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Myakka City ranch doubles as Western movie set in filming of 'Florida Wild'

Mark Pentecost, the movie's executive producer, wants to document that Florida was wild before the Wild West.

Extras for "Florida Wild" wait off set with their horses and dogs.
Extras for "Florida Wild" wait off set with their horses and dogs.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Small, white signs that read “F.W.” have popped up along the side of some Myakka City roads over the past couple weeks. 

The signs are leading cast and crew to a movie set on a ranch off State Road 70. F.W. stands for the film’s title: “Florida Wild.”  

In the movie, when the initials P.R. flash on the screen, they’ll stand for the Prescott Ranch. In real life, P.R. is short for the Pentecost Ranch. The over 10,000-acre ranch is owned by Mark Pentecost, founder of the wellness company It Works and the movie’s executive producer. 

The ranch is only a few minutes down the road from the popular restaurant, Silver Star East. Some crew members have been holding morning meetings at the restaurant.

Lynn Meder owns the gift shop next door, Uniquely Yours. She’s painting signs for the set’s saloon hotel and general store. Some of the antiques she sells will be used as props.

“It’s so exciting. They’re hiring a lot of local people,” Meder said. “I love the crew.”

“Florida Wild” is billed as an “action-packed period film” set in 1880. 

After filming, Pentecost wants the set to be a place where children can learn how movies are made.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

“After the Civil War, people had to start over,” Pentecost said. “They either went West, which you saw a lot, but a lot came to Florida. I want to tell the story that before the Wild West was the Florida wild. That’s where we got the name.” 

Over 100 locals will now be able to say they once worked on a film starring the Academy Award winning actress, Mira Sorvino (she won for “Mighty Aphrodite” in 1995), and the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors. 

Construction worker Gene Helfrick, 70, came out of retirement for the opportunity because he’d never been on a movie set before. 

“I’m not doing this for the money,” he said. “I’m doing it for the fun of it.”

Helfrick spent his whole working life on construction sites until he retired in 2015. He only wanted to help build the set, but his white beard had coworkers urging him to go see casting. 

“Finally, I just said, ‘I’m going to do it and shut y’all up,” Helfrick said. “As soon as I walked in the door, she goes, ‘I need you!’”

Gene Helfrick, 70, is happy to take a break from retirement to work on a movie set.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Helfrick will be playing a rancher. He’s got some experience for the role, having lived in Myakka City for 44 years. While he describes his own land as small, it’s enough to keep cows, horses and chickens.

However, the cowboys in the movie don’t have to stretch at all to play their roles. 

“I have third and fourth generation cowboys working for me (at the ranch),” Pentecost said. “They’re all in the movie, and they got their friends in the movie.” 

Pentecost’s ranch is a working ranch that raises cattle and produces sod and hay. The movie is posing a six-week distraction, but the ranch is still operating behind the scenes.

Florida is one of about a dozen states that doesn’t offer a tax incentive for film production. 

“It’s painful. Georgia, Kentucky — some states offer up to 30% incentives,” Pentecost said. “Being a good businessman, it made sense to do it somewhere else. But I wanted to do it in Florida, and my ranch is in Florida.”

Dream big

Pentecost said the movie should inspire people to dream big, something the former math teacher knows a thing or two about. 

“If you’re stuck where you’re at, you can do something about it,” Pentecost said. “Let’s dream big. I never dreamed I could have a 10,000-acre ranch or a private island. But as things keep going, a dream is like a muscle — it gets bigger the more you use it.”

Themes from Pentecost’s life can be found in the script because he helped write it. He’s been a fan of Westerns since he was a kid watching them with his grandfather.  

Off camera, a herd of about 200 cows waits for their cue.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Now, Pentecost watches Westerns with his own grandchildren. Some of the movie’s characters — Landon, Colton, Skyler, Syrus, William Mark, Kristi and Kindsey — are named after his grandchildren. All but Syrus, because he had to work that day, have cameos in “Florida Wild.” 

Pentecost’s only complaint about Western movies and his favorite TV show “Yellowstone” is that they’re not always family friendly, so he said “Florida Wild” will be suited for audiences of all ages. 

Pentecost’s cattle will also be seen on screen. During filming on March 14, a herd of about 200 huddled together under a hammock of oak trees while awaiting their cue. When they started to move, one lone cowboy on a horse would coral them into stillness again. 

“Florida is one of the biggest cattle states, and people don’t know that,” Pentecost said. “I want them to see what I get to see. This is better than Disney World — the Spanish moss, the forest and the alligators.”

The movie is an homage to Florida’s wilderness and the cowboy way of life Pentecost wants to see preserved. He started with only 350 acres back in 2011 and kept buying surrounding properties.

"Florida Wild," a Western movie set in the 1800s, is filming on the Pentecost Ranch in Myakka City.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

People often ask him why he wants to buy so much land in Myakka City. His answer is always the same: If I don’t buy it, a developer will. 

“We’re losing our citrus, and that’s going to happen to our cattle,” Pentecost said. “We want to spark a movement of conservation and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us.” 

A large-scale set, that doesn’t seem quite as massive with a 10,000-acre backdrop, is being built on the ranch to act as an old cowboy town from the 1800s. There’s a saloon, general store, hotel, jail and church. 

Once filming is through, Pentecost’s next dream is for the set to serve as a place to teach children how movies are made.

“Florida Wild” is expected to hit theaters nationwide in 2025. 


Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.