Posts Tagged ‘Florida’


Yesterday I took the above photo and decided to see if I could find a movie tie-in to post it here. And sure enough it only took a few minutes to learn that a small part of Tomorrowland—which opened in theaters just over a week ago— was shot on the same street as The Palms building in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Call it the past meets the future.

New Smyrna Beach is located 75 miles from Disney World—and both places have captivated me since my youth. Disney’s Tomorrowland stars George Clooney and was directed by Brad Bird from a script by Bird and Damon Lindof.

Scott W. Smith 

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The most famous film set on the Gulf Coast of Florida is Citizen Kane. The Orson Welles masterpiece many, including the AFI, consider the greatest American film of all time.

“Here, on the deserts of the Gulf Coast, a private mountain was commissioned and successfully built. One hundred thousand trees, twenty thousand tons of marble are the ingredients of Xanadu’s mountain.”
Citizen Kane written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles

And while Citizen Kane was actually shot in Southern California and on Long Island, there are plenty of other films shot on the other west coast—in Florida. And since I took the above photo on St. Pete Beach last weekend I thought I’d focus on a few films shot in the greater Tampa Bay area.

Just a couple of miles north of where I took that photo on Pass-A-Grille sits the historic Loews Don CeSar Beach Resort where just last month The Infiltrator (starring Brian Cranston) shot some scenes.  The same place Robert Altman shot part of HealtH (1980).

Director Ron Howard shot Cocoon (1985) in and around St. Petersburg, Florida.  Steven Soderbergh shot part of Magic Mike (2012) on Treasure Island—starring Channing Tatum who graduated from high school in Tampa. Harmony Korine shot Spring Breakers in several locations in the area.

The pastel neighborhood featured in Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp, was shot a few miles north of Tampa in Lutz, Florida.  Dolphin Tale starring Morgan Freeman was primarily in and around Clearwater, Florida and  Oceans 11 spent a couple of days shooting at the Derby Lane Greyhound Track in St. Petersburg.

I’m sure there is a much longer list, but those are some of the higher profile productions and/or production people connected with projects shot in the area. If you’re interested in shooting there contact the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Film Commission and/or the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.

This is a fitting place to mention that in 2007 screenwriter (and St. Pete Beach resident) Mike France (Cliffhanger, Hulk) bought the historic Beach Theatre on St. Pete Beach. It was probably more of a romantic and nostalgic choice than a profit-making business decision and the theatre closed a few months before he died in 2013. But Kudos to France for keeping the art deco theatre—which first opened in 1940—alive a few more years.

And for what it’s worth, I was doing a little research last weekend for a new script I’m writing and on the same day I took that sunset shot I caught the sunrise at Melbourne Beach on Florida’s east coast. Melbourne Beach is where Jim Jarmusch shot part of his classic indie film Stranger Than Paradise (1984)— A must see black and white film shot using only master shots.

Here’s a photo of mine from sunrise at Melbourne Beach. (To inquire about shooting on Florida’s space coast (including Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne) contact the Space Coast Film Commission.)


P.S. Congrats to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their victory last night against the New York Rangers to advance to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Related posts:
‘The Greatest Film Ever Made’
Orson Welles at USC in 1981 (part 1)
‘State of Cinema’ (Soderbergh)
Fueling Your Imagination (Jarmusch Style)

Scott W. Smith

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Over the weekend I was finally able to see a movie at the Tampa Theatre (in downtown Tampa, Florida) which is one of the most beautiful settings to watch a movie in the United States—maybe in the world. I say finally because the theater was built in 1926, and while I’m not quite that old—it had been on my to-do list for well over a decade. I arrived early because I wanted to look around and was not disappointed.

Keep in mind that it was built in the era long before the internet, television, and even before the Great Depression. So this is a grand and ornate building complete with peacock statues, gargoyles, and twinkling stars. And I had the great thrill of hearing their Wurlitzer organ not only being played live before the movie started, but the organ and the organist unexpectedly coming up out of the grand on a moving platform. Before the movie even started I had my money’s worth of entertainment.

Keep in mind that back when the theater first opened that movies were the main form of entertainment, so every week as the Tampa Theatre website points out, “more than 90 million Americans were going to the movies every week.” If you’d ever like to be transported back in time to connect to early cinematic history the Tampa Theatre is the ideal place to go. In fact if you live in the greater Tampa Bay area—or will be visiting the area in the coming months—you have the opportunity to see The Wizard of Oz (June 7), Key Largo (June 14), Back to the Future (July 5) and/or a contemporary art house film in grand style.

Here’s what the outside of the Tampa Theatre looks like.


P.S. My father moved to Tampa in the 1970s and ran Smith Advertising in the area until he died in 1995. So over the weekend I was able to retrace some of the places where I have many fond memories. If you’d like my Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—version of how to do Tampa Bay in a day or two here’s my list:
Eat at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, drive along Bayshore Boulevard and explore the Hyde Park Village area full of craftsman homes and a small shopping area.

Saint Petersburg which used to be the shuffleboard capital of Florida is turning into the Austin of Florida—hipster heaven. And why not, writer Jack Kerouac (On the Road) not only lived there for a spell, but died there in 1969. You can go sailing in the morning, visit the Dali Museum in the afternoon, get a tattoo, and catch the sunset in St. Pete Beach while eating at Hurricane Seafood Restaurant on Pass-A-Grille.

