Central and West Florida Film & Video Production Spotlight, Part I


In a word – diversification – best describes the strategies being applied by area production and post professionals. Diversity in projects and new technology keep Orlando, Tampa and the surrounding communities hopping with productions that include reality television, independent feature films, infomercials and, of course, television commercials.


The Metro Orlando Film and Entertainment Commission has relaunched its website (www.filmorlando.com) with new features, such as a section where people can “list their property” for locations. This should be great for producers like Philadelphia-based Banyan Productions, which last year shot the entire series of Trading Spaces Home Free in this region, choosing eight metro Orlando couples to compete for a new home. In addition, Banyan also taped several episodes of the regular hit series Trading Spaces, as well as another series, Perfect Proposal, in and around central Florida. It’s not all about reality TV, though. Part of the Film Commission’s website redesign includes an Industry Resource section powered by ProductionHub.com for up-to-date information on industry jobs, events and seminars.


Central Florida continues to be a favorite of film producers. Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions shot for several days in Orlando and neighboring counties for the upcoming ABC movie-of-the-week, Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halle Berry. This was a two-year effort in location scouting and permitting and about fifty local crew members were hired for the production. Central Florida made the national spotlight at the past Oscars, when Charlize Theron picked up the Best Actress win for her portrayal of convicted killer Aileen Wornos in Monster. As a central Florida story, Monster required such key locations as the Seminole County Courthouse, the Diamond Motel in Kissimmee, Fun World and general shots in downtown Orlando.


About seventy-five percent of the crew was local, including Stephen F. Campbell, an area film and television director of photography, who served as the “A” camera operator on Monster. Steve commented, “For me the most amazing part of the experience was while I was watching Charlize’s performance through the lens, it was mesmerizing to see her portray the character of Aileen Wornos. We would do a take and I would say to writer/director Patty Jenkins, ‘she’s become that woman!’ We were able to provide the LA-based production team with a central Florida-based, technically and creatively inspired crew that is on par with any in the country.  Along with being the ‘A’ operator on the show, the opportunity to DP for a few days allowed me to work very closely with Oscar winner Charlize Theron, director Patty Jenkins and to have a creative participation on an Academy Award winning picture.”


Local production companies have been staying the course to grow their business. HB Production Services is now in its eighth year offering a mix of production, post and marketing savvy. HB Production Services, together with producer/director Joseph P. Torina of Torina Media, Inc., has produced eight infomercial projects which are currently airing in over twenty markets throughout North America each week. For these clients, the team develops the script, shoots “real people” segments all over the country and keeps two newly installed Avid Media Composer Adrenaline bays busy fine-tuning the finished stories. According to Harry Brockman, president of HB Production Services, this is balanced out with post and fulfillment for over 250 commercial spots. These are posted in HB’s linear editing suite, which has proven to hold its value, because of the real-time compositing and short turnaround required.


i.d.e.a.s. at the Disney-MGM Studios is moving beyond the traditional boundaries of commercials and entertainment television. In the past year they produced Courage, Colorado, a show that is part marketing, part reality TV. Greg Galloway, VP of Entertainment for i.d.e.a.s., tells me that, “Courage Colorado – two thirty-minute episodes, shot entirely in high definition – is part of a new reality-based program designed to help fulfill the dreams of a family or group of friends each week by taking them on an adventure in Colorado. The first two episodes starred the Van Eerden family from Greensboro, North Carolina, who visited various Colorado adventure spots during the ten days of production. The family participated in activities ranging from an authentic cattle drive to whitewater rafting to rock climbing. Courage Colorado was produced by i.d.e.a.s. in association with Orlando-based Skydog Productions, the marketing firms of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell and PRACO (Colorado Springs). The two episodes aired numerous times over the past two months on the Outdoor Life Network.”


Speaking of outdoors, Florida is host to many major water sports competitions and leisure activities. Capitalizing on this is World Productions, the television division of Winter Park-based World Publications, publishers of such magazine titles as Waterski magazine. Headed up by executive producer Ken Kavanaugh, World Productions currently produces Sport Fishing Magazine (Outdoor Life Network), Hook The Future (Fox Sports Net) and the Mastercraft Pro Wakeboard Tour TV series for ESPN. World handles full location production and post on these projects and also makes its facilities available for hire to outside clients.


