Some First Class trippin’ in Tampa

Posted in Diary of a Directrix, On the Fest Circuit
March 24th, 2010 by Devi Snively (The Directrix)

devi cinebistro smFirst off, congrats to the team!  Yes, both of our films were well-received.  I’ll elaborate momentarily.  But first, Other Filmmakers, I hereby proclaim you should all submit your film to next year’s Gasparilla International Film Festival, and by all means attend.  You will thank me.  Where else can you be treated like royalty, enjoy nonstop films, food and parties,  pee alongside Jerry Springer (well, I didn’t, but Agustin did – and, no, he didn’t sneak a peek) AND watch your film at the coolest venue ever?

gasparilla devi smAdmittedly, I’m still recovering from a non-stop 4-day extravaganza, but smiling through my exhaustion.  Wow, what a time – and first class all the way – literally.  Thanks to an upgrade, I flew first class and began my own private celebration at 6:50 Thursday morning with my now traditional celebratory white wine spritzer (only because they no longer offer champagne – sigh.)  getting stoned smFor the first time in my life, I actually got carded on a plane – sweet!  I knew right then it was destined to be a magical weekend.

opening night-1I met Agustin at the Tampa Airport and we arrived at our luxury hotel (thanks to an amazing deal on Hotwire) in time to dress to the nines and walk over to the opening night gala.  Have I said “Wow!” yet?  The gala took place at the incredibly gorgeous Tampa Theater built in 1926 (history and photos HERE) and was packed to the gills with gussied up guests and the most amazing catering ever.  I believe there were 16 restaurants offering all manner of delicacies throughout.  Naturally, I sampled the lot of them.  Free food is like the best thing ever.  Or is that free alcohol?  Luckily there was plenty of both – score!

raymond barry smretro phone devi smThe evening kicked off with an inspiring intro by Raymond Barry during which he exclaimed, “If you have a dream and are a little stupid, then by all means pursue it.”  I HOPE I’m only a little  stupid, ‘cause I’m definitely deep into pursuit mode by now.  The opening film was HappyThankYouMorePlease written by Josh Radnor (of How I Met happythankyouYour Mother fame) and was a perfect kick-off.  It’s a fun film that, while a bit what I call “nicey-nice” at times (primarily the ending), really had some great thoughtful writing, and impressive performances.  Perhaps my favorite part was its characters’ descriptions of the differences between L.A. and NYC.  midnight-express-blurayIn a nutshell, one character explains that if you’re here (meaning L.A.) and you’re happy and doing your thing, it’s totally great.  If you’re unhappy or lost, it’s the worst place in the world.  His reason being, “L.A. doesn’t exist.”  I know exactly what he means.  New York is like a character in a Robert Altman (or I suppose more appropriately Woody Allen, Scorsese and Whit Stillman) film.   It’s far too fun and easy to get lost there – everybody’s Alice in Wonderland – lost in New York is an adventure, worthy of intellectual exploration, not a reason for meds or therapy.  In L.A., lost is not fun at all.  It feels more reminiscent of Midnight Express.  But once you find yourself here, it seems like anything’s possible (except getting a decent deal on permits and locations perhaps).  Interestingly, both the writer/director and the producer are from Ohio, my native land.  It makes sense somehow.  I felt like they spoke my language.  I look forward to their next endeavor.

the gang smtampa theater party smBut I digress (how unlike me).

The after-party was at Rawbar, a swank sushi nightclub where we met a fun group of filmmakers who would become our fest buddies for the weekend as so often happens.  Sadly, we missed their screening (as it sold out before we got there), but I have a copy of their short doc Just About Famous and will report back once I watch it.  I know it’s gonna rock.  Sometimes you can just meet some filmmakers and know these things off the bat.

devi statue sm 4actor panelDay 2 kicked off with a panel about acting that really offered a lot of insight into filmmaking possibilities in Florida (I’m so going back there to shoot some day – way friendlier than L.A. – I’ll refrain from bitching about all of the location and permit hassles I’ve returned to here.  And California wonders why it’s bankrupt and everybody runs away to shoot films these days – no huge mystery there!  Sorry, another digression…)

armand panel814379764_podfS-SWhere was I?  Oh yeah, the panel.  Though I forgot to mention all the great shmoozing Agustin did at the gala.  Man, was that well attended – the film commissioner, Lieutenant Governor, head of mega FX company Digital Domain and so many other people filled with valuable information.  Honestly, go to this fest – the networking alone was fabulous.  Anyhoo, the panel featured actors such as Armand Assante and Tom Nowicki as well as some prominent local agents and casting directors.  We gained some valuable insights (and business cards) that should help us in packaging our next project.

columbia smAfter, we  skipped over to Ybor to indulge in some Sangria and tapas at super awesome Spanish restaurant Columbia before the next screening.  I was thrilled to find my fave vintage shops are still there and we dumped trippin’ cards at tattoo parlours, head shops and a hookah bar.  Nice!

and_the_winner_isThen we checked out And the Winner Isby our new fest buddy (and fellow native Clevelander who turned out to be a wealth of info for shooting there, which is fortuitous since it looks like that’s where we’re likely shooting the new feature), Christina Grozik.  Her fun mockumentary takes to task small town politics in an (unfortunately) probably very accurate portrayal of what goes on behind the scenes.  Some fun song and dance numbers, including Jerry Springer singing “Grand Ol’ Flag” had my toes merrily a tappin’.  Springer turned out to be a really intelligent and fun speaker and I got to ask him his thoughts on my fave musical “Jerry Springer:  The Opera” which I caught while at the Sci-Fi London fest years ago.  He liked it, though found it uncomfortable to watch as folks kept staring at him throughout.  That would be awkward!

