TAMPA — The Hillsborough County film commissioner’s phone has been blowing up this week with calls and texts from friends who are fans of the Amazon Prime television series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.
Episode 2 of Season 2 took place in Tampa, they told him, and their eagle eyes figured it out the moment the skyline appeared on their screen.
“They need to look a little closer,” film commissioner Tyler Martinolich said. It was not really Tampa, he said. It was “just sort of Tampa. We don’t have a mountain."
The series’ second season revolves around novelist Tom Clancy’s iconic CIA agent Jack Ryan embroiled in political warfare in a corrupt Venezuela on the verge of an economic meltdown. Much of the second episode of that season occurs at MacDill Air Force Base and around Tampa.
“They never came here to shoot anything,” Martinolich said.
To create the illusion that the scenes took place in authentic Tampa, the episode green-screened a wide shot of downtown.
The buildings that make up the skyline are unmistakable — the SunTrust Financial Centre with its light-up pyramid top, for instance.
Initially, Martinolich couldn’t figure from what angle the photograph was taken. It could have been snapped where Hillsborough River meets Garrison Channel, looking north. Or maybe from Bayshore Boulevard, close to Ballast Point Park.
But Martinolich, who uses photos of Tampa locations to sell productions on filming in this city, now wonders if it’s even a real photograph of Tampa.
“The SunTrust building should be to the left of the Regions Building and the One Tampa City Center,” he said.
What’s more, he said, the Tampa Convention Center should be visible but is missing. The same goes for the bridges that connect to downtown.
And other things were added.
“The Hillsborough River is three times wider than it should be,” Martinolich said, and it seems that there are port cranes to the right of downtown where developments should be.
Plus, he said, there appears to be a mountain in the distance in the far right-hand corner. That feature is darker and more solid than the surrounding clouds.
Martinolich figures “they took the profiles of a couple of buildings and populated it into a fake background."
Guy Balson, a location scout in the Tampa Bay area for three decades, said productions regularly employ that technique.
“Sometimes it can be cheaper to cheat a location than to go there,” he said.
Just last year, for instance, a Hallmark movie that took place primarily in Pinellas County had a few scenes in Chicago. Rather than flying cast and crew there, the Windy City appeared via stock footage and green-screen technology. Chicago interiors were then filmed in St. Petersburg.
“Sometimes you can do that successfully," Balson said, "and sometimes you can’t.”
Still, Martinolich said, “Regardless, any depiction of Tampa that makes viewers curious to learn more about our city is a positive.”