Updated: Mar 23, 2022
WHO: Sandy Lighterman
QUOTE: “I knew what I wanted to do in my life and no one got in my way,”
“I was reminded of South Florida during my trip to Manchester, England.
I was staying at an old hotel that still had bellhops. As I rode the elevator with one, he told me how happy he was to be going on vacation the next day to South Florida because he was going to see where the television show Miami Ink was shot.
That elevator ride confirmed this for me: People come to our area because of what they have seen on television, in the movies and on the internet. My job is to give people that something to see. As Broward’s new Film Commissioner, I will make that happen.
Before I came to Broward, I was the film commissioner in Miami-Dade for 14 years. I grew up in South Florida, went to Southwest High School, University of Miami and have lived in Plantation since the early 1990’s.
Before becoming a film commissioner, my work as a field producer took me to Los Angeles and New Orleans but I always wanted to come home. With production work, you have to grab it when it is available. My life has been a succession of dream jobs. For a brief moment, I even wanted to be an actress, but my real place has always been production. When I was about 4 or 5, I remember telling my parents that when people came home from their jobs, I wanted them to be able to relax and watch my work.
My work includes the 2007 psychological thriller Mr Brooks, a Disney television series and the Baha Men’s music video of “Who Let the Dogs Out''. As glamorous as this sounds, this kind of job requires the stamina to endure very long hours and a good amount of stress. It is also necessary to be surrounded with good teams of passionate people. Each member must be excellent in whatever area he or she is working in and be dedicated to the project. You have to love this industry and love what you are doing. If you do, there is nothing better. Oh, it also helps if you are not shy.
The median wage in film production is $89,000 but there is more money to be made. Although many of the people have college degrees, you do not need one to become successful. You just have to be great at what you do whether it is makeup artistry, hair styling, catering, prosthetics, costuming, snack services, craft services, electrician, painter, writing, acting, grip, gaffer, lighting expert or carpentry: the industry needs all of them.
Part of my job is to make all of Broward’s 31 cities as film friendly as possible. I meet with people in each city and see what they have to offer and learn about what their limitations are. Some will want movies, television shows and commercials made in their cities, others will not. My job is to negotiate so that everybody wins if we embrace these opportunities.
The process works like this: If a project wants to come here, first there is a script to read and an investigation of possible locations. Then we put a photo package together showing the potential client the locations then they come here to look at our infrastructure. Are there hotels to accommodate them? Are there crews who can work on the project? Are there local businesses who can service them?
You have already seen Broward in movies like the comedy drama series Ballers, the drama series Graceland and the television series The Glades. You already watch commercials filmed in Broward for Home Depot, Subaru, Chrysler, Cadillac. The musical comedy Rock of Ages was shot in Hollywood, Cape Fear was shot in Broward.
We have a lot to work with here. We can make TY Park in Hollywood look like Connecticut. We can make Vista View look like Tennessee. We can make Markham Park look like Colorado. We have already seen how Toronto can look like New York and it is less expensive to produce there. We can do that too.
When Broward gets more films, it brings more jobs and shows the rest of the world who we are. We will also have state of the art sound and production studios. By luring the entertainment business to Broward, we shine the light on our beautiful scenery and our diverse population. This economic tool brings opportunities for small businesses and sells Broward County to the world
I often get asked what my favorite things to watch are. Although The Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie, when I am watching things with friends I look for light things like Emily in Paris.”
“I am Anita Mitchell and I collect people stories, much the same way people collect shoes or baseball cards or Lladro porcelain figurines. During my 26 years at WSVN7, I had the front-row seat to people stories and it was there I learned about the extraordinariness of the ordinary.
Since retiring from television news, I serve on the Board of Directors of Different Brains, a charitable foundation that supports neurodiverse adults. I also serve on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame. We honor local residents who have set unique standards of excellence through sports.
Since 2004, I have swum competitively with our local Swim Fort Lauderdale Masters Swim Team (SFTL).
I don’t really know how the writing and the swimming and the neurodiverse and honoring local sports figures are connected but I know in my heart that they are.