BRADENTON -- Film fever has hit Manatee County.
Following the recent formation of the first Manatee County Film Commission Office -- and while the Sarasota Film Festival sizzles mere miles to the south -- the television show pilot “Workers’ Comp,” starring Morgan Fairchild, begins filming this week in Bradenton.
A cast and crew including serious Hollywood players share a belief they’ll be able to interest a network in a show about quirky employees dealing with even stranger insurance claims.
Many of the hilariously odd situations were inspired by actual ones a local company dealt with for more than two decades.
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A successful local businesswoman helped shape the formation of Fairchild’s character.
“It’s really exciting, she is perfect for the role,” said the show’s 19-year-old creator/co-writer Castille Landon, who also plays Fairchild’s daughter on “Workers’ Comp.” “She is the diva -- in the best sense of the word. I think she’s gorgeous.
“I want to be her when I grow up. She has the most amazing skin, eye, hair, everything.”
More excited than nervous, co-writer and director Harrison Sanborn looks forward to working with the TV icon.
“I can tell she’s the kind of person who knows what she wants,” said the 19-year-old who recently directed the independent feature film “Paradise Lost.”
“I’m confident about working with her. She’s very nice, a great person and if she’s not comfortable with reading a certain line, I’m definitely willing to work with her. I’m sure everything will play out wonderfully.”
The Bradenton shoot, scheduled through April 23, also includes a private residence in Palmetto and a public location in Sarasota.
In addition to Fairchild, Bradenton-based VADAR Productions has assembled a team with ample experience.
The cast includes recent addition David Proval (“The Sopranos,” “Mean Streets, “The Shawshank Redemption”), Robert Carradine (“Revenge of the Nerds,” “Lizzie McGuire”), Charley Koontz (NBC’s “Community”) and J. LaRose (“Saw III,” “Insidious,” “Saw IV”),
As for the crew, “Workers’ Comp” executive producer Dori Sperko has surrounded herself with show biz vets.
The previously reported producers David Sauers (associate producer on the 2009 Ang Lee film “Taking Woodstock”), Mark Wooster (former Universal Studios senior vice president/legal affairs) and Bradenton resident Peter Bentley (sound mixer on the AMC hit “Mad Men”) are joined by Elayne Schneiderman.
Her long list of credits include production supervisor on “Up in the Air,” production coordinator on “The Birdcage” and assistant producer on 22 episodes of “Miami Vice,” just to name a few.
Stan Cole, the editor of “Workers’ Comp,” cut -- to use the jargon -- the classic “A Christmas Story,” “Black Christmas,” “Porky’s” and numerous other movies.
And Sanborn’s father, Ken Sanborn, is founder/chief executive officer of Sanborn Studios LLC, which has a facility in Lakewood Ranch. VadarCorp.com lists “Workers’ Comp” as a “A VADAR Corp & Sanborn Studios Production.”
About 75 percent of “Workers’ Comp” will be shot at the fictitious Pinnacle Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company in the actual Pinnacle Plaza on Sixth Avenue where the local company, NELCO, used to have its offices. It’s now home to VADAR Productions.
The Herald recently interviewed Landon and Harrison Sanborn there.
They had just returned from Los Angeles, where they participated in a table read with Fairchild and the rest of the cast.
Landon and Sanborn knew each other while attending Bradenton Preparatory Academy and came up with the idea for “Workers’ Comp” last year while living in L.A.
After doing several dark dramas, they wanted to write a comedy.
And for inspiration the duo looked to Landon’s former family business.
Virginia Dorris (inspiration for Fairchild’s character) and daughter Sperko built NELCO into one of the state’s top professional service companies before selling it a few years ago.
Now Sperko is president of VADAR.
Sperko’s daughter, Landon, explained how she used her knowledge of the family business to create “Workers’ Comp.”
“The characters and claims are based on only what I heard -- and I’m sure there was plenty of embellishment,” she said, with a laugh.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 745-7057. Visit his blog at Bradenton.com/blogs.