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Cameras zoom in on area

Published February 28, 2007


The Tampa Bay area is quietly becoming a haven for Hollywood producers looking for a film-friendly community in which to shoot commercials, videos and movies.

Until Carrie Underwood's Wasted started airing on Country Music Television this month, few knew that the 2005 American Idol winner had filmed her latest skin-baring video here.

Both Wasted and the "under the radar" video shoot are the work of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Film Commission.

Most of the commission's clients are infomercial shoots, but more movie, commercial and video producers are jumping on board, said Jennifer Parramore, director of the film commission.

In addition to offering a beautiful location and few nuisances, there are no film permit costs or pesky paparazzi types.

Wasted, by Grammy Award-winning Underwood, showcases some of the best scenery in Pinellas County, from an upscale Tierra Verde home to the white sands of Fort De Soto Park.

"It is not New York City. It is not Los Angeles," she said. "But this is not Hooterville. ... In other words, you aren't in the middle of Yahoo, Nowhere, where your crew member can't get a bag of ice."

In the past year, two independent films have been filmed locally: Love Comes Lately, a German love story starring comedian Rhea Perlman, and Grace Is Gone, a war story starring John Cusack.

Grace Is Gone, which was partly filmed at Fort De Soto, recently won the audience award for favorite U.S. drama at the Sundance Film Festival.

The British rock band Coldplay also shot its video for The Hardest Part in St. Petersburg in 2006.

If you never heard of these projects and missed the chance to see your favorite celebrity in person, blame Parramore, who tends to hush up during production out of respect for her clients.

"We just don't broadcast appealing or popular or sexy events in advance," she said.

The county's acclaimed beaches are an obvious draw for marketing firms and location scouts, but so is the area's diversity. Rustic homes in North Pinellas can sit in for a street in Cleveland, gritty streets in nearby Tampa provide a picture of urban life, and palm tree-lined beach towns can easily be made to look like Caribbean hideaways.

The area's booming production industry is also alluring to video project managers. In recent years, more than half a dozen production companies have opened in Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg, Parramore said.

Bill Mills started Florida Film and Video Production Services in St. Petersburg about six years ago after moving here from Atlanta for the sunny weather. Before he mostly did work outside Florida; now at least 50 percent of his clients now choose to film in the area.

"Business has picked up a lot locally," he said. "The reason they came to Florida is for the location, for the sunshine. But as they start to see the type of crews and the type of equipment in the regional area, it is also an attraction."

The Underwood music video is one of the more youth savvy productions filmed in Pinellas, and Parramore hopes it will help bring more of the MTV jet set to the area.

In the mood-setting black and white video, Underwood and her music video boyfriend move about a Tierra Verde home before hitting the beach and campgrounds at Fort De Soto.

Randy Brewer, executive producer of Revolution Pictures, the Nashville, Tenn., production company that made the video, said he learned of the area when Parramore took him on a scouting tour several years ago and was impressed by friendly locals and clean shores.

In 2005, Revolution Pictures oversaw a music video for Trick Pony, a Nashville honky tonk band, at Fort De Soto.

"Every time we have a beach video or a tropical video we just seem to gravitate toward Fort De Soto," he said.

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or

Fast Facts:

$8.9-million* brought into county in 2006

1,903People employed last year during film shoots*

29 People employed during television shoots

57 Infomercials shot here last year

35 Infomercials shot here in 2005

5 music videos shot in the area last year

2 music videos shot in the area in 2005

*Figures not complete; data reflects only what has been reported.

Source: St. Petersburg/Clearwater Film Commission

'Reel' scenes nearby

Turns out that scene from your favorite movie could have been filmed in Pinellas. Here are some major productions that were filmed in the area:

'WASTED:' 2005 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood shot her music video at Fort De Soto last month. Check it out at

'BURIAL AT SEA,' a teen slasher flick, was filmed in Tierra Verde in September 2006.

'GRACE IS GONE,' a war drama starring John Cusack, was partly filmed at Fort De Soto in May 2006. Widely acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival, it was recognized for a screenwriting prize and an award for favorite U.S. drama.

'LOVE COMES LATELY,' a German-American drama based on the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer and starring actors Rhea Perlman, Barbara Hershey and Elizabeth Pena, shot scenes at the Olympia Hotel in Clearwater and Sea Critters Cafe in St. Pete Beach in June 2006.

'THE HARDEST PART:' English rockers Coldplay shot the music video in March 2006 in St. Petersburg.

'PIRATES,' a porn flick, was filmed at the Pier in June 2005. It won 11 of the 24 Adult Video News Awards for which it was nominated.

'THE PUNISHER,' a 2004 comic book action movie starring John Travolta, shot scenes at Honeymoon Island and Fort De Soto and in Tampa. The film won a several World Stunt Awards.

'THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE' of 2004 filmed some live action scenes at the Pier. The picture was honored with several animation prizes.

'OCEAN'S ELEVEN,' the 2001 heist film starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney, features scenes around St. Petersburg, including Derby Lane greyhound racing. The film was nominated for several Teen Choice Awards and MTV Movie Awards.

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 20:37:37]

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