Spotlight on Florida

The sunshine state is noted for its tropical climate, diverse culture and exotic locations 

By John Hazelton 6 Jul 2022

Spotlight on Florida

Florida is best known as the primary location for films such as 2003 blockbuster 2 Fast 2 Furious, 2012 smash Magic Mike, and 2017’s The Florida Project and Oscar winner Moonlight. While local production has taken a hit since a state-wide tax credit programme was allowed to sunset in 2016, the tropical climate, diverse culture and exotic locations still bring in a sizeable number of mid-level and smaller projects.

Recent features visiting the south­eastern state have included the Film­Nation/Warner Bros sci-fi thriller Reminiscence — set mostly in a futuristic Miami but also shot in Louisiana — and Paramount+ drama Three Months, with Australian singer/songwriter and gay icon Troye Sivan in a story loosely based on the life of Florida writer/director Jared Frieder. The third instalment of Magic Mike (HBO Max) also shot for several weeks in the Sunshine State.

TV and streaming projects have included a string of Hallmark movies, upcoming Issa Rae-created HBO Max comedy series Rap Sh*t and AppleTV+ drama series Bad Monkey, based on a book by Florida-based crime thriller author Carl Hiaasen.

Industry groups in Florida continue to push for a new state incentive — two incentive bills with bi-partisan support were introduced in the state’s latest legislative session, but neither was passed — and producers can tap into small, local incentive programmes offered by a number of the state’s 67 counties.

Going forward, however, Florida’s ability to attract major projects could be affected by Hollywood opposition to non-film legislation adopted by the state. A state law preventing instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for young children — labelled the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law by opponents — has recently been condemned by industry figures and caused a rift between some state legislators and Disney, whose Walt Disney World resort in Orlando is a major Florida employer.


All areas of Florida have now reopened for production with no state-wide Covid 19 safety mandates (other than those agreed by unions and studios for the entire US), though local film commissions may have their own requirements for granting permits.

As of mid-October 2021, only smaller productions such as commercials and unscripted TV shows were already filming, though bigger projects — including season two of OWN’s David Makes Man and independent feature Three Months — were reportedly preparing to shoot. 

In recent years the state’s distinctive locations have attracted Sony’s buddy cop sequel Bad Boys For Life, the third series of Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and three Netflix-backed films: Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and crime drama The Last Thing He Wanted starring Anne Hathaway. 

Among projects doing more extensive shoots in the state have been A24’s award-winning drama Waves, Sundance entry Zola, John Leguizamo’s Critical Thinking and National Geographic/Disney+ scripted series The Right Stuff. 

Scott Rosenfelt, producer of Critical Thinking, about the real-life Miami high school chess team that became the first inner-city winner of the US national championship, says: “We were really loathe to make a movie about Miami Jackson Senior High School and make it in Atlanta, although believe me that was suggested early on by various parties. The positive part about Miami and the whole area is it’s enjoyable working there. The culture, the food, the arts scene — it’s a great place to go make a movie.”

Cassian Elwes, producer of The Last Thing He Wanted, says the project took a week out of its main shoot in Puerto Rico to film scenes set in various parts of the US in Florida. 

“It was a two-hour plane trip from Puerto Rico to Florida, so it was very easy to bring in people to prep the set and ship the equipment that we needed,” he explains. “We found enough in Florida that we could make it all work and the logistics of shooting there were great.”

The Last Thing He Wanted shot in July, one of the state’s hottest summer months. “There weren’t so many tourists and hotels were quite empty and easy to get,” Elwes says. “It is a great location, cosmopolitan, with lots of different looks and the local film commissions were very user-friendly.” The lack of a Florida tax credit “was the big drawback”, Elwes confirms. But that was outweighed, he says, by the ease of access to the state from the film’s primary location: “Miami is a major hub and it was very easy to go back and forth to Puerto Rico.”

Infrastructure and crews

The state has about 800 active members of film, TV and theatre workers union IATSE, making for a crew depth of between three and four.

Studio facilities in Orlando include Universal Studios Florida, a working production centre as well as a theme park, with seven soundstages and backlot locations, and Chapman/Leonard Studios, with three stages.

Miami has Telemundo Center, the new headquarters of NBCUniversal’s Spanish-language TV network, and EUE Screen Gems/Viacom International Studios, with two 15,000-square-foot soundstages.

Size matters

Florida occupies a peninsula at the southeast corner of the US, extending about 400 miles from its northern border with Georgia to the string of islands known as the Keys in the south. The state has 1,350 miles of coastline, with the Atlantic to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west.

The major cities of Jacksonville and Tallahassee in the north, Tampa, St Petersburg and Orlando in the central region, and Miami in the south are linked by interstate highways. The major airports are in Orlando, Miami (both with direct flights to Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and London), Fort Lauderdale (just north of Miami) and Tampa. Flight times from Orlando are five-and-a-half hours to Los Angeles, three to New York and eight-and-a-half to London.

Despite its nickname, Florida also experiences severe weather conditions, including thunderstorms and tornadoes in the summer months. It can be hit by tropical storms and major hurricanes between June and November.

Click here to see selected production service companies in Florida.

Click here to see the filming guide for Florida.

Read the full report in our latest edition of World of Locations

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