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All local filming halted. Michael Keaton and Hallmark had spring dates.

The Hillsborough move follows a record-breaking year for the industry. Pinellas County has no productions scheduled.
A crew follows actor Sara Rue along Fifth Street S in St. Petersburg during filming in February 2019 of the Hallmark Channel movie "Garden Party."
A crew follows actor Sara Rue along Fifth Street S in St. Petersburg during filming in February 2019 of the Hallmark Channel movie "Garden Party." [ SCOTT KEELER | Times (2019) ]
Published Mar. 16, 2020|Updated Mar. 16, 2020

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Citing coronavirus, the health of cast and crew and a lack of safe places for filming, the Hillsborough County Film Commission has stopped issuing permits to productions seeking to shoot on public property.

Those filming on private property don’t require county permits.

Still, productions “need to do what’s best for their clients and their teams by following recommended (safety) procedures," said Tyler Martinolich, the Hillsborough County film commissioner. “We will resume permitting once city and county facilities, meetings, and programming continue."

In Pinellas County, the permits are issued individually by the 24 municipalities working with the St. Peterburg/Clearwater Film Commission, said commissioner Tony Armer.

Still, Armer said, “We’re not seeing any new applications and don’t expect to see any for a while.”

In Hillsborough, six filming permits were revoked, but most productions had already canceled on their own, Martinolich said.

The coronavirus pandemic hits during the busiest production months of the year for the Tampa Bay area, March, April and May, he said.

“It is when a lot of production companies live and die,” he said. “It’s when the larger companies come though. This is when most clients are looking to shoot their late spring and summer collateral to get ready for the seasons."

What’s more, he said, several major productions were looking to film in the spring, including a Michael Keaton and Hallmark films, Martinolich said. There is no indication yet what they will do.

2019 was a record-breaking year for the production industries in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The economic impact was nearly $30 million for the area, through commercials and independent films such as two Hallmark movies and Fear of the Rain, formerly known as I Saw a Man with Yellow Eyes, starring Katherine Heigl, Martinolich said.

The trend continued through early 2020 with Justin Long directing Lady in the Manor locally.

“Our principal locations we sell are downtown and the waterfront,” Martinolich said.

And many sites in those areas have closed, including museums and arenas, while crowd size is restricted in others.

“We have very limited options for productions to take advantage of."

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