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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #357  (Vol. 8, No. 4) This edition is for the week of January 22--28, 2007.

"Smokin' Aces"  by Mike Smith
Oscar Nominations: Reaction  by Mike Smith
The Tampa Film Review: A Retrospective  by Paul Guzzo
Ordinary World....How About that Jackie Earle Haley?!?  by Andy Lalino
Sniff Sniff....Love That JEH!...They Can't All Be Winners....Da Bears....American Idol....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 4: John Cazale  by Mike Smith
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Filmlook by Paul Guzzo

The Tampa Film Review: A Retrospective

One hundred forty seats – filled.

The once wide open space in the back of the room – filled with standing patrons.

Over 220 people in all packed Ybor City’s International Bazaar, the host venue for this unique event.

Throughout the night on Friday, January 12, 2007, those in attendance roared with laughter, shrieked in terror and sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation, their every emotion manipulated by the works of art on display on the silver screen set up on the stage before them. The editor of the Weekly Planet was on hand; as were reporters from the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9; film festivals directors; the Tampa-Hillsborough County film commissioner; and art lovers from every corner of Tampa Bay. They were all on hand to celebrate the three year anniversary of the Tampa Film Review – a monthly showcase of locally produced independent films that has become a major foundation for the continued growth of the independent film scene here in Tampa Bay.

Founded in 2004 by my brother Pete and myself and originally called the Coffeehouse Film Review, the first venue for the event was Studio 1515, a bohemian-style coffeehouse on Seventh Avenue operated by Sarah and Walter Romeo that was reminiscent of the beatnik coffeehouses that once lined the city streets of New York, Denver and San Francisco in the 1940s and 50s. Unfortunately, their coffeehouse existed in 2004 in a corporate Ybor City, and the Romeo’s dream of creating a haven for local artists struggled from the get go, as did the Coffeehouse Film Review. During the two year stay at Studio 1515, the Coffeehouse Film Review was lucky to have an audience of 20; an audience of over 220 people seemed crazy.

When Studio 1515 shut down in 2005, many art events that were housed at the coffeehouse moved from Ybor City forever, claiming Ybor City would never support artists as it once did. My brother and I were firmly against leaving Ybor City. We love the community and love its vibe. We run the event not just as a way to promote local filmmakers, but also because we believe Tampa’s arts headquarters should be Ybor City.

A short time after Studio 1515 closed its doors forever, the International Bazaar came to our rescue and offered us a space in their establishment. It was a perfect fit from the start. The International Bazaar, which I like to describe as one square mile of hippie happiness, oozes with creativity and can inspire the most boring individuals to express themselves artistically. It’s filled with burning incense, jewelry and clothing from around the world, hand carved furniture and chess boards, eclectic clothing, and more, and in the back of the store is a stage area where the International Bazaar already held weekly concerts, dance classes and art shows. The Coffeehouse Film Review was renamed the Tampa Film Review and its first month at its new location welcomed 140 people. That audience continued to grow throughout the year until it reached its apex at the three-year anniversary show with over 240 people on hand to watch locally produced independent films.

As the three year anniversary show ended and those filmmakers whose films were showcased shook hands with the audience in congratulations for their entertaining films, my brother and I took down the screen and packed away the equipment, proud of how far this event had come over the past three years. Who knew that enough films were produced locally to fill three years worth of events – over 30 shows in all? My brother and I founded the event and not even we knew it would last this long.

Why did we found the event? The simple answer we give to everyone who asks is, “Because we felt filmmakers needed a regular venue to show their work. It seems unfair that musicians can play at multiple bars and painters, sculptors and other artists have galleries throughout the city to display their work, yet filmmakers could show their films only once a year at a film festival then simply watch their film collect dust on their shelf. We started this event to give them another venue to show their films.”

And this simple answer IS why we STARTED the Tampa Film Review, but as the years have gone by we have discovered that the event has a more important purpose now – it helps keep the passion in the filmmakers burning while the majority of society tries to extinguish their passion.

