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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 25, 200612:00 PM EST


Film and television chief Todd Roobin
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

Lights! Camera! Action!

Those are the three words Todd Roobin most likes to hear. Roobin is the chief of the Jacksonville Film & Television Office, and it’s his job to make sure that producers, directors, location scouts and production companies understand that there is no better place to make a movie or video than here in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville native went to New York City straight out of college to work at MTV but soon discovered that, as Dorothy said after she spent a few days in the Land of Oz, there’s no place like home.

“Two years of New York winters and wearing long-johns was enough for me,” said Roobin, who came home and got a job with the Film Office in 1986, then took over as its chief in 1991.

Jacksonville and its people have benefited from the motion picture industry since the early 20th century when Charlie Chaplin, the Keystone Cops and the Barrymores made the city their winter headquarters for work and play. That’s why the Film & Television Office is part of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

“Over the years, literally hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into Jacksonville’s economy because movies, television shows and commercials have been filmed here,” said Roobin.

One of the greatest rewards of his job is helping local people do the work they love.

“Several thousand production people live in this area. Most of them are freelancers and they work eight or nine months a year,” said Roobin.

Jacksonville is a unique city because there are plenty of locations that can look – on film – like other places.

“The area can double for any place from New York City to the jungles of Panama to the Persian Gulf,” said Roobin.

While most of his time is spent marketing the city to film companies, Roobin said that every once in a while he gets to work with the celebrities, like when the producers of “Devil’s Advocate” filmed several scenes here and sent two of the film’s stars to Jacksonville for some research.

“We got Keanu Reeves into the State Attorney’s office to learn the dialect of law and set up Charlize Theron with a repo man to help her play her character in the film,” said Roobin. “I had the distinct honor of making sure Charlize Theron actually repossessed a car in Jacksonville.”

Roobin said that making motion pictures probably has more positive economic impact and less environmental impact than any other type of manufacturing he can imagine.

“It’s a clean industry,” he said. “They take only pictures and leave nothing but footprints – and money.”

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