The commercial world continues to rebound. John Dussling, GM at longtime central Florida production company Florida Film & Tape, reports the spot business has been quite strong in the last year. “We produced a series of commercials for Valencia Community College in conjunction with VCC’s Marketing Department. In their own words, the students’ passion for their studies was a key to the success of the commercials. With the PUSH agency, we produced several Addy Award-winning commercials for Florida Citrus Sports to promote Orlando’s two major college football bowl games: the Tangerine Bowl and the Citrus Bowl. The humorous theme, Right In Your Own Backyard, featured a football-dressed character and a tangerine-clad character swinging on a swing set; bouncing on a trampoline; and running through a lawn sprinkler …right in your own backyard.”


Alphawolf Entertainment, another stalwart of the Orlando commercial scene, saw quite a few changes this year, including moving into a new location within the Celebration community and an official name change from Alphawolf Entertainment to imageROCKS. As if this wasn’t enough, executive producer Jim DeRusha and producer/director Jack Tinsley have been quite busy with spots for The Golf Channel, Orlando Utilities Commission, Florida Lottery, Hasbro, Mississippi Development and Hughes Supply. Disney has been a traditional client of DeRusha’s and this year saw the production of various promos and interstitials to promote the new EPCOT attraction, Mission Space. These have included working with a number of celebrities like Tiger Woods, Buz Aldrin, Roger Clemens and Pudge Rodriquez.


Several companies either expanding or on the move are Gate Seven Creative Studios, Digitec and Eagle Productions. Along with moving literally across the street, Digitec has also upgraded audio and video post facilities, added another DVD authoring station and expanded interactive services to support their new customized software and hardware product offerings. These new services include online instructional design, with an emphasis on game-based learning, with or without Digitec’s Knowledge Direct WEB software product (an easy-to-use learning management system).  Content design and development services support Digitec’s V-Wall product, an array of  flat-panel video monitors that can display up to sixteen synchronized channels of video and audio.


Eagle has upgraded its new facilities to include a full Adobe-based video suite with Premiere Pro editing and Encore DVD authoring. They’ve recently produced 275 science videos as part of series of DVDs for a New York educational publishing company. In an innovative use of the web, Eagle used Flash Communication Server and Flash to make near-real-time client approvals feasible during the shooting stage of the production.


Gate Seven upgraded both Avid Media Composer suites and added a third Avid Symphony system. In addition they’ve entered into an in-house partnership with AniMill to offer design, animation and effects services. Business for Gate Seven has been brisk with spot work for Universal’s Revenge of the Mummy – the Ride campaign, promos for Sunshine Network and a series of vignettes for the Speed Channel.


The past year has been busy for Kent Vanderberg, president of Elite Film + Video (formerly Elite Digital Video). The new name reflects the fact that in the past year film has increasingly been their production format, along with video. Last November Kent directed a corporate image film for Virginia-based Computer Science Corporation, picking up a Gold Addy for the effort. Along with a heavy schedule of presentations for Siemens Medical Solutions and events at Disney, Kent had a chance to return to his first love, live concert events.  Seven cameras and 24-track audio covered the onstage action during a wild night at Ybor City’s Twilight Club, where performances by The Verve Pipe’s Brian VanderArk and New Orleans-based Cowboy Mouth rocked the house. Both bands are negotiating the release of concert DVDs from the material.


22A Productions has found success in handling projects outside of the US. As an in-house production management team that is part of the Universal Studios Production Group, 22A, headed by Charlie Krestul, coordinates and produces various internal and external jobs. These have included a 3D film based on Sesame Street for Universal Japan, producing commercials for Wet & Wild and various outside commercials. When I say outside, I mean that! The 22A management team has recently produced international commercials for Praxis and Chocomel in Australia and Missing Witness in Africa.


One of west central Florida’s largest media facilities, Tampa Digital Studios, has seen projects increase four-fold during the past year. Notable projects include commercials and direct response spots for Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse, Florida Digital Technologies, Kuhn Volkswagen and others. Tampa Digital Studios has moved towards CD-ROM and DVD production as a substitute for VHS duplication. Specific projects handled by Tampa Digital include a paint ball DVD by Focus TV and Workouts For Women Inc. In response to the rising film and video production taking place in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Digital Studios has added two new Avid editing suites and expanded its graphics and animation department, now providing clients with 3D and 2D motion graphics. The new capabilities were used to create the 15-second opening graphics package for six one-hour special programs of American Muscle Car, aired weekly on the Speed Channel.


Written by Oliver Peters for Create magazine

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