Film fees could fracture permitting partnership
By Risa Polansky
To offset budget cuts that experts say could impede the film industry here, Miami-Dade County officials have proposed charging a film permit application fee — but the move to end the now-free service could threaten a partnership between the county, the City of Miami and the City of Miami Beach.
The flat $100 fee, proposed as part of the county budget to be voted on by commissioners this month, "gets us back to where we need to be," said Jeff Peel, director of Miami-Dade Mayor's Office of Film and Entertainment, lessening budget cuts to the office from 50% to about 15%.
But Graham Winick, Miami Beach's film and event production manager, said that while leaving the FilMiami partnership — which allows one-stop shopping for those seeking permits within Miami Beach, Miami and the county — would be the "worst-case scenario," city officials have made it clear they don't support charging to film in Miami Beach.
While the fee is only for application processing and is not location-specific, it could be misperceived by those forced to pay it, Mr. Winick said.
Miami Beach wants to continue to provide free service, he said, to show industry players "we believe so strongly in this we subsidize the need for a permit fee."
City officials hope the county can "find dollars in the budget to offset the cost of permit fees," Mr. Winick said.
But if the county approves the $100 application fee, Miami Beach will either have to accept it or leave the partnership and issue permits itself, free of charge, he said.
If a fee is charged, said Robert Parente, director of the City of Miami Mayor's Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, "it has got to be equitable" for all the film offices facing cuts.
Revenues from the service charge would go only to the county, Mr. Peel said.
However, "keeping the partnership we forged in one-stop permitting" is a main priority and what's best for the industry, Mr. Parente said.
Mr. Peel said he believes industry players should be receptive to the fee, because $100 is "on the low end of the average" of those charged nationwide.
A July town hall meeting, he said, indicated the same.
Stephanie Martino-Rizzi, founder and president of the locally based Florida Film Institute, said she supports a $100 fee, as most local governments charge for permitting.
Jordi Vertite, CEO of locally based Verite Broadcast, said fees could drive companies to other places to film and will heighten the need to "look into other ways of promoting the business here," he said, through incentives such as hotel discounts.
But many places, Mr. Peel said, do charge for permitting
Some cities charge only $20 to apply. Others, he said, collect fees per day of filming. In Los Angeles, he said, a permit could cost about $500.
A $100 fee is the minimum the county could charge to maintain services, he said, but isn't large enough to become "a disincentive to film here."
However, Al Crespo, a freelance producer, fears the charge would rise over time.
A $30,000 carryover from last year's budget to next year's cannot be counted on to pad future budgets, he said, and if it doesn't, fees are "not going to stay at $100."