Miami-Dade County

‘Moonlight’ cited in Tallahassee as reason to keep state incentives for filmmakers

Alex Hibbert in a scene from the film, "Moonlight." The film won an Oscar for best picture on Feb. 26.
Alex Hibbert in a scene from the film, "Moonlight." The film won an Oscar for best picture on Feb. 26. AP

Just over a week after winning the Oscar for best picture, the made-in-Miami drama “Moonlight” suddenly found itself in the middle of a political fight in the Florida Legislature.

On Monday, the Academy Award-winning film was rolled out as an example of a movie made in Florida that is bringing the state publicity. State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, said movies like “Moonlight” are why Florida should not be dismantling the Office of Film & Entertainment as House Republican leaders have proposed.

“We have seen great benefits to seeing films produced in Florida,” Richardson said.

He specifically cited “Moonlight,” which was filmed in Miami-Dade and told by a director and playwright born in Miami.

“And the state is benefiting from all the free publicity when people talk about the film and where it was shot,” Richardson said.

State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Flagler Beach, has proposed killing 24 different economic development programs that he says are a misuse of taxpayer dollars or are not effective. Among the list of programs on the chopping block is the Office of Film & Entertainment, which markets, promotes, and serves as a liaison between filmmakers and government entities. It is part of the same bill that aims to kill Enterprise Florida, the state agency championed by Gov. Rick Scott that hands out tax credits to corporations to move to Florida or expand jobs in the state.

Florida no longer gives out tax incentives for films, but over six years gave out nearly $300 million to lure television and film companies to the Sunshine State.

Richardson argued that the state should keep the mechanism in place to help get films made in Florida even if the state cannot offer incentives.

But the rest of the House Rules committee was unswayed by Richardson’s plea. They voted to reject his proposed amendment that would have protected the Office of Film from elimination. The full House could vote to kill Enterprise Florida and the Office of Film by the end of the week.

But the bill may never pass the full Legislature because the Florida Senate does not have a similar bill. Both chambers have to pass the same bill and get the governor to OK it for it to become law.

Natalie Piner — mom to Jaden Piner, one of the Miami stars of ‘Moonlight’ — accompanied her son to the Academy Awards. Here is a clip from backstage moments after the best picture award.