A Tribute to ‘The Truman Show,’ A Community Score

It is funny how things in life sometimes work out. One day you are sitting at your desk, loving your mid-level management job to match your mid-20s, and the next day you are sitting at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Panama City Beach with high-level executives from Paramount Pictures discussing why your piece of paradise is ideal for a major motion picture. And so my involvement with “The Truman Show” film began …  just like that.

They say it’s “who you know” that matters in show business. And in my owner relations job, as is still the case today, I worked directly with Seaside homeowners. A call from Seaside’s director of marketing insisted that I be engaged in the process from the beginning. And so, as requested, I reported to Seaside at 7 a.m. the following morning to begin my first (and likely last) foray into Hollywood films.

Jim Carey on the set built in Seaside’s Ruskin Place.
Courtesy of Seaside, FL and Paramount Pictures 

The initial meeting turned into multiple site visits, and with each visit the guests seemed to be increasing in notoriety. Formal negotiations began, a deal was reached and the rest is Seaside and silver-screen history. And, yet again, my relationship with Seaside’s owners would offer me an experience I’ll never forget and one for which I will forever be grateful. Beth Folta, a former colleague at the executive level, was named the primary liaison to Paramount. And who became her on-the-ground, day-in-and-day-out, “jack-of-all-trades-find-this-yesterday” person? You guessed it … me.

Here are some of my personal memories of when the “big time” came to our beach town 17 years ago:

  • The location fee for “The Truman Show” was ultimately used to build the Seaside Neighborhood School. The process of negotiating this was fast and furious and involved every rental owner in the community, because monthly rental rates did not even exist … until then.
  • The first place “Truman Show” star Jim Carrey set foot in Seaside was the Motorcourt Courtyard. A very large, black SUV rolled in right behind the then-Owner Services office, and out stepped Jim and his then-wife, Lauren Holly.
  • 32 Natchez St. was featured in the scene where the couple across the street comes out and says, “Good afternoon, good evening and good night.” That same cottage, now called Cabana Fever, is a member of the Homeowner’s Collection program, and the owner’s daughter serves on our board of directors.
  • Actress Laura Linney felt her mother would be fascinated by the homes in Seaside and asked me to tour her, so I spent a lovely afternoon with them touring nearly every home on the rental program.
  • Actor Noah Emmerich, who played Marlin, became a friend. The kickoff party was at the Red Bar in Grayton Beach, and he sat, by choice, at our table.
  • The night shoots were the hardest because I was still doing my regular job during the day. My new friend, Noah, observed one night that, as he put it, “I looked comatose.” This was the same night that they were filming the red truck racing down the street, coming to a screeching halt, with Marlin (Noah) running into the house to confirm the missing Truman. Noah suggested that I go to the Natchez House, where he was staying, to rest. I initially resisted, but finally I agreed. My phone rang, what seemed to be five minutes later, with a frantic Noah on the other end telling me to get to the set quick … the truck had spun out of control, run through a fence and into a house! Of course, I jumped up, ran out the front door and fell down the steps to find him standing in the street laughing hysterically. I had been asleep for three hours; it was 4 a.m. and the shoot was over.

“The Truman Show” was a big question for a lot of us in the early days. To be asked to help rally the owners around the cause was sometimes unsettling because of the unknowns. But I did believe firmly in the long-term marketing value, the short-term influx of business during what was traditionally a very slow time, the benefit of the school to the community and, finally, the ability to execute the plan with minimal effects to the residential areas.

I hear people argue whether Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretsky actually said the phrase, but one thing is for sure: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” “The Truman Show” was a community shot, a community effort and a community score.

Categories: History, The Beach