Miami, Florida has had a booming film and entertainment industry since the 1940s and 1950s. Films such as Moon Over Miami, A Hole in the Head, Key Largo, and 30 Seconds Over Tokyo capitalized on the unique tropical locations that the city and surrounding area offers. At the other end of the cinematic spectrum, Max Fleischer produced his Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons from animation studios on the Miami River from 1938-1942. Fleischer had invented the rotoscope, which allowed him to make animations from live action film scenes, and the Fleischer Studios capitalized on the innovative process to rival Walt Disney as a top animation studio of the period.
During the 1960s films and television series concentrated on Miami’s “fun in the sun” vacation image. Miami was portrayed as a paradise where everyone has fun. Films made during the 1960s include Clambake, The Bellboy, and Where the Boys Are.
Popular Miami based television shows consisted of the Jackie Gleason Show, Flipper, and Gentle Ben. The Jackie Gleason Show was particularly helpful to Miami because Gleason constantly boasted about Miami’s great weather and beauty. Gleason, an avid golfer, in part moved his show to Miami Beach so he could play his favorite sport year round.
In order to sustain successful TV shows and movies, the film and entertainment industry began to build infrastructure in South Florida. Studios, film labs, and camera rental facilities were set up in Miami to support the new entertainment industry. The show Flipper was filmed at Ivan Tors Studios, which subsequently became Greenwich Studios and is still in operation today. Ivan Tors, Continental Film Labs, and the Cinetech camera rental house formed the backbone of the new production industry. The '60s helped establish Miami as a legitimate location for new media with proper facilities and a talented pool of workers.
The 1970s and 1980s films reflected the decline of the Miami dream. Famous movies such as Scarface, Lenny, Deep Throat, Body Heat, Black Sunday, and Godfather II focused on corruption, sex and violence. During the 1980s, Miami had a negative image despite its naturally beautiful environment. The Mariel boatlift cast thousands of unemployed Cuban immigrants into the city, among them many criminals. The city suffered racial tension and the infamous Liberty City riots. The drug culture was rampant and “Cocaine Cowboy” violence spread.
Miami Vice, one of the most famous Miami based television shows, premiered in 1984. It was produced by Michael Mann based on creator Anthony Yerkovich’s idea of “MTV cops.” Miami Vice both amplified the area’s negative image and helped redefine Miami as a city. Viewers saw the beautiful landscapes and buildings and fell in love with the look. The show was filmed in stereophonic sound with many popular songs from the 1980s which helped create an atmosphere that romanticized Miami. Viewers saw Miami as America’s Casablanca - alluring, exotic and a little dangerous. Miami Vice is credited with creating a boom in tourism, its viewers wanting a firsthand experience of the city. Miami Beach was completely revitalized by the show into a world class destination and a vacation hot spot. In addition, the show’s five-year run helped build an even larger base of first rate production technicians and facilities in Miami.
Miami in the 1990s became one of the most popular still photography locations in the world, in part due to the notoriety it gained from the Miami Vice experience. Bruce Weber, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, and virtually every other world class photographer shot projects in the area during the 1990s. The Ford and Elite Agencies populated the beaches and nightclubs of the emerging South Beach district with beautiful models, and thousands of fashion and photo shoots began taking advantage of the tropical art deco backdrops and amazing light Miami had to offer.
Commercial advertising production also became more popular in Miami during the '90s, capitalizing on the weather advantages during winter months, and on the local production infrastructure with first class crews.
Movies shot in Miami during the decade included True Lies, There’s Something About Mary, The Birdcage, Out of Sight, Wild Things, Striptease, and Bad Boys. The profusion of films produced in Miami during the decade represented a significant increase the number A-list directors and stars associated with them, all hoping to capture some of the city’s glamorous appeal in their productions. Miami became a first tier destination for Hollywood filmmakers and television producers in the 1990s.
