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  1. Hillsborough

Film studio opens in Ybor City, but founders will seek incentives from county to finish it

TAMPA — The Power Station, a new production studio led by The Blair Witch Project director Dan Myrick, is open.

But how much creative energy eventually flows through the Ybor City center might depend on whether Hillsborough County approves economic incentives that still are in the works.

The Power Station held an open house Thursday night to introduce the local film industry to the 17,000-square-foot installation on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 15th Street.

What the film industry refers to as a "bullpen" — a wide open office and meeting space for all phases of a production — is complete. So is a co-op area available to those who work in creative industries.

But those in attendance on Thursday were mostly wowed by the section that remains incomplete — a 12,000-square-foot warehouse set aside for conversion into a soundstage.

The Power Station's managing partner Kristian Krempel said the work will cost $1 million and take six months but it won't start without county backing.

"This is the movie business," Krempel said. "It has to be a business. We are hopeful we will get county support to start building the sound studio. This should be a public-private partnership."

Krempel stopped short of saying how much they want the county to kick in.

There was no estimate, either, from Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has championed the local film industry.

"It is just a matter of working with them to develop a plan and the best possible way to introduce the concept to the board," Hagan said.

The request comes at a time when Hagan is seeking to boost the $500,000 a year in incentives Hillsborough County already provides to production companies. A production can apply on a first-come, first-served basis for up to 10 percent back on money spent locally.

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Hagan also holds out hope for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City, although the team has rejected the proposal. The new studio is on land the Rays had identified as their favorite spot for a stadium, right in center field. But financing for the stadium never jelled.

Hagan said cash from the county's production incentive should not go toward the studio.

"I would envision that to be a separate incentive," he said. "I don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul. Incentives for productions and a studio are both important for us to realize our goals of being the number one film location in the state."

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Florida, unlike neighboring Georgia where Pinewood Studios has become home to the Marvel franchise, offers no state incentive to productions. But Hagan said the state Legislature might consider providing incentives for construction of a bricks and mortar studio that could help bring film and television series to the state.

Over the past year, the Tampa Bay area has been home to a steady stream of independent films with seven-figure budgets. One reason, Hillsborough County Film Commissioner Tyler Martinolich has said, is the variety of authentic locations this area can provide.

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Still, Martinolich said, a soundstage is a necessity because "real locations do not offer flexibility. Sets allow filmmakers to control the space and are not effected by weather or the time restraints of business or homeowners."

Meantime, there's been a change in the filming schedule for a new production company created by Myrick and Krempel, also named The Power Station.

They were supposed to start cameras rolling this fall on the web series The Black Veil featuring six 15-minute fictional horror stories based on Ybor City history.

Now, The Black Veil has been pushed back until early 2020 in favor of the feature film Erwin, written and directed by Tampa native-turned-Los Angeles transplant Ali Scher.

The movie, Scher said, is about a 12-year-old girl who invents a popularity potion for a science fair that "flips the high school hierarchy on its head."

But while The Power Station is producing it, the film might be made elsewhere, Scher said. For starters, she requires a school the production can take over for most of October and she wants the county incentive.

"We all want it to be made in Tampa," Scher said. "But at the end of the day it's about where I can make it affordably and what is best for the creative."

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

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