Tuesday, 10 March 2009 10:22

The Gasparilla Film Festival Turns Tampa into Hollywood

Written by  Heidi Lux
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The red carpet at the historic Tampa Theatre. Photo by Simaen Skolfield. Cupcakes, Red Carpet and Armand Assante  What More Could a Girl Want?

Tampa, FL (February 2009) - For ten days, The Gasparilla Film Festival turned Tampa into Hollywood, with all those film types hanging around. For a second it felt as if the Superbowl was back in town; having the nervous feeling that you’ll turn around and bump into Matt Dillon.

Emmy Award winner Armand Assante was honored at the festival with the Career Achievement Award, and was a very pleasant gentleman. We sat down for an interview and ended up chatting endlessly about our acting training and techniques. His advice for young actors was, “If you chose to act, act, and don’t look back.”

In a full-length dress reminiscent of a cloud, Gasparilla Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Terry Moore floated by. In her 80s, she still managed to radiate that vintage sophistication and beauty. She had been married to Howard Hughes, and I wanted to go up to her and verify a few Old Hollywood rumors, but I was whisked off to another interview.

Emmy Award winner Armand Assante. Photo by Simaen Skolfield.

I ran into fellow “Tischie” (an NYU alum), Todd Weisman, and we gossiped about a professor we had both learned so much from, but not before I congratulated him on getting his film “Improv Island” into the festival. It’s a documentary about Cubans able to improvise in the face of the US embargo.

Tracie Donahue, housewife turned documentary filmmaker, was motivated to create her flick “Secrets to Love” when her own marriage turned sour. She said to herself, “I didn’t do it right, but knew one really can have a fabulous marriage, and it really can be great.” I was inspired at how she managed to take a negative and turn it into a positive.

Even the barista at the coffee shop outside the Tampa Theatre was in “the industry.” I was waiting for my latte when I started chatting with Stu McLaughlin. The film that he made with buddy Gabriel Gomez, “Todo Sigue Igual”, was in the festival, but he wasn’t. Literally able to see the theatre from the window, Stu had to make mochas while being taunted by the sight of shiny limos arriving. “You know, its fine. I have my lanyard,” he said, conceding that even though he missed opening night, he’d at least be able to make his screening at Channelside.

I slipped my pinching heels off in the car, stuffed from the cupcake! Cupcake treats and a night of red carpets and glamour.  Then I wondered, “Why does the Gasparilla Film Festival have to come but once a year?”  I sighed; at least there’s the Sunscreen Film Festival in April to hold me over.

The Gasparilla International Film Festival, one of Florida’s largest independent film festivals, is operated by the Tampa Film Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing film education and community involvement in film in the Tampa Bay area. The film festival made its debut in 2007 and has become one of Tampa Bay’s most anticipated film events, hosting close to 10,000 participants.  The event attracts a variety of film and media-related professionals in addition to film lovers looking to network and learn more about film.

The event was packed full of actors, filmmakers, VIPs and movie lovers. Photo by Simaen Skolfield.To learn more about the festival, please visit http://www.gasparillafilmfestival.com/ or call 813-514-9962.

Read 1199 times Last modified on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 10:05