Filming in Miami's Diverse Neighborhoods

Espanola Way

Espanola Way

Biltmore Hotel's Tower

Biltmore Hotel's Tower

Crandon Park

Crandon Park

moonlight

Moonlight movie scene

Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Art

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By: Angela Caraway-Carlton

Lights, Camera, Action! Miami’s Diverse Neighborhoods Are Always Movie-Ready

From locations in award-winning films like Moonlight to stunning cameos in hot TV shows such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — Miami is always camera-ready. Whether it’s a comedy, action-thriller, or a heart-tugging romance, shooting high-profile movies and TV shows in Miami continues to be “reel” business with a bright future. “We have local incentives that keep Miami at the top of filmmakers minds,” says Sandy Lighterman, film and entertainment commissioner at the Miami Dade County Office of Film and Entertainment.

And, it’s not just about movies that are set here; Miami has so many versatile backdrops that can mimic many locales near and far. “Filmmakers have the ability to find so many different types of locations that replicate the Caribbean islands, modern and old architecture, rolling hills and waterfalls. Miami is the cost-effective alternative to traveling the world for a film or TV project,” says Sandy Lighterman.

When it comes to backdrops or prime locations for a scene, we’re more than just palm trees and turquoise-hued water. Miami is packed with diverse neighborhoods offering many different sides and looks. “From Brickell/Downtown Miami, with the dichotomy of old and modern architecture, to the farmland and waterfalls of the Redlands, the grittiness of Liberty City and Moorish buildings in Opa-Locka, to the feel of Old Europe in Coral Gables and uniqueness of the Everglades, Miami is a visually flavorful locale,” explains Lighterman. “Wherever a filmmaker aims their camera, the world can be found.” Here, we take a look at Miami’s most diverse neighborhoods that are ready for the big and small screen.

South Pointe Park
South Pointe Park

South Beach Offers Tropical Backdrops, Old World Charm and Art Deco Vibes

Turquoise water, rows of swaying palm trees, classic Art Deco architecture, glitzy hotels and bikini-clad sunbathers — with its natural beauty and non-stop action, South Beach has starred in many iconic films from The Bird Cage to Scarface and TV shows like Dexter and Burn Notice. One of the many locations playing a leading role is famous Ocean Drive, always bustling with activity during the day — who could forget the traffic-stopping scene with the break dancers from Step Up Revolution — and at night, the bright neon lights of storied hotels seem to beckon you inside. But there’s more to South Beach than sun, sand and glam hotels; pedestrian-only Espanola Way with its dreamy string lights, Mediterranean-style buildings and romantic feel offers a very European backdrop, while South Pointe Park presents a tropical feel with its towering palm trees, water features, green spaces, pier, and stunning views of the cruise ships headed out to sea.

Oleta River State Park
Oleta River State Park

North Miami Shows Us the Perfect American Lush Suburb

This eclectic suburb has it all from museums such as Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) to natural havens like Oleta River State Park with its mangroves and trails that weave along scenic Oleta River. “North Miami is also a very anywhere-USA, especially with the one-story stores on 125th Street,” points out Lighterman.

Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Captures Artsy Hipster Culture

Vibrant murals and graffiti, urban exteriors, and an edgy feel — this artsy neighborhood is always ready for a close-up. Known as one of the most art-forward neighborhoods in the Southeast, point and shoot your camera any direction and you’ll be rewarded with a kaleidoscope of color. TV series like HBO’s hit Ballers with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, along with a new movie I Mordecai starring Judd Hirsch and Carol Kane, were shot in Wynwood. “Wynwood is always evolving, which makes it exciting, and sometimes challenging, as the art is ever-changing,” says Lighterman.

Coral Gables' Old Gates
Coral Gables' Old Gates

Coral Gables Transforms from Mediterranean Backdrop to Pristine Watery Oasis

With its tree-canopied streets, stately gates, fountains, and lush residential neighborhoods, one of South Florida’s oldest cities is made for TV and movie magic. The lavish Biltmore Hotel with its Old World charm and unique architecture has been the centerpiece for many movies like Bad Boys, and its sprawling pool — one of the largest in the U.S. — has been used for countless commercials. Filmmakers looking for ruins could spotlight Coral Gables’ old gates that are crumbling, and easily discover Mediterranean vibes and sophistication all over the city. “Miracle Mile also has that ‘small town’ feel,” says Lighterman, “while the crystal-clear water of the Venetian Pool can play for a pool, waterfall, or overall tropical feel.”

Domino Park in Little Havana
Domino Park in Little Havana

Little Havana Brings Cuba and the Caribbean to Your Backyard

Known as the center of Hispanic culture in Miami, Little Havana is perfect for any made-in-Miami movie. The Calle Ocho strip is lined with restaurants like longtime Cuban cuisine mecca, La Carreta, and walk-up windows doling out cafecitos and flaky pastelitos; historic lounges like Ball & Chain where there’s always salsa dancing and live music spilling into the streets; and shops offering cigar rolling. Domino Park is still thriving with the older generation playing dominoes, sipping coffee, and talking politics. Key landmarks like the historic cinema Tower Theater, and all those rooster statues scattered about, offer an only-in-Miami-feel.

Downtown Miami
Downtown Miami

Downtown Miami/Brickell Provides a Flexible Cityscape

Gleaming skyscrapers, views of sparkling Biscayne Bay and century-old buildings mingling with shiny modern ones — Miami’s core has it all when it comes to various backdrops. “Here, you have a beautiful mix of new and the old,” says Lighterman, who points out that the TV series Magic City replicated Cuba in Downtown Miami. “You could also shoot down Brickell Avenue to replicate New York, or even at Brickell City Centre to imitate any big city.” And, we all know that when the sun goes down, the illuminated Downtown is simply magical.

Crandon Park Beach
Crandon Park Beach

Key Biscayne Is the Ideal Beach Backdrop

Want to escape to the islands? Just cross over the Rickenbacker Causeway from Downtown to idyllic Key Biscayne where quiet beaches rule, palm trees gently sway, and various shades of blue-and-green intermingle in the calm water. Fun fact: Crandon Beach on Key Biscayne is the most filmed beach in South Florida, including recent shots in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Liberty City's African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
Liberty City's African Heritage Cultural Arts Center

Liberty City Brings Grit and Diversity

This is the Miami that most filmgoers hadn’t seen until the Oscar-worthy movie Moonlight put this area with a long, rich history on the film map, along with the documentary Warriors of Liberty City about a youth football team. “It has a grittiness that’s not often thought of when people think of Miami,” says Lighterman of the area that’s experiencing a rebirth with the new Liberty Square project. “Liberty City is sought after, especially in independent films. With the neighborhoods, the people who live there, there is a vibrancy to that grittiness.”

CityPlace Doral
CityPlace Doral

Doral Is Your Destination for Variety

While booming Doral is full of new, new, new like CityPlace Doral, ritzy resorts and world-class golf courses, this evolving city has other sides. Lighterman points out a landfill on Northwest 58th Street that can play for hills, and even replicate Jamaica with its palm trees and green hills.

The Everglades
The Everglades

Everglades Encapsulates the South’s Wetlands and Naturescape

Not many places can replicate this unique treasure. Sawgrass marshes, mangrove forests and exotic wildlife lurking above and under the water — Miami’s picturesque wetlands are filled with intrigue and provide the perfect backdrop for nature lovers. Whether tearing through the river of grass on an airboat, taking in a nail-biting alligator show, or chasing birds with binoculars, the Everglades offers a look you can’t find many places.

Miami is always camera-ready, and ready to show off its myriad of neighborhoods with diverse sides.

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