Sarasota's Chance to Get on TV

Under The Hood


What will the debut of Siesta Key mean for the area’s on-screen reputation? In my opinion, too much hand-wringing has occurred thus far about the potential Snookification of America’s greatest white sand beach, but that shows too little faith in our tourist leaders for promoting tony Sarasota as a luxury destination. In contrast, too little attention has been paid to what impact a series set and shot in Sarasota and broadcast on a cable network with some reach and history could mean for the region as a film destination.

A look at trailers shows that, beyond the pretty 20-somethings dreaming of Lauren Conrad-level fame, the region boasts gorgeous waters, blue skies and a sort of greenery just as lush yet entirely different than any of Southern California’s many environments. Directors and cinematographers from around the country, already familiar with Sarasota for its beloved-by-directors film festival, will be able to see snippets of the Siesta Key show and imagine the stories in their own heads playing out with a Gulf Coast backdrop.

This should all be greeted as good news for those of us who’ve long seen Florida’s potential as a filmmaking destination but have been frustrated as the industry turned Atlanta into the Hollywood of the South. Honestly, other than zombies and Confederate monuments, what’s Georgia got that can’t be found in the Sunshine State?

I guess that question can’t be asked rhetorically. Georgia notably offers tremendous incentives to filmmakers who shoot movies in the Peach State, enough of a financial incentive that Ben Affleck and company, when shooting the independent film Live By Night, notoriously decided it would be cheaper to rebuild Ybor City 270 miles to the north than to go through the needed effort to shoot in Tampa Bay. Georgia incentives cover 30 percent of all monies actually spent in the Peach State while the State of Florida decided a couple years ago to stop offering any incentives at all.

But incentives only tell part of the story. Florida, especially with locations outside Miami, hasn’t historically offered much in terms of soundstage environments, camera rigging, editing bays or the litany of services directors want at the ready to deal with challenges foreseen and unpredictable. This is why Claws, a TNT series set in Palmetto, did some location shooting here but the bulk of indoor work in Louisiana.

Through the years, entities like Ringling College of Art & Design worked to provide that sort of infrastructure here for their own students and filmmakers in the community.  And Sarasota County offers some local incentives for film, even if it pales to state funding in Georgia.

Jeanne Corcoran, director of the Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office, notes that Siesta Key, a reality show, lives primarily outside of soundstage environments but still want to know resources are available.

“Productions factor in knowing there is infrastructure nearby where cover sets could be built in case of rain, overcast or just plain foul weather, where controlled audio in a studio environment can be created, dialogue looped or redone for clarity, special effects and sound effects peppered in, certain scenes staged that require complete control of lighting and sound and other environmental issues that only stages provide, etc.,” she says.

On that front, knowing a high-gloss show like Siesta Key can be shot on the Gulf Coast signals the entire filmmaking world that this is comfortable place to do business. It’s why Reality TV remains a target genre for Corcoran when she tries to attract productions to the region.

Through that lens, there’s little negative to say about Siesta Key.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.

Image courtesy MTV

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