Hollywood We’re Not, But Sarasota Attracts a Variety of Film Productions

Production companies are here all year long, filming TV shows, indie movies and commercials.

By Susan Burns April 1, 2020 Published in the April 2020 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Image: Shutterstock

Taxing Situation

Florida is home to 60 film commissions, all vying to bring lucrative film productions to their regions. TV shows, movies, commercials and online media hire local crews, stay in local hotels and eat local food, so states and municipalities across the country offer tax incentives. Not everyone thinks they pay off, but in early March, Florida was one of only 18 states in the U.S. without them and the only Southern state.

Unreal TV

Siesta Key, the love-it-hate-it MTV series about privileged young friends navigating love, college and careers, filmed its third season in Sarasota, spending an estimated $7 million to $8 million on crews, cast, catering and equipment. The crew spent 1,347 room nights at area hotels in October, November and December 2019. 

Python hunter Dusty Crum and pals filming Guardians of the Glades.

Image: Fred Lopez 

Swamp Things

Season two of Guardians of the Glades, the Discovery TV show about Sarasota Burmese python hunter Dusty Crum and his pals, also filmed scenes in Sarasota, spending about $420,000 and booking 55 room nights.

May I Help You?

The Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office fielded 326 requests in 2019 about filming productions here; most were in television and indie films. One hundred projects were shot in Sarasota last year, and the total economic impact of productions was $16 million. 

Glamour Shots

Catalogue and magazine photo shoots in 2019 included Boston Proper, J. McLaughlin’s spring line, Born Shoes, Coastal Living magazine, British Vogue, Expedia Online, Hurricane Boats, Dream World Photography and TORO TimeCutter.

Television Spots

Other TV shows on location in 2019 were A&E’s Psychic Kids, Animal Planet, NHK Japanese TV, PBS Sci-Girls, Naturevision TV and Got the Beach Travel show.

Movie Love

Parts of independent movies were filmed here last year, too, including Fear of Rain (Harry Connick Jr. and Katherine Heigl), Surviving Lunch (KT Curran’s local award-winning Source Theatre production about bullying) and Beau Bridges’ Acting: The First Six Lessons, which was shot entirely at Ringling College’s new soundstage. 

Top Five

Five of the most well-known movies filmed here were The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), A Flash of Green (1984), Palmetto (1997) and Great Expectations (1998).

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