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Council slight angers local video producers

By BRIDGET HALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 28, 2000


INVERNESS -- The Economic Development Council is charged with promoting local businesses and luring new ones to the area.

But when the council needed a production company to make a CD-ROM movie promoting Citrus County, it passed over local companies and took its business to West Palm Beach.

The reason, council executive director Rick Jensen said, was that council board member Larry Sartory had done previous work with the West Palm company, Creative Edge Advertising, and it agreed to donate its labor in producing the seven-minute movie.

Creative Edge president Christine Christianson said her company was trying to break into the field of CD-ROM movies, so she donated her time on this project to create a work sample that she could show to other customers.

Her offer left the council with a $7,500 tab for production costs, which it paid using $5,000 raised from private donations and a $2,500 grant from Central Florida Gas, on a project that was worth about $17,500, Jensen said.

Jensen said the deal was so good that the council didn't need to shop around for competing offers.

But his decision left local producers, including several who have done other pro bono films promoting Citrus County, wondering why they were never given a chance to match the offer.

"As a corporate member of the EDC, I'm disappointed that local companies didn't get a shot at producing this CD," said Steve Parker, president of QPI Video Productions. "Local companies weren't even consulted or considered."

"I always try to do business locally. It just makes good business sense," said Phil Courter, an Emmy award-winning producer in Crystal River. "I've repeatedly expressed interest in doing these kinds of projects, but no one (from the EDC) ever contacted me."

Although both men have hundreds of hours of taped footage of the county, the council did not ask for any of it.

Christianson said the council sent her about 20 videotapes from other promotions so she could find footage for the CD-ROM film. One tape from Sugarmill Woods included a shot of the Hernando County Courthouse that erroneously made it into the final cut of Citrus County's CD-ROM. That error was pointed out last week when the council showed the film to the County Commission.

"It was a perfectly innocent thing," Jensen said. "How were they supposed to know it wasn't the right courthouse?"

That's the point, Parker said. The flap at last week's commission meeting over the wrong courthouse footage -- as well as the CD-ROM's portrayal of the Suncoast Parkway running through Citrus County and misleading information about airports -- could have been avoided if a local producer made the movie, he said.

"All I've done for the past 10 years is shoot Citrus County," Parker said.

Aside from the mix-up in courthouse shots, Jensen defends the CD-ROM film by saying his job is to market the region, not just the county.

Business owners who move to Citrus County still go to the Tampa airport and the sandy Clearwater beaches, so those features should be included in marketing the area, he said.

Jensen said the council will correct the courthouse shot in future printings of the CD-ROMs, but he will recommend to the board that it still distribute the 1,000 discs that contain the error.

"If you're sitting up in Chicago watching this, how do you know which courthouse it's supposed to be?" Jensen said. "And why would you care?"

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