CLEARWATER, Fla. - The St. Petersburg-Clearwater area is making a name for itself in the film business, landing on this year's list of top 25 best places to live and work as a filmmaker.
St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commissioner Tony Armer said the honor comes from the Hollywood-based magazine "MovieMaker." The magazine looked at recent productions, incentives and the overall feel of the city toward filmmakers, and ranked the St. Petersburg area as number 25 on the list.
Since there is no state incentive for filming in Florida, Armer shared why people choose St. Pete-Clearwater.
"We have a really robust and aggressive incentive program where we try and attract productions to come to the area," said Armer. "There’s a great film community of people that live and work here, and then we’ve got great film festivals as well, which is a big factor in making sure that an area is considered film-friendly."
In the last couple of years, Pinellas County hosted shoots for dozens of feature-length films.
"It’s everything from a student filmmaker making small independent projects that everybody in the community can get behind to a larger project like "Fear of Rain" with Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick Jr. that actually comes out February 12th that’s shot here in the area," said Armer.
Hallmark channel favored the area in 2019 when the network shot two movies in Pinellas County. Armer said the commission is welcoming a Hallmark-style romantic film called "A Taste of Love" that will likely begin shooting in March. Even during the pandemic, the commissioner said they’ve stayed busy with commercials, digital media projects and music videos all shot in the area.
"You want to film at somebody’s house or at a marina or on a downtown street, we make it as easy and as uncomplicated as possible," said Armer.
The more people hear the city named in movies, the more they want to come and check it out, Armer said. He believes that helps bring attention to what’s already in Tampa Bay and attract tourists and filmmakers to the area.
There’s also a growing film community in the St. Pete-Clearwater, with freelancers, full-time crews, equipment rentals, and film festivals.
"[It’s great] anytime an area can be given some accolades and told that you’re the best of something, the best place to live and work," said Armer. "Obviously we’ve had great success with our sports teams, and so it’s great to see that on other business levels like film."
The film commission hopes to bring in more independent films with $2 million budgets and the types of film projects featured in the Sundance Film Festival.