Italian comedy could be filmed here
By Suzy Valentine
Italy's answer to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby could bring millions in film dollars this year and thousands more next season via Italian tourists.
This summer, scouts for a "Vacanza" film, which like each of the "Road" series movies features a different location, will visit to find sites in Miami-Dade County before shooting later in the year.
"It should bring a few million dollars," said Jeff Peel, director of the Miami-Dade Mayor's Office of Film & Entertainment, "and could be a huge tourism spectacle for us too. It is one of the most popular film series in Italy - something of a "National Lampoon's Vacation."
In the film, the stars, two of the country's favorite comics, will be on vacation in Miami. Vacanza is the Italian word for holiday.
"It should do a good job of promoting Miami in Italy," said Claudio di Persia, president of the Italian Film Festival in Miami Beach. "The films have a huge following in Italy."
Of last year's 5.2 million overnight visitors to the county, 144,872 were from Italy, figures from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau show.
"That's a 12% increase on the previous year when 129,350 Italians stayed," said David Whitaker, the bureau's senior vice president of marketing and tourism. "We've seen a steady rise in visitors from across Europe. A strong euro and the resurgence of the market have combined. This film is the kind of exposure money cannot buy. There's strength in advertising but there's strength in news and movies as well."
Mr. di Persia explained the attraction of the "Vacanza" film franchise.
"They place ordinary people in extraordinary situations," he said. "The characters enjoy incredible situations in different markets. 'Vacanza Natale' is one example. Italians like them because they recognize themselves."
He said that audiences could expect a large helping of food snobbery.
"There are jokes about food preparation," said Mr. Di Persia, "and how nothing ever tastes as good as it does at home. Italian audiences understand it as a spoof, but it doesn't translate so easily."
Mr. Peel said landing a European movie project was quite a coup.
"This kind of European feature film is unusual for us," he said. "Normally, the Europeans come to make commercials or shoot still photography."
Meanwhile, shooting of the film version of 1980s TV series "Miami Vice," touted to bring in tens of millions of dollars, is set to begin by month's end.
"We plan to start work June 27," said Dave Fulton, the film's publicist. "The schedule and locations aren't completely locked in at this stage."
Actors Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are to star as James "Sonny" Crockett and Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs.
Test shoots have already been conducted, Mr. Peel said, listing the Port of Miami and Matheson Hammock among them. Roads have also been closed for practice runs of car chases.
Though film officials wouldn't specify locations to avoid drawing crowds, the director of the City of Miami Office of Film, Robert Parente, had one tip about locations for the movie.
"Expect to see lots of the Miami River."
A location manager has also been hired to oversee production of a 13-week TV series that could net tens of millions of dollars more for the county. Drama "South Beach" was picked up by UPN after sister company Paramount Network Television shot a pilot here earlier this year.
Shooting could coincide with that of "Miami Vice."
Production manager "Jennifer Radzikowski worked on another project in town this year," said Mr. Peel, "the Wes Craven 'Red Eye' production. I met with the producers a couple of weeks ago. I anticipate that shooting will run from mid-summer through fall, with a start date in August or later."
"South Beach," a drama about the exploits of three young adults in Miami Beach, is to be produced by Jennifer Lopez and star Vanessa Williams. Each of the 13 episodes is expected to net $1 million to $2.5 million, most of which is expected to stay in the county.