A new incentive program could keep movies like Moonlight filming in Miami.
A new incentive program could keep movies like Moonlight filming in Miami.
Elevation Pictures

Miami-Dade Announces Incentive Program for TV, Film, and Entertainment

In the face of last year's loss of state incentives for entertainment production in Florida, Miami-Dade County has stepped up to offer a program that hopes to fill the gap locally. On Tuesday, commissioners voted to approve a rebate valued at $100,000 to productions shooting in Miami-Dade County that spend $1 million in the area.

“The local industry has been asking for the County’s assistance by enacting a local incentive program and now they have it,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez said in a statement. “This is a vital industry for our local economy, and we want those who are a part of it to be able to work and live here, and not have to move away in order to pay their bills.”

The guidelines require productions to spend at least 70 percent of their entire budget in the county and hire a minimum of 50 main cast and crew who reside in the county. Isis Masoud, a Coconut Grove-based actress, says this gives her hope. She believes it will “definitely” mean more work for her in her hometown.

“It's a proactive way to fight back against their efforts to kill the film industry here,” says Masoud of Tallahassee legislators who refused to renew the state's program last year. “I'm feeling proud of the community for pulling together to make this happen. I'm super grateful to Sandy Lighterman for leading the way on this effort.”

Lighterman is the director of the county's Office of Film and Entertainment. She said she spent about a year working with commissioners in fashioning the plan. “We anticipate this program will be able to stem the loss of our crew, acting talent and supporting businesses,” she said in the county’s statement.

The program will also benefit local businesses hired by productions. Another requirement for the program dictates that 80 percent of vendors used on projects must be Miami-Dade County-based registered businesses.

Local incentives have become a trend in the state to fill the gap left by the loss of a long-running statewide incentive program that began as a rebate in 2010 and ended as a tax incentive in 2016. At one point it was valued at $296 million before dropping in value and then being omitted from the state budget in 2016.

Often, TV or movie productions set in Miami only shoot exteriors here to establish the story location. Then they move out to areas that have production incentives to finish shooting the bulk of the project. It recently happened with FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. In May, producers spent about three weeks shooting at and around the famed designer’s mansion, Villa Casa Casuarina, on Ocean Drive, before moving the production to Los Angeles, where there is a statewide incentive program.

Andrew Hevia, a producer on Moonlight who grew up in Miami, says filming locally was essential to the success of the Oscar-winning Best Picture. He and the filmmakers sacrificed the reward of an incentive to shoot the movie here. “You weigh the incentive against the benefits of staying true to the core of the story,” he says. “There was no Moonlight without the Pork & Beans. It was about growing up in Liberty City. [Actor] Shariff Earp's Miami dialect is necessary to that story. If we don't open on that, you have nothing. The details make that movie.”

Masoud is hopeful that Miami-Dade's program will not only encourage outside productions to shoot in Miami but also benefit local filmmakers. “I think it has the potential to keep local filmmakers from filming elsewhere and will largely attract independent filmmakers. I'm not sure that a $100K rebate on a one-million-dollar budget will draw massive TV shows, but if this incentive keeps projects like Moonlight from leaving town and supports midrange to smaller scale projects, then that's a win.”

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