If you see a film crew shooting footage of a Tesla in St. Petersburg in June, it’s not a commercial for the American-made automobile.
Rather, it’s the latest independent film to come to the Tampa Bay area.
Filmmaker Tosca Musk, the sister of billionaire technology entrepreneur and Tesla manufacturer Elon Musk, will make her next movie in St. Petersburg. Shooting will span June 10-28.
Titled A Brother’s Honor, it is based on the romance book of the same name by Brenda Jackson about three brothers who left their family’s Virginia estate and the bad memories it held after their father was falsely convicted of murdering their mother. At their dying grandfather’s request, they return home.
Virginia will remain the backdrop of the story, but through movie magic, St. Petersburg will play the role of the mountainous state.
“A lot of the film takes place in interiors,” said Tony Armer, the St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner.
The movie will likely use stock footage and B-roll of Virginia for wide shot exteriors, he said.
A Brother’s Honor will premiere in September on Tosca Musk’s Passionflix, a streaming service she launched in 2017 that turns romance novels into movies.
“We’re fans, super fans, actually, of the romance genre,” South African-born Los Angeles resident Musk told the Times via email. “And we know there are other women and men out there that are fans, too.”
Musk, who is executive producing the movie, estimates the production will employ 50 locals on the crew and 23 area residents as actors. They are still scouting locations.
And, yes, she said, Teslas will be in the movie.
“This is just a continuation of all our hard work to make this area a magnet for independent film production,” Armer said.
There is indeed an independent film boom occurring on both sides of the bridge.
In recent months, two Hallmark movies have been shot in the area, as has I Saw a Man with Yellow Eyes starring Katherine Heigl, and Zola produced by A24, which was behind the Academy Award-winning movie Moonlight. This summer, The Blair Witch Project director Dan Myrick will make a web series in Ybor City.
Musk said her movie’s producer Michael Baumgarten suggested they film in St. Petersburg.
“He was excited about introducing the area to us,” she said. “We make so many movies every year and are always looking for great places to film.”
Baumgarten was sold on St. Petersburg a few years ago when he attended the city’s Sunscreen Film Festival founded by film commissioner Armer.
“I met him there,” Armer said. “He then shot two smaller independent films here — Paying Mr. McGetty and Celebrity Crush. We continued to have a relationship and now we have a third larger film.”
According to Musk, Passionflix has released nine original productions. The streaming service that costs $5.99 a month also licenses content from studios.
Throughout her career, Musk has produced 35 movies, including Holiday Engagement that when released on the Hallmark Channel in 2011 was its highest-rated Sunday night movie ever.
Could Passionflix projects be coming to the area?
“That’s my hope,” Musk said.
It’s not lost on Armer that this marks the third romance film shot in St. Petersburg this year.
He quipped that it is time to come up with a new nickname for the city once known as “God’s Waiting Room” because of its aging retiree population and that served as the location for Ron Howard’s Cocoon about seniors rejuvenated by aliens.
“Call us Love City,” he said.
Contact Paul Guzzo at email@example.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.