Florida Independent Film

Welcome to Florida Independent Film, the voice of independent film for Florida.
This site had not yet launched, but it is in development. This independent film resource site is a Tampa Bay Film property, and proudly supports independent film.

Independent film. That is what we are about. There is a difference between independent film and movies being done in Florida, however, and we are about to explain it by expressing our opinion. It is also our opinion that Florida lacks leaders in independent film, and that there are a lot of players in the indie film scene selling out independent film because they either do not know what they are doing, or have no faith in our ability to make marketable independent films.
This is going to change.
For years, independent filmmakers have been misled to believe that getting Hollywood and outside movie productions with deep pockets to make movies here in Florida would bring opportunities for independent filmmakers. The logic behind this, however, does not add up, and history has shown that the prospects are limited for independent filmmakers when Hollywood sets up shop in their town. Sure, there may be some opportunities, such as actors being cast as extras, but is that really what we have worked hard and invested in our careers to do? More often than not, outside productions coming in and using Florida locations to make their movies actually compete with local independent filmmakers, taking precious resources and media attention, and actually make it more difficult to make and promote independent films.
Sure, in the Tampa Bay area, Hollywood movies such as The Punisher, Magic Mike, A Dolphin Tale, and Spring Breakers may have in brought a lot of money to the area, but was it at the expense of local independent film? Did any filmmakers or crew benefit when these large production companies trucked in their own crews? Did local actors get anything more than “roles” as extras which paid little to nothing? What have these productions done for local crew and talent? Think about it!
Do you really want competition with lots of money and resources to come in an compete with you? Do you want to be used and disrespected?
Any independent filmmaker who supports outside productions to come in and “support the local economy” by using their city as a location for a movie does not know what they are doing, in our opinion, and they need to be fired from their profession.
Consider the story of an independent filmmaker in the Tampa Bay area by the name of Paul Guzzo. The following consists of our opinion.
Paul Guzzo and his brother Pete are decent independent filmmakers, having done quite a few good films, although one might argue that these guys are obsessed with organized crime, as all of their films seem to have some sort of wanna-be Godfather angle to them. Paul Guzzo himself seems to be crazy about the mob in the Tampa Bay area and their history, and has made quite a few independent films about a gangster named Charlie Wall. He seems to celebrate, and look up to, shady characters and criminals in the history of the Tampa Bay area. While we do not think that this makes the Tampa Bay area look good in any capacity, to each their own.
This aside, however, Paul Guzzo and his brother Pete Guzzo have always professed to support independent film in Tampa Bay, but we disagree.
The Guzzo brothers started the Coffeehouse Film Review in 2004, which was a small monthly independent film festival held in a coffeehouse in Ybor City. That in itself was fine, but the events were always full of technical issues, and were not organized professionally, in our opinion. The Guzzos seemed to go out of their way to act humble, but we believe that it was all for show and for P.R. The film festival itself, too, did very little to actually advance independent film and local film production in the Tampa Bay area. There was a lot of wheel spinning and, in our opinion, disrespect to the attendees and the filmmakers by producing a flawed, half-baked film festival which did nothing to fix what was wrong.
In 2006, the coffeehouse in which the Guzzos had the Coffeehouse Film Review closed, and they had to change venues. They moved it to the International Bazaar, also in Ybor City, and renamed it the Tampa Film Review.
With a larger venue, the Tampa Film Review became much larger than the original Coffeehouse Film Review, and grew, despite the ineptitude of the Guzzo brothers; it thrived in spite of them, merely demonstrating a need for an independent film festival, and not real success. Paul Guzzo continued his half-baked monthly film festival, and other than the filmmakers screening their films and their friends who attended to support them, the general public was not effectively marketed to, and the independent films were not really promoted too well.
Around this time, Paul Guzzo, who was seen as an indie film hero and leader by many filmmakers, started working with Tampa film commissioner Krista Soroka. During a Tampa Film Network meeting in 2006, they announced that they were working on an annual film festival in the Tampa Bay area called the Gasparilla Film Festival.
As the film commissioner for the Tampa Bay area, Krista Soroka’s job was to attract production companies with money (that isn’t independent filmmakers) to the Tampa Bay area to produce movies and other media projects here. Business-wise, it made sense. Artistically, however, it did not. When Krista want out of her way to support independent film and independent filmmakers, it is our opinion that she was not sincere. After all, why should she be? There was no short term financial incentive to support independent film, and had she done so, her competence as a film commissioner should have rightly been questioned. The issue that we had with her was that she should have been straight-up, in our opinion, with what she was all about. It is our opinion that she humored independent filmmakers and used them to support her real job.
Which brings us back to Paul Guzzo.
It is our opinion that Paul Guzzo sold out independent filmmakers when he worked with Krista Soroka to create the Gasparilla Film Festival. When questioned about his affiliation with the film festival, Guzzo was evasive and refused to answer questions, eventually snapping back that both he and his brother Pete Guzzo were on the board of directors. It is our opinion that this was a conflict of interest with their positions as independent filmmakers, and whether though duplicity or ignorance, the end result was that the Tampa Bay area would be promoted as a location for outside production companies to produce their movies at by the film festival.
