“Miami Vice.” “The Birdcage.” “Moonlight.”
These high-profile television and feature film productions did much to put Miami Beach on the map and highlight the city’s vibrant culture, attractive beaches and architectural charms. So while the state Legislature has expressed little interest in reintroducing economic incentives to attract the film industry to Florida, Miami Beach commissioners want to make it easier for the productions to work on the island.
The city will draft a series of ordinances that will streamline permitting, loosen parking restrictions, and develop cash incentives for production companies who want to work in the Beach.
Eva Silverstein, the Beach’s director of tourism, culture and economic development, said the recommendations, requested by the commission, were developed after consultations with local industry representatives, many of whom cheered their unanimous support for the commission’s action at a public meeting Wednesday.
“We talked with the [film] community about what we can do at the local level now, on a really quick basis, that might not solve all of these problems, but will make a very impactful statement about the city of Miami Beach wanting to bring this back as a revenue stream and as a major contributing industry,” she said.
Some of the proposed changes would make it easier for production crew members to park in municipal garages during off-peak periods, create a permit allowing motorhomes used by filmmakers to park at metered spots and taxi stands without advance reservation, and make it easier to get approval to film in residential neighborhoods and to close traffic lanes at shooting locations.
Currently producers need to get signed consent from all property owners within a 500-foot radius of a production location in residential neighborhoods. That could go down to 200 feet. The current requirement that 100 percent of property owners sign off on lane closures could be reduced to 75 percent.
The proposals are expected to come back to the City Commission in the form of ordinances.
The commission fully backed the concepts and called on the Legislature to reinstate statewide tax incentives. The Florida Entertainment Incentive Program started in 2010 with the establishment of $296 million in tax credits for TV, film and video productions. For a production to be eligible, 60 percent of its cast and crew had to be based in Florida.
The program proved popular, and with productions came thousands of jobs. But the money ran out in three years, and lawmakers did not replenish the fund. The program officially ended June 30 last year.
“It bewilders to me as to why they took away those incentives,” said Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.
The Beach wants to consider its own cash incentive. An initial proposal would establish a $100,000 pot funded by the city, private entities or both. The details of how to award the incentives will be discussed by the city’s finance committee.
“We can structure it in a multitude of ways,” Silverstein said.
Miami Beach has had a fruitful love affair with the film industry, and it owes part of its resurgence to the 1980s television crime drama “Miami Vice.” The show put South Beach’s Art Deco treasures on display, sprucing them up for millions of viewers nationwide. Then it dropped bikini-clad extras on the sand, transforming the beach’s reputation from sleepy to sexy.
Most recently, the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight” featured key scenes on the sand around 21st Street and at a 1949 garden-style apartment building at 7445 Harding Ave. in North Beach, an example of the area’s Miami Modern architecture. The film was named Best Picture in February.
Industry representatives were overjoyed with the support from the commission. Daniel Davidson, chairman of the Production Industry Council, told the Miami Herald he’s happy to see city leaders enthusiastic about luring the industry to the Beach. He noted that producers are happy to comply with parameters that would be laid out in the incentive program because as long as there is an incentive to attraction productions, people in the trade will be able to work in Miami Beach.
“They welcome regulation. They want to be able to do everything by the book,” he said. “They want to be able to practice their trade.”