af ext cinebistro smcinebistro smOur 10:30 pm trippin’ was in the small theater and screened to a small, but super-appreciative crowd. personally, I’ll take a smaller  vocal crowd over a larger quiet one any day.  Fortunately there were laughs and groans from beginning to end.  We were in what was possibly the cushiest theater in which I’ve ever sat in at the ever so fabulous Cinebistro - a new chain of high end theater/wine bars with leather Lazy Boy-esque reclining seats that each have a swivel table and drink holder should you care to wine dispenser smaf red carpet smorder off the wonderful menu (there’s also a great bar and lobby area where they loop old movies and actually have a wine dispensing machine – how cool is that?  Projection was stunning.  I’ve never seen trippin’ look prettier.  It was like being in a first class private jet.  After, we received some super nice comments and it turns out one of the audience members is a film critic who took copious notes and told us she thought the movie was great.  Later, the ballot counters, with whom Agustin drank at the closing night party, told him we received all super high scores which was nice to hear.  I do believe I know what movie we’ve made and I’m pleased.  It’s small and targeted at a definite demographic, but it seems to make them happy.  I do so like making people laugh.

devi chad smAfter-party number two went even later than after-party one, and it was not super fun to get up in time for our 11am screening on Saturday.  This was in the bigger theater with a larger crowd surprisingly.  A lot of martinis were consumed the previous evening, so I figured it’d be us and a few other sleep-deprived, dehydrated souls.  Death in Charge screened first and got a nice reaction except for one super rude family that came in late, then stormed out halfway through to loudly complain to the usher that it was inappropriate to show such a “violent” film without a warning. I wanted to comment that it’s also inappropriate to enter a block of shorts late and making a lot of noise, as it also is to loudly yell at the usher, but managed to refrain.   Sandy Spits BloodThey came back for the next short which had an almost identical shot to the one in our movie that had them so perturbed – a person dying on the floor choking up blood – but they didn’t seem to have a problem with it this time.  Perhaps because it was a Western and that’s more acceptable?  Ironically, it turns out one of the little girls was in one of the other shorts which involved numerous people, including herself and one other young child, being brutally murdered, along with a near rape.  Somehow I refrained from getting up to yell at the usher about it, but I gotta admit it was tempting.  Hypocrisy’s a serious pet peeve o’ mine.

sinatra bar smfrankenstein walk smThe rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur. Some more movies, some more Sangria at Columbia, an AMAZING shellfish dinner at the Sinatra Bar across the street, and we actually forewent the Saturday after-party to  get some late night work done.  I’m still down to the wire with 2 writing deadlines – yipes!

Which leaves us with the last, but certainly not least day of the fest.  Sunday was fabulous!  The fest provided us with a wrap party smtopless dudes smsuper lunch and some helpful Q&A with a variety of very good people to Q.  Awards and the final screening, Thespians, were back at the Tampa Theater and then we were treated to one of the best wrap parties possibly ever.  Free top shelf vodka, great food (paella, shrimp cocktail, fried mac and cheese balls – trust me, they rock, sliders, and the list goes on), lively DJ spinning lots of my fave 80s tunes. Happy times!

af christina gorman smaf dev john van smAgustin got to chat with Stephen Baldwin and I had a blast comparing festival and filmmaking war stories with Gorman Bechard, director of Friends With Benefits (which has been doing the rounds with Death for some time now and won the grand jury award – congrats, Gorman!)  We saw the governor, met a super cool local reporter, danced with half naked people, exchanged sad goodbyes with our new fest buddies and amazing fest coordinators Chad Moore and Rose Garcia and headed back for one more night of luxury at our hotel.

af gogo gal smgovernor smI used to get super sad at the end of a good fest, but this time I came back giddy as a clam.  Okay, so that might be due in part to the wine spritzers on what was likely my last first class flight until I’m stinkin’ rich (damn Delta taking over Northwest makes upgrades far less frequent – grumble, grumble), but I think it’s because I’m no longer Cinderella.

cinderella-dancing-with-prince-charmingOnce upon a time, attending fests was much like Cinderella’s night at the ball.  I’d have a blast, enjoy the glitz, but then come home and feel like the experience was mostly over and I was back among the cinders from whence I came.  This year has changed everything.  I’m actually actively collaborating with the people I’ve met along the way.  Work is moving forward thanks to the connections made.  devi parlour smEach fest seems to further our endeavors, enlighten us.  I think a lot of it comes down to knowing what questions to ask, how to maneuver through a room of strangers, knowing some may be an important part of your journey.  Cinderella was fun, but I’m finding I’m far more partial to feeling like Wonderwoman.  Thanks for the Lasso of Truth and Indestructible Bracelets, Chad, Rose and Gasparilla!  They are already coming in handy on our latest shoot.  Hope to be back next year!

4 Responses to “Some First Class trippin’ in Tampa”

  1. [...] madcap comedy Undercover about a Muslim cop sent undercover in a pig-napping case played at the Gasparilla International Film Festival back in March which is where we saw another fun short called High Heels directed by Brett Carlson [...]

  2. Thanks for the awesome review, Lisa! We posted your link on our Facebook fan page and here on the blog. I’d be happy to send you a copy of Death in Charge if you’d like. Just e-mail me at with your address. Thanks for the support!

  3. tampafilmfan says:

    Madame Directrix,

    I’ll ‘fess up to being the “film critic who took copious notes” and thought the movie was great. :) I did thoroughly enjoy the film and I hate that I wasn’t able to catch your short film on Saturday. So glad that you had a good time at the Gasparilla Film Fest!

    Here’s a link to my review FYI:

    It was very nice to meet you and Agustin. Thanks for making interesting, non-cookie-cutter films. Come back to Tampa soon!


  4. Pee alongside Jerry Springer!! Good times!!!

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