St. Petersburg named top 25 place to live, work for filmmakers

St. Pete makes MovieMaker magazine’s list for the first time as the only other Florida city outside Miami.
A crew follows actor Sara Rue along Fifth Street S in St. Petersburg during filming of the Hallmark Channel movie Garden Party in 2019.
A crew follows actor Sara Rue along Fifth Street S in St. Petersburg during filming of the Hallmark Channel movie Garden Party in 2019. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times (2019) ]
Published Jan. 26, 2021

The greater St. Petersburg area came in at No. 25 in a list ranking the best places to work and live as filmmaker.

It is the first time St. Petersburg/Clearwater made the ranking by MovieMaker magazine. Historically, Miami has been the only Florida city to make the list. The list ranks locations outside of movie-making staple cites Los Angeles and New York City.

“This is a testament to our beautiful destination, the effort we’ve put into making this a real film community and the resources we’ve put behind our local film incentive program to boost the local economy and shine a spotlight on St. Pete/Clearwater,” Pinellas film commissioner Tony Armer said in a statement.

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The magazine said it considered several factors: tax incentives, recent film productions, visits to the cities, and how areas were responding to the pandemic.

Florida may not have tax incentives for films, but Armer has found ways to attract filmmaking to the area. Pinellas County has its own $1 million incentive program that allows filmmakers to get 10 percent of what they spent during production back, following an audit. That program caught the magazine’s attention.

MovieMaker also pointed to the area pulling in 15 feature films in the last year, most with budgets under $1 million. Two bigger productions included Lady of the Manor, starring Justin Long and Judy Greer, and Fear of Rain, starring Harry Connick Jr. and Katherine Heigl.

The magazine also highlighted the area’s beaches and sunny weather, along with available production crews and equipment rental facilities.

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In 2019, productions in Pinellas County infused nearly $14 million in the economy — though production numbers this last year have slowed because of the pandemic.

“This was obviously a very different year for our annual list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker — it’s a time of incredible upheaval, but also opportunity,” MovieMaker editor-in-chief Tim Molloy said in a statement. “Many in the film and TV industry are looking to change their way of life, and many cities and towns across the country are welcoming these storytellers with open arms.”