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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Miami, A Video 'Ho' *

Miami is being seen more often these days. Not since Miami Vice hit prime time has the nation had such a chance to see Miami in all its glory. The nineties was a decade where still photography for the modeling industry made up almost the entirety of exposure for the Magic City and its environs. Hip-Hop videos in the late nineties began to use Miami as a backdrop to represent opulent lifestyles of rappers. It did not take long for word to get out that Miami was a good alternative to heavyweights Los Angeles and New York.

Miami has a non-corporate, indulgent, hedonistic image that other cities have managed, too successfully, to avoid or shed. So why isn’t sultry Miami making the money that should come with this level of activity? It seems that it is a problem of infrastructure and human capital. Miami does not have the studios, mechanics, entertainment business professionals and live-in talent. Production companies bring their people and equipment and leave. In fact, Miami is seldom actually Miami. The vast majority of what is supposed to be occurring in Miami on screen is in fact stock footage being cut in.

And what of the Source and MTV Award shows? Again, these one-offs often come like a caravan, in and out of town, using us like a cheap slut at a South Beach club and heading back home. It seems the answer to this has to be the building of studios that have the capacity to be both Miami and other places. We also have to lure professionals to Miami who will provide the human capital that we need here on a permanent basis. Even New York was faced with this challenge when grumpy citizens did not want to be imposed on and Toronto emerged as the cheaper stunt double, with its base of Canadian studios and film professionals. New York was forced to offer incentives to build new studios and the city film department made police and neighborhood councils chill out and become more accommodating. There is no handicap parking in NYC but a person with a film permit can drive on the sidewalk.

Atlanta, the less than likely candidate, managed to lure a whole segment of the music entertainment industry by offering incentives to corporations to relocate operations. The city and the state recognized that the music industry was more than artists, but one of the largest pieces of the entertainment pie, tied to all sorts of other entertainment based business. Just as importantly, the city and state were not adverse to supporting the R&B/Hip Hop segment of this market. The business is more important than the music itself to the economy and after all, Black music has historically been America’s music and American music is the world’s music. Never was this more so than now. Video, film and music production is just the tip of it. Major labels and subsidiaries based in New York and L.A. all have substantial corporate offices here. For some, Atlanta is their primary office.

The excerpt below, from an important industry publication deals with the issue.

Nov 29th (Tue) 2005, Music Industry News
…But the problem is Hollywood often relegates South Florida to ditzy bombshell, taking advantage of our subtropical looks, but moving on in the morning. CSI: Miami and Nip/Tuck may be set here, but they're shot mostly in Los Angeles. CSI comes every six months; Nip/Tuck once a year. Says Peel: ``The economics have changed tremendously since the days of Miami Vice. Nip/Tuck costs about $800,000 an episode. FX pays them about half that to air it. The studio making the show has to go into deficit financing, and the only way they will make money is 100 episodes later when it goes into syndication.'' If the show shot here instead of L.A., costs would be prohibitive. ''It's too expensive to fly everybody down here and put them up,'' says Peel. ``CSI would love to take the show on the road. As it is, they spend a million-plus every time they come here to shoot.''

As with production, Miami gets the big musical events, but comes up short on infrastructure. Music stars come to South Florida's studios to record and its hotels to chill. But outside of the struggling Latin music industry, no major labels are based here.

The area hasn't recently produced a major artist. And what kind of music capital doesn't have one decent club that regularly books touring acts and supports a diverse range of local artists? ''That is the $100,000 question,'' said Del Granado. ``It's just mind-boggling that there isn't a thriving live music scene here even of the level of Orlando.'' The music-video image of bikinis, Bentleys and bling on the beach is far from the reality of the highest concentration of people living in poverty of any American city.

*Endnote: I was aprised by a dilligent reader versed in urban lexicon that the "W" as well as the "R" and "E" are elided in popular spelling/pronunciation. I have been using the word much longer than him I'm sure but at least on the point of spelling, I will defer.

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