Sunscreen Film Festival Headed to St. Pete

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 Screenings, social soirees and lots of interaction with professionals makes the St. Pete film fest a winner

BY CINDY COCKBURN

Hollywood actor Gary Busey made an appearance at the 2015 Sunscreen Film Festival./Photos from Sunscreen Film Festival

With over 3,000 film festivals taking place around the globe, there really is “no business like show business.”   Canada offers The Toronto International Film Festival every September showcasing 300 films from 60 countries.  Park City, Utah, hosts the Sundance Film Festival in January. February’s Berlin International Film Festival is the world’s largest public film festival. And, of course, the Cannes Film Festival is held each May and known as the world’s leading cultural event.

St. Petersburg is getting ready to host the 13th Annual Sunscreen Film Fest in Florida April 26-29. Over 100 films are screened each year with tons of fun red carpet parties and workshops. New venues for this year:  the new Hyatt Place and the Imagine Museum.

What we don’t know at press time (won’t be announced until April) is what specific films will be offered and who the visiting movie stars will be. That’s a big problem with planning ahead for film festival organizers — show biz schedules are constantly changing.

What we do know is that our local film festival has a great track record and has attracted some of Hollywood and New York’s top talent in the past: actors Dylan McDermott, Joe Pantoliano, Kirstie Alley and Robert Davies were among those who mingled with fans before last year’s screenings at the Palladium. Emmy winner Jane Seymour was a guest of honor during a sold-out Women in Film Brunch.

 “We will have amazing seminars and workshops like last year,” promises Executive Director and Board President Ryan Tarrant.  But, he added, producing a film festival is extremely hard to announce advance details. “We literally don’t know who will be coming until a week before we open.”

Opening Credits

Since its inception in 2005, the Sunscreen Film Festival has been organized by the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Society Inc., a Florida not-for-profit corporation. The primary goal is to encourage the creation, production, and exhibition of independent film in Florida through educational programs and public screenings.

The Festival has grown from its first year (2006) in a local art gallery with 600 attendees to an internationally recognized event with attendance of over 20,000 in St. Petersburg, FL and Los Angeles, CA. (In 2013, the festival expanded to Los Angeles and now holds the Florida version in the spring and the Los Angeles version in the fall each year.)  In 2009, MovieMaker magazine voted Sunscreen one of the “25 Coolest Film Fests” in the country.  

Sunscreen is different from other festivals in that  guests are expected to take part in workshops, classes, and other events that support the festival’s mission. Attendees have the opportunity to learn from the best actors, directors, producers, writers, designers, and other film professionals.

The filmmakers, actors and visitors to St. Pete always say it’s so different from other film festivals.

“We’re known as the one of the top festivals for workshops and educational opportunities,” says Tarrant.

The festival screened about 150 films last year.

“This year, we will be a lot more selective and screen between 100 and 125 films including shorts and major features,” he adds. “We will see a variety of documentaries, comedy and horror features.”

Festival co-founder and St. Pete Clearwater Film Commissioner Tony Armer said he is always surprised at the success of the Sunscreen Film Festival.

“We had no idea the film festival would grow to the level it’s at now,” he says.  “In the beginning, we just hoped to meet some good people in the film world and make our own movies. The first year we held it at Studio 620 and then we expanded to the Vinoy ballroom in years two and three.”

What was the big break? 

“When John Travolta came in year three, that gave us a boost that helped propel the festival even more upward,” Armer said. “It takes a dedicated team of volunteers working year-round to accomplish everything.  The festival board of directors is an amazing group of hard-working people who really make it all happen.”

SUNSCREEN FILM FESTIVAL
APRIL 26-29

All film screenings will be held at AMC Theaters at Sundial, 151 2nd Ave N., St. Petersburg. Check for updates on screenings and workshops and find more information at sunscreenfilmfestival.com  Workshops will be held at Hyatt Place,  25 2nd St. N, St. Petersburg
Opening Night Reception, April 26,  AMC Sundial
Filmmaker Party, April 27,  9 pm – midnight, Hyatt Place,  25 2nd St. North St. Petersburg
Women in Film and Television Brunch,  April 28, 10:30am-noon, location to be determined
Awards Announcement &  Karaoke Party,  April 28, 9 pm, Imagine Museum, 1901 Central Ave, St. Petersburg

Schedule is subject to change

PAST SUNSCREEN CELEBS

 John Travolta (“Grease,” “Pulp Fiction”)
Billy Dee Williams (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Brian’s Song”)
Patrick Wilson (“Watchmen,” “Phantom of the Opera”)
Jeffrey Donovan (TV’s “Burn Notice,” “Changeling”)
Michael Rooker (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Walking Dead”)
Dylan McDermott (“American Horror Story”, “The Practice”)
Gary Busey (“Lethal Weapon,” “Point Break”)
Paul Sorvino (“Goodfellas”)