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What’s it like to film 10 movies in 9 months in Tampa Bay? Ask this crew.

The films are produced by former Clearwater Aquarium CEO David Yates.
Tal Zentmeyer snaps a slate for a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss" at Walsingham Park in Seminole.
Tal Zentmeyer snaps a slate for a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss" at Walsingham Park in Seminole. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 26|Updated May 30

SEMINOLE — Jonathan Stoddard initially said he has starred in four movies shot in Pinellas County since late September.

No, he’s done five, he said, correcting himself.

No, make that six.

Yes, six is the correct answer, Stoddard said.

“It’s hard to keep track,” the Los Angeles resident said. “It’s been crazy.”

All six films are part of a slate of 10 brought to Pinellas County by former Clearwater Aquarium CEO David Yates and his Los Angeles production partner Danny Roth.

They’ve wrapped eight, are shooting the ninth and will complete the 10th by the end of June.

“That’s 10 films in around nine months,” Yates said. “Our goal was 10 films in a year and we did it in under that.”

Crazy, hectic, rewarding, delirious, fun and unbelievable were the words cast and crew used to describe the experience.

Typically, Yates said, a production company will wrap one film and have up to four months of prep time before they start the next. “But this has been wrapping one and rock and roll right to the next.”

Lead actress Ansley Gordon, left, and lead actor Jonathan Stoddard attend the filming of a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss" at Walsingham Park in Seminole.
Lead actress Ansley Gordon, left, and lead actor Jonathan Stoddard attend the filming of a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss" at Walsingham Park in Seminole. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The Tampa Bay Times was on set at Walsingham Park in Seminole for film number eight, “Baked With a Kiss,” about a baker with a reputation for putting “real life magic in her treats,” Yates said.

That production wrapped on May 20.

On Monday, they began production on The Soulmate Search,” about an artist and attorney set up by a dating service that they seek to prove is a scam.

Stoddard stars in both.

After that comesOpposites Attract,” about identical twins who swap lives to juggle their work and relationship issues.

During this slate of movies, Yates said, they have filmed three weddings, one wedding anniversary and have six happily ever afters.

But it hasn’t been all about romance. There have been thrillers, too.

Eight of the 10 films are slated for television. The other two will seek theatrical distribution.

These productions have brought steady work for local production crews.

Garret Ballinger graduated from the University of Tampa in December. His film professors, Ballinger said, warned him “it takes people a long time to get to the point where they can support themselves solely working on movies.”

But Ballinger walked off campus and onto one of Yates’ film sets in January. He has worked steady as a prop master on four of the films since then.

Prop master Garret Ballinger, center, watches a monitor as Brittany Underwood, right, directs a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss."
Prop master Garret Ballinger, center, watches a monitor as Brittany Underwood, right, directs a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss." [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
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Jackie Cupples is a Clearwater hairstylist who previously worked on film sets as a side gig.

“I did two movies before this year,” he said. This year, he’s worked on six.

Frank Bifulco previously traveled the country in search of work as a gaffer — the chief electrician on set.

“I’d go from California to Chicago and then Louisiana and then to Texas,” he said.

Bifulco is among the local crew members hired for all 10 movies, allowing him to sleep in his own bed for a full year.

Los Angeles-based actress Ansley Gordon, who starred in “Lean Into Love” in January and returned in May for “Baked With a Kiss,” admitted she is jealous of the cast and crew who have worked on all or most of the films.

“They are like a family,” she said. “They have all these inside jokes and nicknames.”

The biggest stars on a set have been Sean Astin for “Pet Detective” and Cedric the Entertainer and Ashanti for “Plus One,” which crew said was also the most hectic of the productions.

“It had a big wedding scene with a lot of guests,” Cupples said.

Key makeup artist Jennifer Kyser, left, and head hair department Jackie Cupples, right, primp lead actress Ansley Gordon, playing Peyton, during the filming of the film "Baked With a Kiss."
Key makeup artist Jennifer Kyser, left, and head hair department Jackie Cupples, right, primp lead actress Ansley Gordon, playing Peyton, during the filming of the film "Baked With a Kiss." [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The most claustrophobic was “What Lies Behind the Walls,” which called for the crew to create a secret apartment within a house.

“We had to be locked inside when they shot so that it looked real,” Bifulco said.

And the coldest wasLean Into Love,” which had beach scenes in January, when temperatures dropped into the 20s.

Virginia Bryant, unit production manager on five of the productions, said there have been several occasions when they lost a key location.

“We lost one house at midnight,” said Bryant, a Detroit resident whose been with the production team since January. “And we were supposed to shoot the next morning. But we found a replacement.”

Yates has arrived on set several times with the “wrong script in my head,” he laughed. “But this has been such a great experience. We want to do it again next year.”

He might already have a script.

Lead actress Ansley Gordon attends the filming of a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss."
Lead actress Ansley Gordon attends the filming of a scene for the film "Baked With a Kiss." [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Gordon’s grandparents met in Pinellas.

“They were both living in an apartment complex,” she said. “My grandfather was a fisherman, and my grandmother was a teacher. He lived upstairs, and she lived downstairs.”

She is now turning their opposites attract love story into a screenplay.

Upon hearing this, Yates pulled her aside to learn more.

“Maybe we’ll do 20 next year,” he said. “Who knows?”

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