The Gasparilla Film Festival was controversial among independent filmmakers from the very start. First was the name that they chose. Gasparilla? Really? The Gasparilla event had been a Tampa Bay tradition for decades, and along comes a film festival which uses its name. How creatively bankrupt must you be to brand a film festival such an unoriginal name, and take something away from something a great as Gasparilla? Other events also capitalized on the name, which was equally as lame. In our opinion, the Gasparilla brand has been forever tarnished by so many events piggy-backing on its name.
Then came the first film festival.
Although it was implied that the Gasparilla Film Festival would support independent film, with the weak state of independent film in the market, it would not have made any business sense to do so. After all, were there any indie films worth promoting? Additionally, it is our opinion that the real purpose of the Gasparilla Film Festival was to market the Tampa Bay area as a location for outside production companies, mainly Hollywood, to come in and produce their movies in the market, and such a film festival would have been a perfect marketing engine for the Tampa Film Commission and Krista Soroka. To get foolish and desperate independent filmmakers to blindly support something that, in our opinion, is, and continues to be, not in their best interest, was icing on the cake.
Paul Guzzo was praised by those same independent filmmakers as a hero, despite, in our opinion, their interests being sold out from under them.
Is it any wonder that these filmmakers have failed, and continue to fail, in making independent film a business, and that independent film in Tampa Bay is still not on the map, nor respected? With so many working against independent film being developed into a viable industry here in Tampa Bay, will it ever become an industry, and will it ever earn the respect of the public and business leaders in the Tampa Bay area?
Will it ever with so-called “leaders” such as Paul Guzzo?
We don’t think so. It is our opinion that independent filmmakers such as Paul Guzzo, Pete Guzzo, Joe Davison, and others have failed, and that they need to be replaced in the market by independent filmmakers who actually want to make a difference, and are smart enough to do it right without accepting compromise.
The Tampa Film Review did not last long, nor did it do much. By 2008, Paul Guzzo found himself going from one venue to another with his Tampa Film Review, with the closure of the International Bizarre, and at one point tried to get people to donate, which failed. Film submissions also fell off. In December 2008, Paul attempted to rally support for his film festival by stating that the Mayor of Tampa was going to give the film festival some short of recognition, and then it all ended, rather abruptly.
In January 2009, on the 5th anniversary of the founding of the Coffeehouse Film Review, The Tampa Film Review came to an end. Although it was clear to many, in our opinion, that the Tampa Film Review had failed, and had been falling apart throughout 2008, the film festival was spun as some sort of success, which we completely disagree with. Sure, the Coffeehouse Film Review and The Tampa Film Review were fun to attend, at times, but dd they ever accomplish anything? Did any of the films get any distribution deals? Were they worth it as a promotion platform for independent films? Were they truly worth the time and the effort to attend?
Did it even matter anymore, now that larger, and better organized, film festivals were taking root in the Tampa Bay area?
The Gasparilla Film Festival continued to grow, and became the Gasparilla International Film Festival, or GIFF. To this day, the Gasparilla International Film Festival seems to merely humor independent films produced in its home market, and does not promote them front and center. It is our opinion that the Gasparilla International Film Festival is an overblown, overpriced, overdone, pretentious mess of a film festival which is slickly marketed, but which is ineffective as a platform for independent film. What we needed was an independent film festival, and what we got instead was, in our opinion, a pretentious, haughty film festival spread out over many venues and many days, with high ticket prices out of reach of the general public, and which seems to be more about screening Hollywood movies than independent films. Most of the filmmakers, too, who are, in our opinion, idiotic ego-driven amateurs who are too eager to delude themselves, support this, too. Shame on them! Local filmmakers really have no one to blame but themselves for allowing this situation to happen, as well as to thrive.
We need to focus on, and support, locally produced independent films in Florida, and in Tampa Bay, and that is what Florida Independent Film is all about!
We want to see film festivals which seek out and promote independent films, and which genuinely support independent film, especially locally produced independent films by local production companies. A bunch of deluded filmmakers pretending that their films are better than they actually are, and pretending that they are Hollywood players, is not helping anyone, including themselves. It is pathetic!
We want the State of Florida to use their tax incentives to help develop and support locally produced independent film, and not to do the short-sighted thing, which is to use those financial incentives to attract big budget, out of state production companies to use our State as a location at the expense of Florida-based independent film production companies. Does the State of Florida have any faith in independent films produced in our own backyard by Florida production companies? Isn’t it better to invest in Florida’s ability to produce and export independent films to the industry rather than undermine our local independent film industry by attracting outside competition here?
Something to think about, and to heed.
Save Florida independent film!

05/21/13/0900 -

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