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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is the Film Office its own little reality show?

There's lots of drama going on at the Miami Film Office these days and it's not actually on film. According to the billion dollar film industry, the Miami Film Office, which is in Coconut Grove, is in shambles. The current director, Harry Emilio Gottlieb blames the former administration of Mayor Manny Diaz for leaving the City broke and in turn, leaving the Film Office broke and unable to do its job easily, although he claims the job is getting done. The top local filmmakers who attended last night's Film Community Meeting, at the Museum of Science, felt it was the current Mayor, Tomas Regalado, who doesn't have a clue how valuable the film industry is to the City and Hollywood is listening.

Harry shown here, at right, with location manager Julian Valdez, at last night's meeting, insists the office is performing and permits are getting out and filming is being done. He says there are no delays or problems other than the fact that they do need a staff and better working conditions. The phone system barely works and Harry, who does not wish to actually write the permits himself, is the only one in the once thriving office.

The film folks at the meeting -- producers, directors, location scouts and casting agents are quite unhappy and they say it takes more to run the office than issuing permits. Although the Film Office is not even doing that now since the permits have been relegated to the Parks Department, under "Special Events." The problem now is that there is no one on call to handle problems, which is desperately needed. They all want the office to run like it did before former director Robert Parente was let go in February. One producer from Burn Notice told us that he had to actually print out his own permit last week and beg for an official signature.

Robert was in the audience last night, and while most of the negative words were directed toward Harry and the City, by others, Robert said that he wanted Harry and the Film Office to succeed. But he did ask, "What is the Mayor's vision [for the office]?" and "What is Harry's [actual] job?" Since it doesn't seem to be running the Film Office, troubleshooting for the industry or handing out film permits.

Harry says that he is the Director of the Cultural Affairs Office and the Film Office is under the aegis of that office, but it's just one of his duties at this time, and that he would like to hire an experienced Film Office Director, but the funds are not there.

One of Harry's solutions was to have one of the producers volunteer their time to help the Parks people with the permitting, which didn't go over well in the room full of filmmaking professionals. They were insulted by this request to say the least.

Harry also went on about how the City is broke, but many felt that the Mayor and the City Commissioners need to step up and stop using that excuse. The word "Bullshit" was used a lot. The filmmakers felt that when the Mayor and Commissioners want a project funded it gets funded, so now is the time to stop using excuses and fund the Film Office and get a proper staff. The Mayor and City Commissioners are not looked upon very favorably by the film industry. $150,000 traffic circles seem to make it on the City agendas, but a fraction of that amount for the Film Office is never considered.

Frank Rollason, former assistant City Manager, who was in attendance last night, said that the film industry is a "clean, happening industry" and that the Mayor and Commissioners need to understand the value of the industry and the millions of dollars and all the good will and free publicity it generates.

Millions of dollars in incentive money, part of the Jobs Bill, is coming in from the state and filmmakers want to work here, but they need a Film Office to guide them and finesse their needs through the City. But without a dedicated office and staff, filmmakers will go to another city where they can get what they need to produce movies, tv shows, commercials and music videos, Orlando was mentioned more than once and of course, the State of Louisiana is always wooing and tempting the industry. Burn Notice could easily work there.

Harry and Greg Nye, the location manager guy, who took the minutes of last night's meeting, chat before the meeting.

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