'Bollywood Oscars' team recruits bay area leaders to build buzz locally and abroad
Buzz is something the organizers of the Indian film industry's version of the Academy Awards talk about a lot, and this week brings two initiatives to jump-start conversations both locally and abroad.
"We trying to get the community here to understand the impact of what is coming," organizer Janak Vora recently told a group in Tampa about the International Indian Film Academy's 15th annual Weekend & Awards, scheduled for April 24-26 in the Tampa Bay area.
For IIFA, building cultural bridges between its host cities and crowds of Bollywood film fans is part of the job. The awards show goes to a different city every year — this will be its first appearance in the United States — and organizers make a habit of reaching out to local leaders and celebrities for support. On Wednesday, IIFA named its honorary host committee, with Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham as chairman.
Already IIFA has gotten a "tremendous response" in the bay area, according to Andre Timmins, a director of Wizcraft International, the Mumbai-based company that organizes the awards. Now the idea is for the 45 politicians, business executives and media types on the host committee to serve as ambassadors for IIFA as well as promote the Tampa Bay area and Florida to the 30,000-plus visitors expected to come here for the awards weekend.
This weekend, Higginbotham, Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO Santiago Corrada, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn , local supporter Dr. Kiran Patel and Visit Tampa Bay director of communications Liana Lopez will head to Mumbai for a media blitz there.
"That's like, 18 hours of flying, 20 hours of work, and then 18 hours back," Buckhorn said.
On Monday, the Tampa team will work on plans for a two-day business forum to be held at the Tampa Convention Center as part of IIFA's awards weekend. On Tuesday, they'll meet with Indian journalists to discuss ticket sales, Tampa as a travel destination and nominations for the awards, which Corrada expects to be announced on Tuesday. Last month, Tampa officials did a similar outreach with entertainment reporters in New York and Los Angeles.
Visit Tampa Bay is covering travel costs for Buckhorn and Higginbotham, which Corrada said were less than $3,000 per person.
That, however, is only part of the effort to promote the region to Indian film fans. With $1 million freshly allocated from Hillsborough County and its hotel bed tax, local officials also are working on a marketing campaign that targets Canada and the United Kingdom.
"We've got a share of the world to market to," Corrada said, "but the IIFA brand sells itself worldwide, so we're focused on certain designations, certain geographic areas, and they've got the rest covered."
IIFA's plans in Tampa include a fashion and live music event at the University of South Florida Sun Dome, a technical awards show at the Florida State Fairgrounds and an Indian dance music festival that will be free and open to the public in downtown Tampa. The awards show and the spectacle of stars walking IIFA's signature green carpet will be broadcast to a global television audience from Raymond James Stadium.
"What is it — 800 million people watching these awards?" Buckhorn said. "That's a big deal. So I get more and more excited the closer it gets."
The Friends of IIFA Honorary Host Committee includes:
S. Kay Andrews, publisher, Florida Sentinel Bulletin
Bowen Arnold, DDA Development LLC
Ken Atwater, president, Hillsborough Community College
Dick Beard, R.A. Beard Co.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa
Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura
Dr. Shaukat Chowdhira
Bob Clark, Tampa Steel Erecting Co.
Santiago Corrada, president & CEO, Visit Tampa Bay
Jim Dean, president, Busch Gardens Tampa
Don DeFosset, DJD Group
Maryann Ferenc, owner, Mise En Place
Brian Ford, chief operating officer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin Garcia, Pine Hill Capital Partners
Judy Genshaft, president, University of South Florida
Richard Gonzmart, Columbia Restaurant Group
Robert J Grammig, Holland & Knight
Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham
Rhea Law, CEO and chairwoman, Fowler White Boggs
Carl Lindell, Lindell Properties
Judith Lisi, president and CEO, David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
Joseph Lopano, CEO, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority
Plant City Vice Mayor Rick Lott
Sandy MacKinnon, MacKinnon JCB
Raj and Nisha Mandani, founders, Our AIM Foundation
Patrick Manteiga, editor and publisher, La Gaceta
Former Gov. Bob Martinez
Chip Merlin, Merlin Law Group
Rick Michaels, chairman and CEO, CEA Group
Stephen J. Mitchell, Squire Sanders
Susan Morgan, Gracepoint/Mental Health Care Foundation
Dr. Husain Nagamia
Kerry O’Reilly, marketing director, Tampa Bay Times
Aakash Patel, Elevate Inc.
Stuart Rogel, president and CEO, Tampa Bay Partnership
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland
Sean Shaw, Merlin Law Group
Curtis Stokes, Fifth Third Bank
Thom Stork, president and CEO, Florida Aquarium
James Tokley, poet laureate, Tampa and Hillsborough County
Ronald L. Vaughn, president, University of Tampa
Nancy Watkins, Robert Watkins & Company
Robert Watkins, chairman, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, and Robert Watkins & Company