To Hyde Park residents, it’s become a familiar sight.
In this case, it was several trucks and a couple of vans crowding around an Orleans Avenue house for the better part of 12 hours on a Saturday. An off-duty police officer was there to help out. It was a New York production company filming a commercial for Publix.
At Ellen Cheek’s house.
She had received a notice left by The Artist Company that her house was being considered for a commercial shoot. She called, checked it out with Edie Emerald, the Tampa Bay Film Commissioner, negotiated a fee and agreed to do it.
She was also flattered. Somewhat needlessly, as it turned out.
“You know you initially think they’ve chosen your house because you’ve decorated brilliantly or some such reason,” says Cheek. “Actually, they take down a lot of your things. What they’re looking for is a certain perspective, you know, large windows facing a certain way, admitting plenty of light. That sort of thing. Not my brilliant touches.”
“I’ve seen the trucks and all on other streets, and I didn’t want it to be a pain for the neighbors,” Cheek says. “So they did their homework, checked out the traffic flow for themselves and agreed to do it on Saturday.
“It was a pretty positive experience, although it’s invasive,” notes Cheek. “But they’re professionals and they clean up. Would I do it constantly? No. But I’d do it around tuition time again.”
Speaking of money, such shoots — mostly commercials, but also infomercials and music videos — were worth $30 million in economic impact to the Tampa area last year, according to Film Commissioner Emerald.
“This is a very competitive business,” points out Emerald, “and we’re lucky to have some popular sites for filming. Hyde Park, the beaches, Bayshore Boulevard, the University of Tampa, the Columbia Restaurant, old cigar factories. The Port of Tampa is wonderful. Tampa International Airport is aggressive and organized and they get it. City Hall here is very cooperative. Mayor Greco’s been good to work with.”
According to Tampa City Council Member Rose Ferlita, who lives in Hyde Park, there’s very little down side to the commercial-shooting business. Especially during uncertain economic times. Problematic areas have been addressed with city code updates.
Ferlita says she’s had one complaint in the last year and a half. A port-o-let was left on someone’s lawn. “I called Edie, and by the time I got out of my house, it was gone,” recalls Ferlita. “From something bad came something good.”