‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Road House’ Remind Filmmakers What Florida Has to Offer (2024)

The Sony Pictures sequel “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” made headlines as it rolled through a succession of Florida locations in late February and early March, with reports of crews “spark(ing) buzz” filming on the A1A Highway in Fort Lauderdale, fans catching a glimpse of stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Brickell, and traffic tie-ups in Miami.

“If you look at the trailer, you’ll see anything that has to do with the beach is all us, with the stunt scene that they did on Ocean Drive in Fort Lauderdale,” boasts Sandy Lighterman, film commissioner for Broward County (Film Lauderdale) and president of Film Florida. “That was because we made it so easy for them.”

One of the reasons the presence of the latest “Bad Boys” movie was such big news is that while Florida has a wealth of TV production courtesy of Spanish language networks Telemundo and Univision, commercial shoots, and reality series such as “Selling Tampa” and “The Queen of Versailles Reigns Again” — all of which maintain a healthy crew base and industry infrastructure — shoots for scripted Hollywood movies and TV series are a rarity these days.

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The state has served as the primary shooting location for many memorable projects, from movies such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (1994) to the TV series “Miami Vice” (1984-1989) and “Burn Notice” (2007-2013). But these days, major Florida-set productions are more likely to resemble Apple TV+ series “Palm Royale,” which was only there long enough to do aerial shots of the Bath & Tennis Club in Palm Beach, and Netflix’s remake of “Road House,” which was filmed almost entirely in the Dominican Republic.

The reason is simple economics: since the sunset of the Sunshine State’s film and TV tax incentive in 2015, productions have gone elsewhere, most notably its neighbor to the north, Georgia, which offers a 20%-30% refundable tax credit.

With no sign of the state moving to revive its incentive, counties are taking matters into their own hands. In April, Miami-Dade County launched its High Impact Film Fund Program, offering a cash rebate of up to 20%. To qualify, projects must have a minimum budget of $5 million, base 90% of their Florida production in the county, and have 60% of their qualified labor be country residents and 70% of their vendors be locally registered businesses. With its annual cap of just $10 million, it’s unlikely to attract any tentpole movies, but it’s suitable for higher-end low budget films or a portion of a TV series. The county also has an incentive for projects with a minimum spend of $1 million that awards grants of up $100,000 per project.

“We worked very closely with a lot of industry stakeholders to research around the country and around the world as to what would make sense in terms of putting these percentages together,” says Marco Giron, chief of film and entertainment in Miami-Dade County.

In Broward County, located in the Miami metropolitan area, producers can choose from a menu of incentives, including the Sun-Screen Program ($1.5 to $5 million county spend; 20% rebate capped at $800,000) and the High Impact Film & TV ($5 million minimum county spend; 15% rebate capped at $2 million).

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had 12 movies that fully shot here because of the incentive program,” says Lighterman, who preceded Giron in Miami-Dade before taking the top film job in Broward in December 2021.

But movies aren’t the only yardstick of success. The film and TV industry generated a record $247 million in local expenditures in Palm Beach County in 2023, up 3% from 2022, on the strength of unscripted shows such as “Hot Yachts” (ITV/Paramount+) and the Netflix docuseries “Break Point.”

One of the drivers of its success is the Palm Beach County Film and Television Commission’s sponsorship and development program, which encourages the production of content that promotes local tourism. To be considered for funding, shows must have distribution outside the county, reaching potential visitors. After airing on their original platforms, they become available on demand on the Palm Beaches TV channel. Projects participating in the program have included Travel Channel’s “Pets in Paradise” and PBS’ “Travels and Traditions” with Burt Wolf.

“In many cases, they wouldn’t have the budget to do these types of things, so it’s been an incredible success for us,” says Palm Beach County film commissioner Michelle Hillery.

In the case of actress of Julia Stiles’ directorial debut “Wish You Were Here,” however, the primary reason a large portion of the shoot took place in Florida was not incentives (it didn’t get any), the valuable help it received from the Palm Beach and Broward County film commissions or the connections producer Michelle Khan made shooting commercials in the state. It was, in fact, a boat.

“There’s a catamaran featured in one of the final scenes in the film that we were able to get for a relatively affordable price down there,” says Khan.

‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Road House’ Remind Filmmakers What Florida Has to Offer (2024)


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