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FUNDAMENTALS: The A-Z of Content Funding & Finance

Miami brings the heat with $50m fund for US, international projects

The Florida county of Miami-Dade is looking to lure high-end series and films with a new 20% cash rebate programme for projects spending more than US$5m.

Marco Giron spoke to C21 at our recent Content Americas event

Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and home of the iconic Miami Beach, is setting out on a mission to lure more domestic and international projects to its sunny climes with the launch of a five-year US$50m fund.

Located in the southeast of Florida, Miami-Dade County has played host to several high-profile TV series over the years, from the trendsetting NBC detective series Miami Vice in the 1980s to USA Network espionage drama Burn Notice to HBO’s Dwayne Johnson-starring sports dramedy Ballers.

Others include stylish CBS procedural CSI: Miami, Showtime’s crime drama Dexter, HBO’s Issa Rae-created comedy Rap Sh!t and the upcoming Warner Bros-produced, Vince Vaughan-led drama Bad Monkey for Apple TV+.

With a view to attracting more high-end series and movies to the region, Miami-Dade County recently passed new legislation to introduce the High-Impact Film Fund Programme, a performance-based rebate grant aimed at TV and streaming series, feature films and made-for-TV movies with a high return on investment for the county.

USA Network’s espionage drama Burn Notice

The fund, unveiled during a presentation at C21’s Content Americas in January, provides a cash rebate of up to 20% for eligible domestic and international productions filming in Miami-Dade County.

Sitting down with C21, Marco Giron, film and entertainment commissioner at Miami-Dade County, says the fund was created to address needs voiced by the studios and producers filming, and looking to film, in the county.

“We have an understanding that in today’s market, particularly when it comes to film and TV financing, a project will not be greenlit by the studio until they know what the incentive is in the location,” he says.

“A year ago, we set on a path to work with our elected officials in discussing the importance of the industry and the economic impact it has to our community.”

Those elected officials have included Miami-Dade County’s mayor Daniella Levine Cava and, for Florida, State Senator and Miami-Dade County Commissioner, District 13, René García.

HBO’s Issa Rae-created comedy Rap Sh!t

The culmination of those efforts is the High-Impact Film Fund, which will provide up to US$10m in recurring funds each fiscal year for the next five years.

To qualify for the fund, a production must spend a minimum of US$5m in Miami-Dade County; 90% of the production that occurs in the State of Florida must take place in Miami-Dade County; 70% of the vendors and contractors hired must be registered businesses in Miami-Dade County; and 60% of the qualified labour must be from Miami-Dade County residents. The production must also showcase a “sense of place” in Miami-Dade County.

The submission window to apply for the new fund has not yet opened. However, producers can register using the Fund’s website, at which point Giron’s office will make contact to schedule a meeting to discuss the production. Then, once the application portal officially opens, which is due to happen shortly, applicants will receive a notification to make an official submission.

The fund is not a rolling one, therefore it will be open for a certain length of time each year and then close as applications are reviewed. It is primarily geared toward increasing the volume of high-end TV and film production in the region, says Giron.

“We’re looking to be in the arena of attracting large-scale TV series – productions spending between US$3m and US$8m per episode or major motion feature films that will also have great economic impact,” he explains.

The High Impact Film Fund is stackable with several other funds in Miami, including a smaller incentive programme for projects shooting in Miami Beach. The new fund, which is led by Lissette García Arrogante, director of tourism and culture for the city of Miami Beach, offers US$10,000 grants for projects that spend more than US$25,000.

Showtime’s crime drama Dexter helped showcas Miami

One advantage of using the High Impact Film Fund, says Giron, is that his team works hand-in-hand with the various municipalities within Miami-Dade County to ensure a smooth process for productions filming in the county.

“We have 34 municipalities and that means 34 different jurisdictions, 34 different mayors and police departments that we deal with. Our office streamlines the process so that when a production is in town, we hold their hand to make sure they’re taken care of and to make sure we’re as film-friendly as possible.”

More broadly, Giron says the goal of the fund is to continue to promote Miami as a desirable tourist destination for those in the US and abroad.

“We understand that this industry has global reach. So when you take a production, a TV series or movie, that is then translated into 90-plus languages around the world, you’re showcasing Miami beach and Miami-Dade County. That kind of marketing is global exposure to our community and indirect tourism dollars, where people sitting somewhere in the world see a show and decide to go to Miami Beach.”

Giron adds that the need for the fund is recognition of the fact that incentive programmes are becoming more competitive both domestically and internationally. Now is the time for Miami to step up, he insists.

“We now know that in the US more than half of all the states in the nation have some sort of economic programme to incentivise film production and we also know that every major nation in the world also has some sort of incentive programme. It is the metric by which financing is approved by studios and productions,” says Giron.

“Getting to this point has been a big challenge, but now, thankfully, we have made a step in the right direction. Every studio I talk to, every major production, is ready to be here. We are Miami.”