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Another Hallmark movie is coming to Tampa Bay, and possibly eight more.

Left to Right: Actors Jordon Bridges and Sara Rue, who star in the upcoming Hallmark Original Movie of the Week, Garden Party, take a break during the filming in St. Petersburg. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Mar. 7

Call us "Hallywood."

Just weeks after a Hallmark movie wrapped a production filmed primarily in St. Petersburg, Elayne Schmidt, who produced that one, told the Tampa Bay Times she will helm a second on both sides of the bridge toward the end of the month.

"The last one went so well they wanted to come back," Schmidt said of the Hallmark Channel.

What's more — Hallmark is considering filming another six to eight in the Tampa Bay area over the next year.

"There is a good chance," Schmidt said.

Both St.Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer and Hillsborough film commissioner Tyler Martinolich confirmed that negotiations for that slate of movies is ongoing.

Neither of the commissioners nor Schmidt would provide plot details or a name for this next Hallmark movie.

It was originally supposed to be filmed in Hawaii, Schmidt said, but Hallmark changed course after a good experience while making the previous movie, Garden Party, in this area.

Get the tissues: A Hallmark movie is being filmed in St. Petersburg

"What did they love? Well, for one, it is beautiful here," Schmidt said. "And it has been a very friendly location. Between that and the counties' incentives, this is where they wanted to be."

Hillsborough and Pinellas governments have separate programs that provide a production up to 10 percent of what is spent in the respective county. Each has an annual cap of $500,000.

"These are the types of films we have been seeking," St.Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Armer commissioner said. "Those movies in the seven-figure budget range."

Without a statewide incentive offering productions millions of dollars back, it is difficult for Florida to recruit blockbusters. But two bills have been introduced in the Florida Senate that could create such a state program.

Florida may get into the business of backing films again if state bills pass

The plot of the already-filmed Garden Party is vintage Hallmark that likely ends with the two leads falling in love: A woman who honors her father's memory by continuing the community garden he built in St. Petersburg. But the future of the garden is threatened when a condo builder buys the property for development.

Most of that movie was shot in Pinellas with only B-roll filmed in Hillsborough.

For the next Hallmark movie and moving forward, producer Schmidt said, they will share the love equally.

Locals will find themselves busy if this area does land the full slate of six to eight more Hallmark movies.

Producer Schmidt said that Garden Party hired around 350 locals, which included extras, actors with speaking roles and crew.

"This is a big deal because it could bring a volume of films to the area that will be shooting back to back," Hillsborough film commissioner Martinolich said. "They will employ our crew base for the next year."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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