Over the past decade, Miami, Florida, has steadily matured into a world-class production center for film, television, music videos and commercials. And it’s not just thanks to NATPE Miami, SPORTELAmerica and other major film and television trade shows held there.
Currently, Miami is home to over 200 production companies, 100 post-production houses and 50 locally based talent agencies and casting directors that together with the city’s ample facilities (approximately 20 state-of-the-art sound stages and over 2,000 film, video and support services) have helped fuel its unstoppable evolution. Almost 50 international distributors of entertainment programming are based in Miami, and in the past few years Netflix, Fox, Starz, FX, Oxygen, Nickelodeon and Showtime have all had ongoing local productions.
Moreover, the city’s proximity to Latin America and its large Spanish-speaking population have made Miami the epicenter of Hispanic productions and distribution. It’s home to Univision, Telefutura (now UniMás), Telemundo, Mun2 (from NBC Universo), Televisa Internacional, Mundo Fox, Spanish Broadcasting Systems, Caracol TV, Azteca Miami, Venevision Studios (now Cisneros Studios) and several local TV stations (Mira TV, America TV, VEME, etc.), as well as Ledafilms, Venevision Internacional (now Cisneros Media Distribution), Media Global Group, HBO Latin America Group and all the major U.S. studios’ LATAM divisions (CBSSI, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros.).
Award-winning director of photography/executive producer Jesús “Chuchi” Rivero has witnessed the flourishing TV industry in Miami over the past 10 years: “I always felt our city would become the next Hollywood. Only in Miami can you find perfectly bilingual crews and creative talent. We produce excellence for both the general and Hispanic markets,” he said.
Earlier this year, Miami’s Omni Redevelopment Agency leased the Miami Entertainment Complex for $100,000 a year and 11 percent of the gross sales above $750,000, to EUE/Screen Gems Studios, a New York City entertainment company that will build out the facility and operate the two 1,395 square meter soundstages and 1,115 square meters of offices, post-production facilities and miscellaneous space.
Screen Gems’ top executives say Miami offers a seasoned film community, experienced crews, a great pool of talent and unique natural locations for production. They have already lined up business with Latin America, India, Turkey and Spain. The studios will be up and running by August 2015.
In 1994, Emmy- Golden Globe- and SAG-nominee Sofía Vergara founded Latin World Entertainment (Latin WE) with business partner Hispanic entrepreneur Luis Balaguer. Latin WE has grown from a management agency for top Hispanic talent to a multi-service company offering a 360-degree approach and it is now the U.S.’s premier Hispanic talent management and entertainment marketing firm. It represents the biggest stars and trendsetters in the Spanish-speaking entertainment world. Now Latin WE is opening new offices in Miami’s Doral area. “We are thrilled with what has happened in the last five years,” Balaguer stated. Thanks in part to Vergara’s star (and earning) power, “Now Latin stars know for a fact that ‘crossing over’ is the way to go. More importantly, Hollywood stars know how important it is to cross over to the global Hispanic market. Latin World Entertainment has been a revolutionary element in that process.”
And he said the company “is expanding globally. We are already in China…and are also operating in Mexico. We are very happy to be leaders of this amazing process at the global level, and expect Miami’s prominence to continue to grow, since in Latin America, Miami is the Hollywood and Hollywood definitely has its eyes on Miami.”
Mario Beguiristain belongs to the generation that greatly boosted Hispanic media in the U.S. Since 1980, he has collaborated on film, television programs, creating, writing and directing hundreds of commercials and more than 40 special programs in English, Spanish and French for NBC, Univision, CBS and Telemundo networks. Today, as a professor at Miami Dade College’s School of Entertainment and Design Technology, he teaches Film Business, Marketing and Distribution and continues to contribute to the city’s growth.
“I never planned to leave Los Angeles when I was offered a temporary directing job in Miami,” he said. “I found that crews here were as professional as those in California. The fact that Florida is a right-to-work state [which prevents employers from excluding non-union workers, or requiring a fee from employees to unions], significantly helped the production bottom-line. Plus, Miami had the golden key to Latin America. I stayed and have been here more than 21 years now. The industry has definitely developed steadily and quickly in those years. When I started teaching 12 years ago, it was hard to find students to fill up the film and TV classes. Today our classes fill up in less than two days, and we are training a new generation of film and TV production professionals. I’m surprised at the high percentage of them that find work after graduation.”
Florida’s right-to-work status benefits independent producers from California who are operating in Miami due to the considerable savings (it’s one of 24 right-to-work states in the country).
Filmiami offers the industry all kinds of assistance, providing resources that cut red tape and make a producer’s life easier, like the one-stop online filming permits for Miami Dade County and City of Miami Beach, which can be obtained with 24-hour’s notice. Filmiami is a cooperation between the two Greater Miami film offices: the Miami-Dade Office for Film and Entertainment (Dade is the county or region that encompasses Miami) and the Miami Beach Office of Film & Event Production Management. The two full-service film commissions provide clients with location and logistics assistance, government liaison, production information and referral sources. In addition to Miami Beach, Filmiami issues film and photo permits for 16 municipalities within Miami Dade County. It also assists producers with location choices from their 1,000-plus location database.
Meanwhile, Miami’s industry infrastructure continues to expand. Since 2010, when the state enacted the Film and Entertainment Tax Credit Incentive Program, which allocated $296 million in incentives through 2016; the direct spend from productions has surpassed $1 billion.
“Production is an economic engine for Miami Dade County because it creates high wage jobs and infuses new capital into the local economy,” said Sandy K. Lighterman, Miami Dade Commissioner of Film and Entertainment. “Also, the images of Florida broadcast worldwide because they were filmed in Florida. It advertises our state as a tourist and relocation destination. We are encouraged that Governor Rick Scott and the legislature will see the potential for the growth of entertainment production throughout our state and add funding and multi-year extension to Florida’s incentive program, in order to attract and build this industry throughout the state.”
It is indeed a win-win situation for tourism too. A recent poll by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau saw that 40 percent of visitors were influenced to visit Miami because of what they saw on a TV show or in a feature film like Magic City, Animal Planet, Dexter and Charlie’s Angels. By Rosario Moreno