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Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens start filming 'Spring Breakers' on St. Pete Beach

ST. PETE BEACH — You could fill a court docket with all the crimes and misdemeanors committed Tuesday afternoon on Corey Avenue.

Open containers of beer everywhere, hoisted by scantily clad jaywalkers needing their IDs checked, while four young women zipped through the crowd on motor scooters running stop signs. And cops were helping it happen.

Before complaining to City Hall, just remember: It's only a movie.

Spring Breakers, a college-age crime flick starring Disney ingenues Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, made its first public splash in Pinellas County after filming last week at Sarasota's Ringling College of Art and Design.

Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo), the production closed down Corey Avenue for three hours Tuesday while filming the bogus debauchery. Several dozen extras dressed for the beach participated in the shoot, while hundreds more dressed just like them gawked from sidewalks — mostly at Gomez, the starlet who's dating pop sensation Justin Bieber.

"It's crazy seeing that, thinking I've been a really big fan of hers since I was young," said Zara Meadows, 13, of St. Petersburg after Gomez and her co-stars rode by on their scooters for the seventh time. "It's pretty insane, but it's cool."

Filming was expected to continue until the wee hours of this morning and through the end of the month at various St. Pete Beach locations.

Gomez, Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine (the director's wife) are playing college students who finance their Florida vacation by robbing a bank. At some point, Academy Award nominee James Franco will join the production, playing a drug dealer who bails the students out of jail with a nefarious motive in mind.

Tuesday's production gave onlookers a lesson in the often tedious process of making movies. Extras were guided to their starting positions on Corey Avenue at 4 p.m., followed by an hour of instructions about where and when to cross the street. Production assistants handed out canned and bottled beers as props, and reminded onlookers to ignore the camera tracking the scooters, and avoid snapping photos during takes.

Gomez, Hudgens, Benson and Rachel Korine arrived shortly after 5 p.m. and began the repetitive task of riding scooters from Gulf Boulevard to Boca Ciega Drive, whooping and flirting their way through the crowd. Eleven times they made the two-block trip with a camera truck recording their moves, from in front and behind. Between takes, the actors found relief from the heat under umbrellas or the air conditioning of a black SUV.

By 7 p.m. the shot Harmony Korine wanted was in the can, and much of the star-gazing crowd had already gone home.

It was three hours of setups, filmed takes and resets — for a sequence that will last perhaps 30 seconds on screen when Spring Breakers is released in 2013.

Tuesday was the second day of Spring Breakers production in Pinellas County after spending Monday filming near the Sunshine Skyway bridge. But it was the first scheduled shoot with details leaked to the public, a breach of the tight security surrounding the project.

The chance to see Gomez attracted a number of elementary school-age girls like Madison Nielsen, 10, of St. Petersburg.

"I think it's really cool," she said at the moment Gomez rode by again. "I'm going to tell all my friends, and they will be very jealous."

Also trying to get a glimpse of Gomez — for entirely different reasons — were three buddies from Buffalo, N.Y., on a real-life spring break. "It was amazing seeing her," 20-year-old Brendann Herndon said with a devilish smile. "I'd like to see more of her, you know?"

Herndon's friend Peter Gregory, 19, was more practical about the spring break scene played out before him over and over.

"I don't know what they're doing in the street with their bathing suits on," he said. "Just doesn't make sense to me but I don't know. I think it's going to be pretty sweet."

Farther down the sidewalk, in front of Madeleina Cottage Restaurant, sat two older women, coincidentally also from Buffalo and highly amused by the scene. Joyce Potempa, 78, and her daughter Susan Heiss, 54, stopped by for potato skins and beers, and ended up with a side order of human beefcake and cheesecake.

"Isn't the movie about spring break?" Potempa asked. "Perfect. They must have gathered up all the beautiful people on the beach. We were thinking we should go to the beach because there would be nobody there."

Share the gossip

Do you know where Spring Breakers will be filming soon, or know where shoots have been? Did you have a close encounter with Selena Gomez, James Franco or Vanessa Hudgens worth bragging about? Let us know at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365.

Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens start filming 'Spring Breakers' on St. Pete Beach 03/13/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:26am]

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