And, lastly I should mention, if the Tampa Bay Lighting win tonight they will be in the Stanley Cup Final. So you could always fit that into your schedule if you can get tickets.

Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday I visited the Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Florida. My father was a pilot in the Air Force and while he did not die in combat I made a trip to the cemetery where he is buried on Sunday. I had not been there in over a decade and this Memorial Day weekend seemed a fitting time to make the trip.

I planned my visit hoping to take advantage of the soft late afternoon light for photography, but had not planned on the estimated thousands of American flags placed throughout the military cemetery.  It’s hard not to have your emotions stirred at the sight in person— I tried to capture it in this photograph. Many thanks to those who planned and executed the beautiful and symbolic tribute. And, of course, many thanks those men and women who died serving in the United States armed forces.

Bay Pines National Cemetery — 2015 Memorial Day Weekend

Bay Pines National Cemetery — 2015 Memorial Day Weekend

Related Posts:
Screenwriting Quote #84 (Lt. Colonel Jack Lewis)
Flags of Our Fathers 

Scott W. Smith

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“I believe as long as you have a compelling story and talent, you could be on a farm in Iowa and start your screenwriting career. Although I now live and work in New York City, I originally got my start in Orlando, Florida.”
Amanda Caswell
How I Started My Screenwriting Career From Outside LA

Related Posts:

Outsider Paul Haggis & Your Voice I think it’s good for a writer to always be an outsider of some sort.”—Canadian-born screenwriter Paul Haggis
The Outsider Advantage
The World Outside of Hollywood Fine quote by The Graduate screenwriter Buck Henry
One Benefit of Being Outside Hollywood “(In Texas) you’re so removed you get to examine (how films are made) and say, ‘That doesn’t really make sense for us out here. Let’s do what makes sense.’ Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez
Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A.
Screenwriting Outside L.A. 101 “I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines.” Steven Spielberg in 1991

Scott W. Smith


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“It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed, but not bought. It may be used, but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its sesonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers, and not masters.”
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek


Since my last post had a shout-out to Lake Howell High School I thought it fitting to show Lake Howell the lake. The lake actually sits just 100 yards off one of the busiest roads in Central Florida (State Road 436). In fact, if you cross eight lanes of traffic from where this picture was taken you’ll be at the parking lot of a Super Wall Mart.

But as you watch a sunrise though the Spanish moss hanging on the trees, the Wall Mart seems not only 100 miles away, but 100 years away. A remnant of old Florida that was captured so well in the The Yearling, the 1939 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. In 1939 the book was actually the best selling novel in the United States.

The 1946 film version of The Yearling won two Oscars (Cinematography and Art Direction) and a Best Motion Picture Actor Golden Globe for Gregory Peck.

“Every man wants life to be a fine thing, and easy. And it tis fine, son, powerful fine— but t’aint easy.”
Penny Baxter (Gregory Peck) in The Yearling

But the movie I prefer more based on Rawlings’ work is Cross Creek (1983) starring  Mary SteenburgenRip TornPeter Coyote , directed by Martin Ritt, and screenplay by Dalene Young.

“In the late 1920s, it took a lot of guts for a woman to pack up her typewriter and move off to the wilds of Florida like that. This is the story of a woman finding herself.”
Director Martin Ritt on Rawlings 

P.S. The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home in Florida is now part of the Florida State Parks system and can be toured at various times of the year. Though Rawlings is connected to Florida through he life and writings in the state, she was born in Washington, D.C., received an English degree from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, worked as a reporter in Louisville, Kentucky and was living in New York when she received an inheritance from her mother and decided to move to rural Florida.Later she would move to Crescent Beach, Florida and died in nearby St. Augustine in 1953.

Scott W. Smith

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I started this postcard thing on the blog years ago to give myself a break from writing and researching posts when I was on the road working on various productions. Hard to believe today is the 80th postcard. I’m posting this on the tail end of a long video production day and drive home. One of the perks of a 14+ hour day on the road was the crew was able to eat breakfast at the Over Easy Cafe on Sanibel Island, Florida and dinner at Pinchers Crab Shack in Ft. Myers where I took the above picture overlooking the Caloosahatchee River.

The restaurant is next door to the historic winter estates of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, but that’s not the only history tied to the area.

According to Kimberly Ripley’s blog, “Caloosahatchee means ‘River of the Calusa.’ It searved as the main highway inland to the Calusa Indians…Also known as ‘Shell People’ the later Calusas, from approximately the 1500’s to their demise in the early 1800’s, used seashells as foundations. They built their cities on them.”

P.S. My first postcard (Downtown Kansas City)  was August 11, 201. And for what it’s worth, my 28th postcard (Prime Time) was on a shoot I did with Deion Sanders at his Dallas-area home . The great Pro Football Hall-of-Fame football player was born and raised in Ft. Myers, Florida. To read an interesting article about Sanders’ ties to the area read the Sam Cook article about where “Prime Time” developed his personality. And to come full circle Cook was the sports editor who hired me as a 19-year-old photojournalist when he was the sports editor with the Sanford Herald Evening Herald.  

Scott W. Smith

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