‘Bring it back’: Michael Bay wants Miami’s film industry to blow up again. This new program should help

Michael Bay AP 1
'We need to make this place more famous, and film is the way to do that.'

Blockbuster filmmaker Michael Bay wants to see Miami’s movie and TV businesses booming like they did decades ago.

A new county incentives program is expected to help that happen.

In a one-minute video posted to X, Bay lauded Miami’s weather, sights and variety. All factored into his moving to the city in 2006, 11 years after his debut film, “Bad Boys,” hit theaters.

Bay, who also directed the film’s sequel and the true crime-inspired “Pain & Gain” in Miami, said the city deserves to have more ongoing productions than it does today.

“I love shooting here because it’s got amazing kinds of locations. It’s got amazing light. Things are very close. And the breadth of different types of locations in a short amount of time is pretty great,” he said.

“I’ve had a really successful time here. There’s a reason why we need to make this place more famous, and film is the way to do that. It reaches the world. So, it’s very important that we keep this film industry nurtured here and bring it back.”

Bay’s video was posted online by FilMiami, Miami-Dade’s film and entertainment office, which got a boost this year after County Commissioners approved a new rebate program to attract productions to the area.

Miami-Dade is already home to more than 200 film production companies, 15 soundstages, 15 recording studios, three Spanish-language production facilities and many small businesses that support the industry, according to the office of Commissioner René Garía.

Local universities like Miami Dade College have made “a lot of investments” in educating future filmmakers, he told Miami Today in January.

“We want to make sure that the students stay (here),” he said.

To that end, and to grow the area’s film industry, García successfully sponsored a resolution in December to create the Miami-Dade High Impact Film Fund Program. Over the next five years, it will provide $5 million to $10 million in yearly rebates to big-ticket film and TV productions shot in the county.

Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys II,” a sequel to his film directorial debut also shot in Miami, grossed $273 million at the box office — nearly double what the first picture drew. A fourth entry in the series starring Will Smith and Martin Laurence, which Bay is not attached to, was shot in the city earlier this year. Image via Sony.

Eligible TV productions must spend $4 million to 8 million per episode. Feature-length motion pictures would have to spend at least $50 million to tap into the rebate program, which will offer $1 back for every $10 a production spends.

That, in addition to smaller incentives the county will continue to offer through previously approved programs, is enough to “take small bites” at developing collaborative relationships with out-of-town film studios, García said. But “it’s not going to happen overnight,” he added.

The program, which the county announced was underway May 6, is expected to help Miami-Dade compete with alternative film locales of comparable population size that offer similar incentives. Among them: Mississippi, Puerto Rico and New Mexico, which respectively allocate $20 million, $38 million and $160 million per year to film and TV projects that operate within their borders.

Miami-Dade also offers 10% tax rebates to entertainment productions that spend $500,000 or more in the county through programs created by ex-Commissioner Sally Heyman, which the county approved in 2017. To qualify, productions must hire at least 70% of cast, crew and vendors and shoot 70% within the county.

Several productions, including “Red Table Talks: The Estefans” and “Critical Thinking,” a motion picture about Miami Jackson High’s championship chess team directed by John Leguizamo, have taken advantage of the programs.

Florida offered similar provisions a decade ago through a program state lawmakers launched in 2010 that died in 2016 after no additional money was allocated to it.

That program’s $242 million tax credits covered in-state productions like USA Network’s “Burn Notice,” HBO’s “Ballers” and Netflix’s “Bloodline,” which reached more than 1.5 billion viewers equal to $405 million in advertising, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau said in 2012.

VISIT FLORIDA reported that 23% of tourists interviewed that year said shows and movies shot in Florida influenced their travel to the state. By 2016, however, many in the film and TV industry had relocated to Georgia, North Carolina and other states with funded programs.

Between 2016 and the end of 2020, Florida “lost more than 70 major films and television projects that would have spent $1.3 billion statewide, creating 110,000 cast and crew jobs and would have booked more than 220,000 hotel room nights,” a resolution by former Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said in December 2020.

The new, Miami-Dade-centric program will create up to 1,500 “high-wage jobs” locally while increasing local spending and tourism, nurturing and retaining local talent, and supporting lodging, transportation and equipment-rental businesses, county Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Morales said in a memo. It’ll also add roughly 3,900 hotel night stays and $50 million more per year to the county’s coffers, he said.

Today, despite Miami-Dade’s “strong location advantage,” Morales continued, the industry represents only 0.13% of the total private sector employment countywide compared to 0.2% nationally.

Other counties in Florida that offer competitive film development incentive programs include Broward, Duval, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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