South Florida, Miami in particular, has beaches that never end and a crystal blue cool that has earned it the title "America's Riveria". Most would think that films and television shows would flock here to capture its natural brilliance on camera but instead, they are fleeing in drones and so are the crew and actors who call Miami home.
To understand the problem, you must first understand the Miami production community. I have worked in the industry for the last 10 years as freelance Production Coordinator for several productions including Univision and Telemundo and as a Production Assistant for shows like Burn Notice and Bad Boys II. While much has been made of the financial need for film incentives, little has been spoken on the personal impact it has on production locals and actors.
First off, Miami has very little production work. Every now and then there are growth spurts with television shows like Burn Notice or films like the Bad Boys franchise but for the most part, these productions are flukes. The bread and butter of Miami production is commercial work. It's the only thing that you can find year round, except in the summer when it's the off season: (1) because it's too hot and (2) because the South Florida rainy season makes shooting outdoor productions nearly impossible.
There are tons of production locals but a very small amount of jobs to go around so those lucky enough to work at an in-house production company are blessed but those who work freelance have the never ending task of finding a new job. Sometimes they can go for months without being called for work.
Then there is the hurdle of rate. Each job has it's own set rate and it never fails that the producers who come into town will try to low ball every person on the crew because even though they have millions of dollars and illustrious credits behind their name, they all cry broke, leaving those who need the work to accept a salary that is less than what they are are worth. Yet, if a production needs a ridiculous item that will be shown for two seconds onscreen, the producers will pay top dollar for it.
The problem here is scarcity. Sure, the producers can pay a correct salary but with a surplus of workers and a minimum of jobs, they have the clear advantage and they know it. So where does this leave the Miami production crew? In most cases it leaves them bitter because even though they work an enviable job, they must work for 12 plus hours a day for a rate that is beneath them while hoping for the opportunity to showcase their talents and still have enough money to feed their families and pay their bills.
This scarcity eventually leads to corruption. So in the jockeying for position, some revert to trickery and try to add on costs like kit rates (office supplies for production, hair and makeup for makeup artists) in order to recoup some of the money that they've lost. Equipment houses add on taxes and surcharges for unnecessary pieces of equipment and if the visiting producer discovers that he or she has been had, its sure to breed resentment and guess who won't be coming back to Miami to shoot their next project?
Many locals work without promotion and those who advance, leave and are almost immediately promoted because the scarcity problem doesn't exist and their skills are on display rather than their popularity with industry locals. So Miami production locals flock to New Orleans and Georgia where production work is booming and the ones who stay behind attend city council meetings to fight against uptight and ornery local businessmen who raise a stink because the production shooting next to their mega mansion is too loud. And so, another arbitrary governmental rule is put in place blocking yet another production from coming to town, keeping out millions of dollars that would aid the overall economy in order to soothe the millions of dollars that are already here.
Miami production locals and actors are just ordinary people who go to work everyday and the ones who stay, stay because they have a life here. They don't want to leave that life. Miami, for all of its corruption and rules, is still a pretty cool place to live.
And so a groundswell ensues and the production locals are the ones who travel to Tallahassee to plead their case with Governor Rick Scott. They are the reason the Florida production community received $300 million in tax incentives and brought shows like The Glades and Magic City to Miami. Both of those shows were recently cancelled and Burn Notice just wrapped its 7-year run so the only show left is Graceland, which leaves the market flooded with production workers and out of work actors. The conclusion is that something has to be done.
Meetings, of course will be held and you can bet that locals will make a return trip to Tallahassee to have yet another talk with Governor Scott but what of those who remain? Unfortunately, they will have to make the sojourn to Los Angeles and to other production friendly locales.
It would behoove the Miami city government and Tallahassee officials to take notice of towns like New Orleans and Detroit. These are two dead cities that Hollywood is rebuilding. Just last week, it was announced that Superman vs. Batman would shoot in 2014 in Detroit, a city that has been ravaged by the decline of the car industry. It is the result of a reversal from another governor named Rick (Rick Synder to be exact) who previously waffled on a decision to infuse his destitute city with $25 million dollars in production incentives, which caused The Avengers, a $220 million dollar movie, to shoot in Ohio and other locations and take the jobs and revenue that it would have provided with it. Now Miami is far from dead but at one point, these cities were at the top of their game as well. We don't know what the future holds but we do know that government officials are killing the future of production in this city and there might be a time when the government needs the help of those millions of dollars and people, which it is so carelessly throwing away.
By denying more money to film incentives, the government is taking away jobs, creating scarcity, breeding corruption and taking away a safety net for the economic community. It's a no-brainer so why is that state officials don't seem to care? That has yet to be answered.
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