Film industry

Necessary in Florida: Legislative vision to bring back the film industry

A recent Saturday night was movie night at our house. The remake of the classic, “Father of the Bride,” starring Miami’s Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia, was on our list of next steps, so we pushed the game.

About two hours later, the movie ended, but we won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet. Let’s just say it was a perfect “love letter” to South Florida, especially the Miami-Dade County area. It was great to see places we grew up with like Coconut Grove, The Biltmore Hotel and Calle Ocho.

What spoiled me watching the end credits (you watch them religiously or not at all) was the credit at the very end that read:

“This project was made possible with the assistance of the Georgia Film Office. A division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Sure, some photography was done in the Miami area, but by all indications it involved a small secondary “Miami Film Unit.” They shot the rest in Georgia and California, which are bad substitutions for the same.

Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are shown in a scene from, "Marley and me." Barry Wecher |  20th century fox

From about 1980, the film industry took off in Florida. Who can forget all the pastels featured on the Miami Vice TV series? Others soon followed, such as “There’s Something About Mary”, “Caddyshack”, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, “Bad Boys”, “Chef”, “In Her Shoes”, “Marley and Me” and more.

These films and television shows received film incentives from the state of Florida that made it affordable for production companies to leave a California or Canadian studio to film a production in the Sunshine State.

These and other productions have brought in up to $1.5 billion a year, to pay for locations, crews, hotels, food, cinematic infrastructure, and more. Past incentives have given Florida the international destination status it enjoys today. Exhibit A: Formula 1 in Miami. Exhibit B: One of the host cities of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

But relying on the wisdom of the red state, Florida’s 2016 legislative session waived future incentives, which essentially killed Florida’s film industry. There are local incentives available in cities and counties, but they are only a drop in the bucket when you consider what could have been.

Caddyshack

Speaking of what could have been, State Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) introduced a bill to re-create an incentive program for film companies and bolster what could be another cinematic renaissance throughout the state.

The bill was presented to the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee. After more than two months of waiting, the bill died in committee.

For that, the legislator should be ashamed.

Marc Elias

Mark Elias is a West Palm Beach-based writer and photographer and an avid film buff.

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