LAKEWOOD RANCH — Peter Graham spent an estimated $150,000 on his education at Ringling College of Art & Design.
He graduated in May 2009 with a degree in computer animation. He can create 3D animated screen shots — the kind you might find in Pixar movies — using some of the most sophisticated software available.
But since graduating, he’s been waiting tables at a Longboat Key restaurant and recently picked up a second job at a Sarasota restaurant to help pay the bills.
That’s why Graham, like other locals looking for work, was excited to hear the news that a movie production company was coming to Lakewood Ranch.
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The local jobs in Graham’s profession are scarce. And he can’t exactly pack up for New York or California since he’s locked into a lease on a Sarasota home.
“It’s been frustrating, spending $150 grand, going in debt for your education and the job market just not being there for you,” Graham said. “It’s been rough and a little disheartening. When I caught wind of the studio I thought maybe there’s an opportunity for me there.”
Sanborn Studios, the Lakewood Ranch-based TV production studios, is promising a lot for the local economy.
Local job candidates such as Graham are eager to land one of the 117 jobs the studio plans to create over the next three years.
Small businesses are eyeing a chance to provide services to Sanborn Studios or be the backdrop for a movie or TV production.
And local tourism officials anticipate that Florida-focused TV productions can do a lot to bolster tourism.
“We are really fortunate to be in this situation,” said Del Jacobs, an associate professor of film and media studies at State College of Florida. “Anytime that there’s an influx of production, whether it’s permanent or temporary, the ancillary businesses often see a benefit from food, restaurants, dry cleaning, automobile rentals. This is really some serious money and commitment for them to extend.”
For starters, Ken Sanborn, chief executive officer of Sanborn Studios, plans to infuse $30 million into the business over the first 18 months, of which an estimated $14 million will be devoted to infrastructure.
Over the next three years, Sanborn Studios plans to create 117 jobs, with approximately 60 coming in the first year. And by 2015, Sanborn Studios’ economic output is expected to be $164.2 million.
Prime Time Limousines is one local business that may be in perfect position to gain new clientele as a result of Sanborn Studios. The luxury car rental and limo service company is based at Rectrix Aviation, a private jet charter company that provides jets that fly in and out of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.
“If they’re really going to do big movies, large productions, aside from using some vehicles for the movies, there will probably be a lot of people flying in and out needing private car service,” said Joe Russo, president of Prime Time Limousines. “Anything that can generate business in town is good.”
Chef Paul Mattison, proprietor of Mattison’s Restaurants, sees possibilities for his business, too.
“We do a lot of different styles of film catering,” Mattison said. “We certainly hope for that potential and to bid on those services as they come along.”
Aside from catering, some local restaurants or retail shops could eventually be featured in productions by Sanborn Studios, said Candice McElyea, spokeswoman for Lakewood Ranch.
“One of the main reasons why Ken Sanborn chose to bring his studio here was because of areas like Main Street (at Lakewood Ranch),” McElyea said. ‘He’s really able to have a backlot in his backyard; shoot at restaurants on Main Street, coffee shop scenes. I think the exposure that Main Street, and the whole area is going to get, is going to be amazing.”
The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau certainly thinks so.
Sanborn Studios’ first TV series, which is to begin production in November, is titled “Miami 24/7.” It will use locations around the area to highlight a Florida-based storyline.
“Having TV series, movies and commercials filmed on location functions as value added for the destination through the additional press that is written about the area and the impressions displayed and viewed through these productions,” said Debbie Meihls, executive manager for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It will keep our area top of mind in the visitors’ thought process. We have a beautiful area that will certainly attract potential visitors once they see us on film.”
However, jobs are still at the forefront of most locals’ minds.
At a news conference Monday, Sanborn offered little detail on the timeline and process for hiring. Production oriented jobs, Sanborn said, will be among some of the first to be recruited for the studio as Miami 24/7 plans to begin production in a matter of weeks. And, recruiting from the local talent pool appears to be Sanborn’s goal.
“My focus is to use as many locals as possible,” said Sanborn, whose son, Harrison Sanborn, moved to California to pursue a career in the film industry. “It’s very interesting that a lot of people have the skill set here but there’s been no venue.”
Bradenton residents Sandra and Stan Cole, are veterans of the movie industry, and hope to find an opportunity for their talent. Stan Cole has been a motion picture film editor for more than 40 years, and worked on the movie “A Christmas Story.”
Sandra Cole, a script supervisor for more than 20 years, recently worked on the movie “Out of Time,” starring Denzel Washington.
“We are hoping that Stan and I will be two of the fortunate 117 that are given an opportunity to work in and around our lovely cities and communities,” she said. “It would be wonderful to have the privilege to work at home.”