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Panel: Making a Living in Entertainment Industry Possible in Sarasota

A panel sponsored by Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office offered its thoughts on how ordinary folks and those with expertise can benefit from the entertainment industry in Sarasota.

Making a living working for the entertainment industry in Sarasota is not as far fetched as a sci-fi TV show.

That's what five successful women and other industry experts told a crowd at the Film and Entertainment Office's   panel at the Tuesday night.

This mantra of Sarasota is a film and television destination and workforce is growing as helping students at the Digital Filmmaking Studio, most recently as Monday and Tuesday when actor Elijah Wood participated and offered his thoughts on talent in Sarasota.

Kristen Lindberg of Sarasota, art department and clearance coordinator who is also a consultant for Sarasota's Florida Sound Stage said it can happen.

"Can we make a living here? Yes, but everybody in here has to contribute to it because it's not just us sitting around waiting for it to come," Lindberg said.

Lindberg's family owns the building in Lakewood Ranch where Florida Sound Stage now operates. was previously located there but since moved to a space beside .

"Just behind the scenes, behind everything you see, there are people out there actually working and talking to producers and talking to our contacts and figure out what Sarasota can be in the film market and how we can start marketing ourselves," she said.

One way Florida Sound Stage figured to do that is by giving people a bonus if they bring a production to the Sound Stage because their crew will most likely be hired for that project, Lindberg said. 

Sure, Sarasota has the pretty Siesta Key Beach, and it's a great location, Lindberg said, but the Sarasota industry has to start "killing that stigma" that there isn't production crew here to make a movie or television show happen.

Lindberg, like the other panelists and quite a few folks in the room know the business quite well. She worked on the new Step Up 4 dance movie, HBO's Walkout and Adam Sandler's The Longest Yard

Jeanne Corcoran, director of the Film and Entertainment Office said one part of bringing that work to Sarasota is making the industry aware that 100 percent of any Sarasota County government fee is rebated — fire, permits, schools use, law enforcement — if the production comes here and spends money to do work here. That's in addition to getting back 20 percent rebate from the state for spending certain expenses on private industry, she said.

Five projects in five months have used the county program and more projects said they are interested in coming to Sarasota County to do work because of that program, Corcoran said.

"Producers are flabbergasted when we tell them this," she said.

Another way is if people have property, a talent, a certain breed of dog, or some sort of collectible or possession that might be of interest to producers, list it for free on the Film and Entertainment Office website, Corcoran said. Of course there are caterers, security companies and other services, too, that can be hired for help.

So, what kind of entertainment industry work would be the best for Sarasota County? It's not necessarily the big production movies.

Corcoran said it's episodic television, which the county is trying to attract. 

"If you can get a television production to shoot in your region that is longterm employment. Those are permanent jobs," Corcoran said. "If it's a hit like Burn Notice in The Glades, then they stay season after season."

Sarasota native Pam Alessandrelli is a production office coordinator/production manager and continues to work on USA Network's Burn Notice  and says the community has supported the show over the years and stood behind the producers when official wanted to tear down a building in Coconut Grove in Miami.

Alessandrelli's knowledge of Sarasota also helped a movie project find a location in a pinch, she said, when she recommended use of the Ringling mansion Ca d'Zan for Parker starring Jennifer Lopez.

Sarasota's seen some success in the television series area with the Travel Channel's recent filming of too.

"'Sand Wars' loved the area so much that they've kept all their stuff here locally and in the area, so we're doing something right," said Troy Brecknell, owner of TrVst Security, who is providing services for the Travel Channel's show.

Corcoran said the production crew also completed other projects "Sand Masters" and "Sand Blasters" in addition to "Sand Wars." 

"It's the repeat business that builds a community," Corcoran said.

Sage Hall, owner of StarFruit productions agreed saying diversifying her talents with event filmmaking for weddings helped her write narratives for short films.

"We do make a living," she said, noting that she has featured actors and businesses from Sarasota in her work.

Here are a couple of other Sarasota success stories: 

• Short film Deadly Closure that was filmed in Sarasota in 2007 written by Sarasota's Alan Cameron Roberts had a national distribution deal completed in December and is entering international markets, being seen through Amazaon, Netflix and other ways. It's now retitled Armed and Deadly.

"It was my objective to produce a film that shows the beauty of Sarasota," Roberts said.

• Sarasota's screenwriter Stephen Lejnar and director Brian Lorenzo are preparing to make a film The Great Ortega that's very Sarasota.

The plot: It's set in The Rosemary District and an art gallery there is competing with a Palm Avenue gallery to make money and the Rosemary gallery is getting creative about how to profit.

Jeanne Corcoran January 25, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Thank you, Sarasota Patch! It's true that projects come and go, initiatives may succeed or stumble, but the bottom line is the dedication and determination of everyone involved in this industry to continue to try our best and move forward -- it's all about jobs, about opportunities for local people, places, businesses, etc. to prosper, to bring back those who have moved away with their talents and treasures in addition to attracting new relocations, as well as tourism, to drive our economy forward as we all pursue economic recovery on all fronts. Many thanks --
Charles Schelle (Editor) January 26, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Thanks Jeanne! It was great to meet you in person last night!

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