essential. Bryan H. Carroll, coproducer of Miami Vice the movie, who has worked on more than twenty big-budget films, says many filmmakers who seek to achieve realism need the in-house expertise. Carroll comments that Joey was not only helpful with the film's research needs, but also solved several casting and logistical crises. "He's amazing in the eleventh hour. Once we needed six SWAT guys for a scene right away. Another time we needed a helicopter," he explains, "and Joey always came through."
Before joining MDPD's communications staff in 2001, Giordano, a seventeen-year police veteran, worked as a narcotics and domestic violence detective. His claim to fame: In 1992, while working undercover as a Jackson Memorial Hospital nurse, he helped bust a ring of senior citizens illegally selling prescription drugs.
In 2003 Joey's boss punted the CSI: Miamitwo-hour season finale project to him. "I got a kick out of it," he says. The Hollywood liaison job often involves servile tasks everything from helping schedule a shoot to getting props. It also often involves taking midnight calls from harried producers, handling tough research questions, and dealing with self-important prima donna producers. "It's frustrating for a cop to be talked down to," Joey says. "It's not usually the celebrities that are the problem, but the producers and writers." Indeed he gushes about Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell, whom he worked with on Miami Vice.
Joey is occasionally tasked with rounding up an ethnically varied mix of cops as extras. His pitch: "Instead of working as a security guard at Publix," he tells them, "you'll get paid as an extra. Sometimes to stand in line."
Police get 30 bucks per hour for off-duty pay from the production companies, he explains. Collectively Miami-Dade cops made $455,000 as extras on Vice alone. "Money. That's how I usually sell the rank and file." But there's another, more persuasive tack, Giordano says. Last year Miami Vice's producers wanted a character trained by the department's SWAT team, now called the Special Response Team. Giordano's winning pitch to Maj. Lou Battle: "We can make sure that this gets represented in the right way. Millions will see this. Let's get it right."
Then there was an assistant producer, whom Joey won't name, who was such a tyrant that Joey threatened to pull the extras off the Miami Vice set. "You are free to do HialeahVice," he warned the filmmakers.