By Chris Woods

In 2002, the filmmaking scene in the Tampa Bay area started to blossom. Soon, there were filmmakers everywhere throughout the city. At last, there was hope, that one day Tampa Bay would emerge as a strong film community that would shake the foundation of Hollywood, forever! As a director and writer, I have personally witnessed the growth of the film scene. I have struggled, worked hard, and achieved some of my goals. I have also seen many other great talents flood the scene with their visions and accomplish some of their dreams. At one time I thought I was the only one making movies in this town, but I soon discovered an explosion of talented filmmakers.
I moved to Tampa in 1995 to attend the University of Tampa. Soon, I started making short films for class and created my own television series called "Creeping Death" that aired on a closed circuit channel that was broadcast on campus. A few years later, my long time friend, Simon Lynx moved to the area and both of us started our journey into the realm of filmmaking. From what I knew then of Tampa, no one was making any movies in the area. So, there wasn't really a scene yet. But in the years to come that would all change. As college ended, it was time to enter the real world, for me it was television. Since there weren't any big film studios around here, the only option was to work in TV. Some people moved to California, and I knew someday I would have to move as well, but I wanted to wait and see if the movie business would hit big here in Florida.
Chris Woods and Simon Lynx.
As years went by, Simon and I decided to make a movie. The film that we went on to make was called "Bleed", a murder-mystery-mocumentary about a horror icon, Vic Van Viper, who is dead, but is believed to be still alive and committing murders on a college campus that reenacts killings from his horror series. (You guess it, Creeping Death.) "Bleed", went on to win many awards at the first Saints and Sinners Film Festival. Soon after, Simon and I formed Icon Film Studios, where to this day we continue to pump out movie after movie, with films such as "To Live Is To Die", about a young woman's struggle with becoming a writer while attending college. She wishes horrible things to happen to her teacher and classmates who criticize and laugh at her. Someone very close to her recognizes this and carries out her wishes.
ICON shooting 2 Live Is 2 Die, 2003.
Around the same time "Bleed" was completed, I discovered I wasn't alone. I realized that there were a lot of creative minds out there. I met most of them on the set of Renegade Films' short feature "The Pledge". Months later, this group filled up The State Theater in St. Petersburg, along with many other crazed film fans for The Saints and Sinners Film Festival presented by Renegade Films (Rick Danford, Kerry Hogan, and Porl Denicolo). That night I met more great talent.
Girls from Renegade's "The Pledge".
Saints and Sinners at The State Theater.
The Saints and Sinners Film Festival was just the beginning. Now, local filmmakers had a venue where they could show their films in front of an audience. They later went on to have three more festivals with another one being held later this year. With the growing number of movie makers blasting on to the scene, there was a greater demand for access to watch your favorite local indy flick. Filmmakers Paul and Pete Guzzo introduced "Coffeehouse Film Reviews" in late 2003. CFR is a showcase of films viewed on the second Thursday of each month in Ybor City at Studio 1515 Coffeehouse run by Walter Romeo. This has given us more exposure. Now once a month we can show our films and watch films from other local independent filmmakers.
Porl, Kerry, Rick of Renegade Films back in 2002.
Pete Guzzo, Nolan Canova, & Paul Guzzo
And if you still can't get enough, you can go on-line. Nolan Canova has an excellent web site, CrazedFanboy.com, where you can find out about everything there is to know about The Tampa Bay scene. From articles, reviews, message boards, to streaming movies, it has everything a filmmaker and a crazed fan boy needs. There's also a new group started up by Steve Barton, IFF, or "Independent Florida Filmmakers". They meet once a month at Studio 1515. It's a meeting of the minds of filmmakers all over the area. They also have a Yahoo Groups web site for you can post messages, pictures, links, and chat.
Night at the Coffeehouse Film Reviews with ICON and Uncle Creepy.
As we speak, the Florida filmmakers are hard at work on several projects. Andy Lalino of Metropol Productions' film "Filthy" had a successful run in film festivals around the country. The short feature is a balls out horror flick about a news reporter trying to find a break through story on Devil's Night and finds a family of crazies who live in nothing but filth. The film won 14 awards at the third Saints and Sinners festival and also had screenings in Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago, Rhode Island, and New York, just to name a few. Andy is currently co-directing with fellow film director Andrew Allan a trailer for a horror/comedy project in development called "Demonlition Derby", he is also co-writing the screenplay with Allan. He also contributed a story for Enigma Films' horror anthology "All Hallows Eve" entitled "Feeding Frenzy".
Scene from "Filthy".
While were on the subject, Enigma Films is headed up by Rick Danford, formally of Renegade Films. Rick is currently working on the casting to "All Hallows Eve" which will feature Tom Savini, Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon and Linne'a Quigley. Rick is also hard at work on "The Nightmare Collection". Volume one of this horror short compilation is complete and several screeners have been sent off to distributors who have shown interest.
Necro Nancy from Nightmare Collection.
Scene from "Night Demons".
Vito, Shelby, & Mark from Other Side Cinema.
