SB2: What We Learned About Regional Filmmaking

Panelists of SB2: Behind the Lens. From left to right: Dr. Larry Thopmson, Jeanne Corcoran, Tony Stopperan, Joe Restaino, Debbie Meihls.

Panelists of SB2: Behind the Lens. From left to right: Dr. Larry Thopmson, Jeanne Corcoran, Tony Stopperan, Joe Restaino, Debbie Meihls. Photo credit: Evan Sigmund.

SRQ | The Magazine hosted SB2: Behind the Lens this Wednesday at the Powel Crosley Estate to discuss the importance of regional film development and what we are doing as a community to attract large scale productions and foster local talent and creativity through film.

As the program opened, the evening’s sponsors drew our collective attention to the importance of film. Not only by the ability to connect each of us to art, but to connect us to a place. Representing Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Elliott Falcione reminded us of the profound impact of film on tourism. People travel to see where their favorite movies and television shows are filmed. It generates interest in a region and aldo spurs travel to the places seen in movies – which translates to economic support of a destination.

Joe Grano, president and founder of Next-Mark, a full-service marketing and communications firm in Sarasota, is a very proud supporter of film in our community. Next-Mark sponsors the Sarasota Film Festival every year and recognizes the ability of film and the arts the strengthen or region.

Our panel represented some of Sarasota and Bradenton’s most steadfast supporters of the industry: creators of independent films and advocates for programs and infrastructure that create opportunities for filmmaking in our region.

Meet the Panelists:

  • Jeanne Corcoran: Sarasota County Film Commission
  • Debbie Meihls: Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Joe Restaino: Skyway Film Festival
  • Tony Stopperan: Independent Film Producer
  • Larry Thompson: Ringling College of Art and Design

Here’s what we learned:

The Ringling College of Art and Design Soundstage: what will large-scale film productions be on the lookout for and how does the college plan to attractive to them?

The answer is simple. In an industry that is based upon acting, the Ringling approach is authenticity. Being a good partner and being trustworthy are paramount to attracting sustainable business. It also doesn’t hurt that the facility will be state-of-the-art, in a desirable destination and surrounded by people that are inspired, creative and eager for opportunity. Larry Thopmson addressed a question from the audience on how the college plans to maintain their commitment to student work when the prospects of multi-million dollar projects are scheduled for the soundstage. Even the structural planning of the soundstage addressed this very question. The soundstage will house multiple recording areas to accommodate the smaller-scale film productions initiated by students when large projects are underway. When the larger studio is not accommodating an outside production company, that facility will be dedicated to the use of students. And when there are major projects, it is his mission to be sure that Ringling students are in the studios – working alongside and learning from large-scale film productions.

Panelists participate in the discussion at SB2: Behind the Lens. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund

Panelists participate in the discussion at SB2: Behind the Lens. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund

What is the state of funding and incentives for filmmakers and television in our local and state budget?

Jeanne Corcoran and Debbie Meihls shared the state of affairs for current governmental funding and tax incentives for production companies within the state of Florida. Comparatively, Florida doesn’t offer significant incentives to attract large-scale and television crews as other states. Though the recent past budgeting has brought on projects like Burn Notice, without forward-thinking parameters on how to best budget to prolong the funds available, we are left with little to offer production companies throughout the fiscal year. One of the most thought provoking questions to Debbie and Jeanne came from a member of the audience (himself a filmmaker) who asked why the regional film commissions don’t pool their resources together and join forces in order to compete with the likes of Miami and other regional hotspots for film and production. The answer boils down to red tape. With the budgeting of such programs coming from county and city taxes, the jurisdiction does not allow for “pooling” of resources. However, that doesn’t mean that such organizations should not work together to maximize their impact. According to Jeanne Corcoran, the film commissioners from around the region to discuss how to best utilize the tools and funds available within each jurisdiction for the greater good of the area. After all, attracting film to our region is good for all of us.

Jeanne Corcoran expounds on the mission of the Sarasota County Film Commission. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund

Jeanne Corcoran expounds on the mission of the Sarasota County Film Commission. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund

Advice to Filmmakers

No panel on regional film development would be complete without hearing from the creative minds developing the films that we love. Tony Stopperan and Joe Restaino provided their insights on the importance of the film festivals. Not only are they a celebration of film and an chance for collaboration – a proverbial “meeting of the minds,” but they also draw attention and awareness to independent films. While creativity is always king in the arts, Tony Stopperan offered advice to a member of the audience who asked for guidance on how to best access governmental and private financial support. As the force behind the film, it is just as much the filmmaker’s responsibility to know the business side in order to garner the financial support and backing from investors. Committing and sticking to budgets, deadlines and schedules is just as critical as the creative passion that it takes to make a film. In the end, like almost all passion projects, filmmaking boils down to work ethic.

We learned a great deal and look forward to the coming season of film festivals in the area. If you love independent and local films sign up to follow SRQ Backlot, our blog that is dedicated to news and projects in the regional film industry.

Joseph Grano, second from left, represented sponsor Next-Mark as opening presenter.

Joseph Grano, second from left, represented sponsor Next-Mark as opening presenter. Photo credit: Evan Sigmund.

Special thanks to our sponsors of SB2: Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, CS&L CPAs and Next-Mark.

To view photos from SB2: Behind the Lens, click here.

Don’t miss out on the March SB2: Creating A Vibrant Bayfront on March 19, 2015 at 7:30 AM at the Francis featuring renowned landscape architect  and keynote speaker Thomas Balsley, FASLA. To learn about the event and purchase tickets, visit www.srqsb2.com.

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