Filmmaking is hard. The month’s of preproduction, the dozens of crew members and actors who need to be managed, and the hours upon hours of footage that needs to be sifted through during the editing process can tax the most energized of artists. When you add in the negative vibes always being projected upon independent filmmakers, it can drive the filmmakers mad. Film is looked at more as a form of entertainment than an art form. Hollywood has convinced most people that film is all about money and every filmmaker is in it to become rich and famous. Because of this belief, unless filmmakers are making money off their films, they are deemed unsuccessful filmmakers. In truth, like any artist, a successful filmmaker is a filmmaker who completes his or her project. That in itself is an accomplishment. But, because others don’t see it this way and see film as only a monetary investment, filmmakers constantly have friends and family chirping in their ears, “How much longer will you continue to make films if you’re not successful?”

A filmmaker would be lying if they said they can easily block out the chirps of the naysayers. They’d be lying if they said they didn’t lie in bed at night and wonder, “Why am I still making films? Why do I continue to sink every penny I make into a movie that will never make me money?”

With all the negativity that surrounds independent movies, what keeps a filmmaker going? Moments. What is a moment? I’ll explain.

A few years ago my brother and I produced a short film called The Dance that was accepted into numerous film festivals around the country. While this was a celebratory moment for us, it was also one of great anxiety. This would be the first time we had a film showing at venues where we had no support from friends or family. Usually our films showed just in Tampa at venues filled by our friends and family, so even if the film stunk the crowd gave it a positive reaction. Now, we would find out what people really thought of our films.

The film premiered at the Palm Beach Film Festival. My brother had a class that day and couldn’t make it, so there I was in the theatre, no one by my side, nervously chewing my nails as the theatre began to fill up with moviegoers. To make matters worse, our film was a short film, meaning it wasn’t the main attraction of the show. Our film was simply opening for a feature-length film, which everyone in the audience came to see. Our film was the equivalent of the opening band at a major concert who the audience hates because the band is keeping the main attraction from taking stage. I was honestly sick to my stomach. But then it happened – the moment.

The crowd sat in silence and ate up every word the actors spoke, every note of music played and every cinematic shot filmed. I looked around the audience as the film hit its dramatic climactic moment and smiled when I noticed audience members literally on the edges of their seat, leaning towards the screen, waiting to see what happened next. It was hard to contain my joy as I realized the story we set out to tell was affecting people in the way we planned.

A teenager in front of me leaned into his friend, no clue one of the producers of the film was sitting behind him, and whispered in his friend’s ear, “This film is good.” That was the moment.

Whenever there is doubt in my mind telling me to give up filmmaking, I remember that moment and remember why it is all worth it. All filmmakers have stories to tell. And in the end, that’s all we want to do – tell our stories and have someone entertained by them. These are the moments we all crave.

Whether a filmmaker’s moment is a crowd roaring in laughter, crying, or jumping back in terror, all filmmakers need those moments to remind themselves of why they make films. These moments are what keep them going and inspire them to make new films. That is what the Tampa Film Review is now all about. The Tampa Film Review wants to provide every filmmaker with an opportunity to experience that moment.

Looking back at three years of the Tampa Film Review, it’s not the growth of the crowd that provides my brother and me with the most satisfaction. It’s those occasions when a filmmaker has his moment and immediately following the event is gushing, talking about how excited he is to begin a new project. It just takes one moment to silence all the naysayers.

BUT, these filmmakers cannot have their moment without a crowd. It is no fun making movies if no one watches. Please, if you have never been to the Tampa Film Review before, come and support your local filmmakers.

The next Tampa Film Review will be held on Friday, February 9 at 8 p.m. at the International Bazaar, which is located between Victoria’s Secrets and Gameworks on Eighth Avenue in the Centro Ybor complex in Ybor City.

"Filmlook" is ©2007 by Paul Guzzo.   All graphics unless otherwise noted are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.