Other Side Cinema is another strong company. It’s made up of Vito Trabucco, Mark Terry, and Shelby McIntyre. They have made gripping short films with dramatic political statements – "Homeland Security", about the security of the nation in post 9/11 times and "Night Demons", about haunting nightmares of The Vietnam War. The two films played this year at the TamBay Film and Video Festival. Also their film "B-Movie", a comedy mocumentary on making a horror movie was reviewed in horror mags "Fangoria" and "Rue Morgue".
Along with organizing "The Coffeehouse Film Reviews" each month, Paul and Pete Guzzo are busy making movies as well. While most of us pick either horror, suspense, or drama for our genre, they tackle comedy. Their company, Too Productions have just finished a feature film entitled, "A Joyce Story" which is about a pub owner who looses his bar and his wife and he has to figure out how to deal with it while he's surrounded by other people's problems as well. Their film also played at TamBay, along with another short film of theirs, "Life Is A Circus" directed by Pete Guzzo. They wrapped up another film that features Al Sapienza (who was in the first season of the Sopranos and will be a lead in the new CSI: New York). Along with Danford, the Guzzos have helped create a venue for all of us to showcase our art.
Scene from "A Joyce Story".
Sheri Lawrence is a very talented actress who starred in Lalino's "Filthy". Sheri has received many awards for her role in the film. She's also a writer and a producer and has worked on several films in the area. She was featured in "I am Vengeance", "Stand-Up", and "Granny Goes Wild". She also co-producer a film called "Reconciled" and edited a short film "Threads". Sheri will also be working on these upcoming projects, "Real Premonition", "Valley of the Shadow", "Crazy from the Heat", and "Campaign". She also will be performing in a theater production later this year entitled "Don't Dress for Dinner".
From one beautiful talent, to another. Like Lawrence, Katharine Leis is an actress, writer, producer, and director. Katharine has either starred, written or directed many films such as "There's a Carterpillar in My Bok Choy", "Run", "Thorn", "The Hypoerit", just to name a few. Recently she has finished a short film entitled "Afterthought" with her company IKO productions. The short stars Meredith Webb and John Bixler and is on the subject of depression and suicide in young adults. The cinematographer on the film is the famed Stephen Campbell. Look for reviews of this feature soon.
Sheri Lawrence
Katharine Leis
But wait, that's not all! There's plenty more awesome talent in our area. Andrew Allan, who we mentioned before, has a short film "Sunshinola" playing in many different festivals. Greg Rivera of Relic Films is working on his supernatural series, "The Uninvited". Noeland Collins, director of the short zombie film, "After Life", is working on a comic book and a Blade Runner fan film. Craig Kovach and Joe Davison of Pheromone Films have just completed filming on their feature film "Unearthed", a sci-fi thriller featuring Tom Savini. Fear Films' Robert Massetti is pumping out tons of horror flicks. His film, "Realms of Blood" also played at this years TamBay Film and Video Festival.
Scene from "Sunshinola".
"The Uninvited"
"Blade Runner - Fan Film"
"Realms of Blood"
The growing scene is also welcoming some new blood. Rykar Films, made up of Joe DiCanio, John Boyd, and others, have recently shot several short films including, "Hunted" a short zombie movie and "It's Over". Shekinah Apedo of Reiniku Films is fresh on the scene with her film "Intrapt", a psychological thriller. Alexandra Koutsogiannopoulos of Fire Spark Films is currently working on several projects. Mike Beazel is doing an Indiana Jones fan film. And Tudec Entertainment's David R. Modica is set to work on a film entitled "Starlight".
Scene from "Hunted".
Scene from "Intrapt".
There is an explosion in the Bay area for filmmaking. And it's not just in Tampa, it's happening in Orlando, Miami, Ft Lauderdale, etc. At one point I think all of us will join together to make Florida the new breeding ground for movie making. But there are doubts that Tampa or Florida, for that matter, can't compete with Hollywood. Many studios have looked at Florida and have shot films here. (Most recently "The Punisher".) But, they are draw backs. A friend of mine gave me some information on film production in other states, such as Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona, where it is cheaper to shoot because they have better film incentives, such as exempts on hotel tax for long stays over a period of time and tax credits up to say 15% of all production cost incurred in that state. Florida does not offer this. They do have an Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive, but it is currently not funded. So, where does that leave us? Well, we could write to Governor Jeb Bush and tell him we want better incentives for filmmaking. Or, instead of waiting for companies to come here, we can step up with all our skills and talent and make this area flooded with the art form of film. If we could get some kind of exposure, locally or nationally that might change things. We can't let a little thing like that get us down. We must be heard. I know It's going to take a while, but I believe it will happen. It's sort of like baseball here. The Devil Rays games are not packed like the Bucs, cause were a football town. It wasn't even a hockey town, but now The Lightning are in the finals and they're filling seats, and now, even The Rays are getting a bigger crowd too. Why? because if they win they will come. I think the same rules apply to the film scene.

If we produce a big hit from a local filmmaker, then they will come. And it doesn't have to be a big budget movie, it has to be a good film, with a great story, talented actors, and well written, directed, and produced. We can make it happen. Tampa Bay is to Motion Pictures, what Seattle was to Rock 'N Roll. Support the film scene and make it even stronger. We have a long way to go, but we can do it! I believe it will happen.


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