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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 5 years ago

The Producers

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Jeanne Corcoran was all smiles Monday afternoon as she sat perched on the bow of a 47-foot yacht surrounded by a crew of Hollywood movie producers, while cool high-speed winds whipped through her long, blond hair.

Motoring up the Intracoastal Waterway, Corcoran, Sarasota County’s film commissioner, was in her element, discussing set locations and movie incentives while dolphins lapped at the boat’s wake and A-list film executives marveled at Sarasota’s architecture and drawbridges.

“I always get Amy Adams and Isla Fisher confused,” Corcoran declared, turning to producer Ron Bozman, whose 2009 movie, “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” based on the popular book series of the same name, stars Fisher.

“Could be the red hair,” replied Bozman, whose previous film credits include “Philadelphia,” “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Married to the Mob.”

“Could be,” Corcoran sighed. “I had the same problem with Ashley Judd and the actress from ‘The Devil’s Advocate.’ What’s her name?”

“Charlize Theron,” answered Bridget Johnson, an independent feature-film producer who worked on “As Good as It Gets, “Jerry Maguire” and the Drew Barrymore flick, “Riding in Cars with Boys.”

“Yes! Charlize Theron,” Corcoran cheered. “Back when her hair was dark.”

Not a bad way to spend a Monday, considering Corcoran’s usual office space — a small corner office off Cattlemen Road.

The hour-and-a-half boat trip from Sarasota to Venice was one of several perks producers enjoyed this week while they met with city officials and business leaders in Sarasota and North Port, including Ringling College of Art Design instructors and Asolo Repertory cast and backstage crew members.

The tour, hosted by the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office, a division of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, is what film-industry insiders lovingly call, “a fam tour” — a familiarization tour that Corcoran hopes will result in the filming of a major motion picture in Sarasota County.

Bozman, a movie producer for 40 years, was impressed with Sarasota’s sophisticated small-town charm.

“I could see downtown lending itself to a nice, Main Street setting,” said the New York City-based producer.
“It’s attractive. It has character. It’s not derelict. It’s not generic, and it’s not cookie-cutter. The fact that the city is not modernized beyond recognition works to your advantage. It’s getting harder and harder to find cities like that.”

Bozman wasn’t the only producer making a mental checklist of Sarasota’s inherent quirks. Johnson, who missed her flight Sunday to Sarasota and was forced to land in Tampa, instead, loved the kitschy stretch of U.S. 41 running between Palmetto and Sarasota.

“The coast is incredible,” said Johnson, “but that lonely stretch of highway just outside the city is really interesting. I’d like to seriously scout locations there.”

Jane Bartelme, a producer on “Legends of the Fall,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Along Came Polly,” was even more impressed with Sarasota’s theater district, in particular the Asolo’s talent pool, which includes actors, directors, costume designers, stage managers and makeup artists.

“In a perfect world, the place would be dictated by the story,” Bartelme said. “But, at this point, it’s dictated by the economy. The No. 1 thing every film project needs is a local crew base. You’ve got to hire as many local people as possible, otherwise, it’s just not worth it.”

More than 10 years have passed since a big-budget film rolled into Sarasota. Not since 1997, when Woody Harrelson’s “Palmetto” filmed in the Gator Club and Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke’s adaptation of
“Great Expectations” filmed in the Cà d’Zan mansion, have Sarasotans had reason to buzz about movie sets.

But that could change, says Wren Arthur, who runs Olive Productions, a film-, television- and commercial-production company founded by actors Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci, red-carpet regulars at Sarasota Film Festival events.

Arthur, a producer on “A Prairie Home Companion,” which was featured at the 2006 Sarasota Film Festival, is currently scouting locations for Buscemi’s “The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas,” a movie based on a collection of short stories by author Davy Rothbart.

“I could see the movie in Sarasota,” said Arthur, offering few details before stepping off the boat in Venice.
“We might have to let go of a few things in the book, but the town has potential.”

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