$200 million in film, entertainment industry spending seen as prelude to more hits this year
By Sherri C. Ranta
Despite a slow US economy, the amount spent by the film and entertainment industry in Miami-Dade County last year is expected to total more than $200 million.
The film, television, music, commercial photography and still photography industry will have spent more than what has been seen here since the mid- to late-1990s when all the 2002 figures are totaled, said Jeff Peel, director of the county Mayor's Office of Film and Entertainment.
"The year 2002 was an exceptional year for us. It was a strong rebound year," he said, "and it looks like 2003 will be a strong year for us."
Spending levels in 2000 totaled about $180 million, Mr. Peel said, and dropped to $150 million in 2001.
"The general economy has an effect on the amount of commercials that are filmed. That's the most direct effect," he said. "Some people think the movie business and television are counter-cyclical. If the economy is down, the movies do better because people want to escape."
The Mayor's Office of Film & Entertainment provides service and assistance to all related businesses, including music and still photography, to promote industry expansion and economic development. The office also operates a one-stop permitting program for those businesses interested in filming or working here.
"It was a very good year for us in 2002," Mr. Peel said. "We had three major films here, Fast and Furious II, Bad Boyz II and Out of Time. The movies generated $40 million to $50 million in businesses for the local economy."
The success of the NBC drama "CSI Miami" boosted the area's image this year among the viewers and the entertainment industry, he said.
The show's first episode ranked as the season's No. 1 debut. While "CSI Miami" doesn't film here fulltime, Mr. Peel said, many of the exteriors are done locally.
"I expect us to be able to leverage some of the interest we've just generated into future television shoes and movies," he said.
At least three movies are expected to begin production in Miami-Dade during the first part of this year, Mr. Peel said. They include a spin-off from the television show "American Idol" and a Farrelly Brothers movie production Stuck on You starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinear and Cher. In the third production, Miami will double as Hollywood.
"Generally speaking, we lose so much work to Hollywood, I think it's poetic justice to pretend to be Hollywood for a change. So much stuff stays in L.A.," Mr. Peel said.
As the television pilot season swings into full gear, Miami may also get a chance at a few other projects. At least two pilots are written for Miami, he said, but the film location is still unknown.
Bob Hosmon, associate dean, University of Miami School of Communication, said he would like more TV production in Miami. The school offers classes in film, television, journalism, advertising and public relations
"For the future, we'll probably be more successful if we could get more television here," he said. "It tends to be steady work, especially if you have a successful series."
Mr. Hosmon said he would love to see "CSI Miami" film here, but the county lacks a plentiful number of sound stages for interior work.
The biggest problem, he said, is financial. The financial community doesn't understand how it can make money by backing these projects, he said.
The City of Miami stepped up to promote the film and entertainment industry in October 2002 with the creation of the Mayor's Office of Film, Art and Entertainment and named industry veteran Robert Parente as director. Mr. Parente operated his own media film and photography production firm Parente Productions in Miami from 1985 to 2000.
"For the past eight to 10 years, the city has had a well-functioning permit area," Mr. Parente said. "But the office hasn't been out there active in the community, beyond what came to them."
Mayor Manny Diaz's vision, Mr. Parente said, is to see Miami become a Mecca for the entertainment industry, a move that would not only boost economic development but improve the quality of life through ancillary benefits an active arts community can bring to a city. An 11-member Arts and Entertainment Council and the new city office were created to implement that vision, he said.
A lack of sound stages in South Florida was one factor preventing "CSI Miami" from filming here on a full time basis, Mr. Parente said.
"I would love nothing more than to get them here fulltime next year to shoot 22 or 24 episodes. We're working on that."
A long-term goal of the office, he said, will be to work with area schools, such as Miami-Dade Community College, to make the city a leader in digital film production. "There is tremendous future in digital productions for theatrical release."
Details: www.filmiami.org. or www.miami.edu.