Since the mid-1990s, South Florida has also become a hotbed for the Spanish-language television industry. Telemundo, Univision, Venevision and dozens of international cable networks began producing programs aimed at Latin America and the growing U.S. Hispanic population. The Spanish language music industry is also a prominent business in the Miami area. Sony, EMI, BMG, and other music labels are represented. As a huge international metropolis with close proximity to Latin America and a large Hispanic population, Miami is culturally attuned to the growth opportunities in Spanish-language media. The Hispanic population is now the largest minority group in the United States. Spanish language entertainment is one of the fastest growing media sectors. In 2005, Telenovela production alone spent nearly $30 million in Miami-Dade County. It appears that in the coming years, Miami will continue to be the headquarters for Latin music and Spanish-language television in the U.S.
The Miami-Dade County Office of Film and Entertainment (Filmiami) offers location and logistics assistance, government liaison, production information and referral sources to the film, television and photo production industry. The Office of Film and Entertainment began in 1977 under the leadership of Mary Lee Lander. During her tenure, Lander brought many feature films to Miami-Dade County, including The Champ, Smokey and the Bandit, Black Sunday, Absence of Malice, The Mean Season, Porky’s, and Scarface. One of her most important contributions was supporting Miami Vice despite much opposition against the violence and criminality of the show, which County leaders felt would further malign a community that in the mid-1980s Time Magazine had already portrayed as “Paradise Lost.”
When Lander died at the age of 39 in 1987, Dick Renick became director of the Office of Film and Entertainment. Renick, the brother of legendary pioneering news broadcaster Ralph Renick, had previously worked in the television business as a cameraman and had been a Florida State Senator for one term. Married to the Mob, Police Academy 5, and Midnight Crossing filmed in the County during Renick’s tenure. Dick Renick ran for Mayor of Miami-Dade County in 1988 against longtime Mayor Stephen P. Clark, but lost the election and subsequently left the Office of Film and Entertainment.
After a short interim period in which Lauren Gail Stover oversaw the Office of Film and Entertainment, Deeny Kaplan was chosen out of 300 candidates for the position in 1991. Kaplan came to Miami from Los Angeles with a background in trade press and publicity. Kaplan managed the Office for three years, during which she expedited the permitting process by creating agreements for Miami-Dade County to issue permits on behalf of smaller cities throughout the County. True Lies, The Bodyguard, and Passenger 57 were filmed during that period.
Kaplan resigned from her post in 1994, and Miami-Dade County hired KPMG to conduct a study on how to restructure the Film and Entertainment Office. The County wanted to create an ideal working environment with best practices and the greatest chance for success. Jeff Peel, then the head of the County’s television operations, was hired in 1994 as the director of the Miami-Dade County Film and Entertainment Office. During his 16 years as director (as of 2010), Peel helped expand the entertainment industry in the Miami area, which now hosts more than 1,000 location filming projects every year. Bad Boys, The Birdcage, Out of Sight, There’s Something About Mary, Any Given Sunday, Miami Vice, and Marley and Me were some of the biggest films to shoot in Miami during Peel’s tenure. In 1998, Miami-Dade County recognized the film and entertainment industry as one of the “economic engines” that would provide jobs and economic prosperity for the future of the community.
FilMiami, an on-line “one-stop” film permitting system and web portal that covers the area’s most popular filming locations was created in 2000. FilMiami is a cooperative arrangement between Miami-Dade County and the Cities of Miami and Miami Beach to provide film, television and commercial advertising production companies easy access to information, location resources, and permitting throughout the County.
Some of the major feature films filmed in Miami include: The Birdcage, True Lies, Bad Boys, Miami Vice, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Lenny, Scarface, Ali_(film), Red Eye, Marley and Me, Analyze This, Married to the Mob, Any Given Sunday, Wild Things, Striptease, Caddyshack, Drop Zone, Jaws 2, Goldfinger, Black Sunday, Day of the Dolphin, Deep Throat, Godfather Part 2, Just Cause, The Specialist, Out of Time, Police Academy 5, Porky’s Revenge, Body Heat, The Bellboy, Clambake, Absence of Malice, The Mean Season, Where The Boys Are, There’s Something About Mary, Out of Sight, and Donnie Brasco.
US television shows filmed in Miami include: Miami Vice, Burn Notice, CSI: Miami, MTV’s Video Music Awards, South Beach, Miami Animal Cops, Dexter, Miami Ink, The Kardashians, Nip/Tuck, Gentle Ben, Flipper, Jackie Gleason Show, The Real World, Road Rules, and Latin Grammys.