POMPANO BEACH — An actor, artfully splattered with blood and surrounded by a bustling group of fake evidence technicians and police, lay in a sheltered lot, creating the scene of a murder freshly discovered in an approaching hurricane.
Surrounding her, at least two dozen nonspeaking extras shuffled around — artfully referred to as "atmosphere" in the business — backed by many more technicians, makeup people, truck drivers, cooks and all the assorted equipment required to produce A&E's The Glades, at a price tag of about $2.5 million per episode.
All these jobs and money could have landed in the Tampa Bay area, where several scenes for the pilot episode were filmed.
But when it came time to choose a home base for the second major scripted series now on TV to film entirely in Florida, producers picked the Fort Lauderdale area instead, building sets in a Pembroke Park industrial space.
Why? Producers blamed Tampa Bay area businesses and film commissioners, saying people gouged the production during the pilot shoot and didn't provide resources quickly enough.
"The town, the community, they weren't as sophisticated," said Glades creator Clifton Campbell. "We'd have a location we thought was locked up, only to have one demand or another spring up, like Whack-A-Mole. Some people looked at this as, 'This will be great for the community.' And some people said, 'How much money can this make for me?' "
Actor Ricky Wayne, who drove to Pompano Beach from his Oldsmar home to work on the series' fourth episode, echoed Campbell's words, blaming film commissioners in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for not working hard enough to keep a major employer close.
"You're telling me, we can host the Republican convention (in Tampa), but we can't create the infrastructure to keep a production local?" said Wayne, who noted his role in The Glades was the first time he had worked in Florida in two years. "I have a family, a 4-year-old son; I would love to be able to get up in the morning, drive to work and see him at night when I'm done."
As the producers' complaints began circulating in news reports, local film commissioners spoke up, saying that the production initially planned to film one day in the area, increasing to five after talking with location scouts. With scenes set at the Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa, a Crabby Bill's restaurant and the Belleair Country Club golf course, producers tried to film too much too quickly without adequately informing property owners what would happen once a crush of trucks and workers appeared for filming, the commissioners said.
"We can't force private property owners to charge less for their locations," said Lindsey Norris Guthrie, manager for the Tampa Bay Film Commission. "We had some people offer locations for free . . . and we got them permits in record time. At the end of the day, they got the locations they wanted and the show was picked up for series, so they achieved everything they wanted."
Still, now that Florida has approved tax incentives for film and TV production amounting to $242 million over the next five years, industry experts predict more projects will come to Florida as more producers reach for that "blue sky" magic.
It's an idea that makes perfect sense to Jordan Wall, a Clearwater-raised actor who got the biggest break of his young career when he landed the role of geeky evidence technician Daniel Green on The Glades.
Watching friends and fellow acting students score parts on shows such as Army Wives, Wall is passionate about keeping such projects in the state, building the local acting community by providing an actor's lifeblood: paying jobs.
"If you're working every day as an actor, you're learning," said Wall, a 2003 Clearwater High School graduate. "There's so much talent here, I hope these (series) can show people outside the state what we have to offer."