Filming of 'Aquaman' pilot set to start here this week
By Suzy Valentine
A pilot for a TV series inspired by comic-book character Aquaman could make a $4 million splash here, a film official predicts.
Warner Brothers was to begin shooting the drama this week after conducting pre-production work at Greenwich Studios in North Miami.
The estimated budget for the pilot is $7 million - a significant portion of which could stay in Miami-Dade County, its film chief said.
"Usually, a pilot deposits less in a community than the series itself," said Jeff Peel, director of the Mayor's Office of Film & Entertainment, "because the makers aren't crewing up for a one-shot deal. But I would expect the impact to be in the $3 million to $4 million region."
Warner Brothers has a tight schedule. The upfronts - screenings at which the networks decide which series to commission - are in April. If the pilot is picked up, the crew could return in a few months.
"They are aiming for next month's deadline," said Robert Parente, director of the City of Miami Office of Film, Art and Entertainment. "If the pilot gets the green light, they could be back in June."
Scenes are to be shot at Greenwich Studios with exterior footage shot in Coconut Grove.
"The series makers aren't going to be using the interiors of the Coconut Grove EXPO Center now," said Mr. Parente, "but the inside of the North Miami studio. They were fortunate enough that the dates they had wanted, which had originally been booked at Greenwich Studios, were freed up.
"They will still be using a lot of practical locations in the Grove," he said, "that include the dockmaster's office. The crew loves the look of the Grove."
Warner Brothers has been laying the groundwork for filming for several weeks, Mr. Parente said.
"The setup takes some time," he said. "It's like Chinese cooking. There is a lot of preparation."
"Aquaman," which follows the exploits of the lost king of Atlantis, debuted on DC Comics in 1941. The title role is to be played by Sarasota model Will Toale. The series is being created by the team behind "Smallville," a WB show about Superman's high-school years.
Local film officials are waiting to hear whether another pilot, shot for Showtime, will lead to a series. The pilot, "Dexter," is based on a character in the works of Jeff Lindsay and is fictionally set in Miami.
"The 'Dexter' project is out there," said Mr. Peel, "but the team hasn't made any firm commitment to return yet."
The county could be included in another series - a game show for which Fox is shooting a pilot this month. The broadcaster is shooting an installment for "13 Graves," a treasure hunt that visits different US cities. Filming is to start in Miami Beach the week of March 20, following discussions last week.
"The county will be showcased in the final version," said Graham Winick, film and event production manager for Miami Beach, "if the pilot is picked up."