Erin Kitzinger was a student at St. Petersburg High School when spring break days at the beach inspired her filmmaking career.
Kitzinger's first movie, the family drama Hope for a Thorn, is among several Gasparilla Film Festival entries created by present or former Tampa Bay residents, or featuring local people and places.
Boasting more than 60 films, the festival begins today, continuing through Sunday at various Tampa locations. Tickets and event information are available online at gasparillafilmfestival.com.
Hope for a Thorn will be shown Saturday at 1 p.m. at Cinebistro in Tampa's Hyde Park shopping district.
In 1999, Kitzinger and a friend drove to St. Pete Beach where director Paul Schrader was filming scenes for the sexy flop Forever Mine. Filmmaking wasn't her first reason for being there.
"Joseph Fiennes was in the movie, and he'd just done Shakespeare in Love, and I was, like, oooooh," Kitzinger said during a telephone chat. "So, we spent every day watching the shoot, and getting to know some of the crew members. They let us back behind the scenes and I just got hooked."
Kitzinger graduated in 2000 then studied at the University of Central Florida's film school before moving to Chicago where she produced Hope for a Thorn, the story of a widow caring for a granddaughter she never met before.
"It was very important to me to make a female-oriented film," Kitzinger said. "There are so many movies about women in terms of their relationships with men — the wife, whatever — but I wanted to focus on women and their relationships with each other."
Another entry with Tampa Bay ties is the spiritual documentary The Calling, focused on local Catholics including Tampa's Orlando Castillo, the son of a doctor whose faith-based decision led him to Peru, where he's currently tending to the poor and spreading the gospel.
"He decides to leave a life of privilege, if you will, and enter this journey into religious life," director David Ranghelli said by telephone from New York. "What the film does, is provide a very candid, honest depiction of how he and his family, especially his father, work through the situation, coming to terms with the decision he made."
The Calling will be shown Friday at 5 p.m. at Cinebistro.
Other Gasparilla entries with Florida ties include the St. Petersburg con game dramedy Prime of Your Life (Friday, 7:15 p.m. at Cinebistro), former WFLA-TV reporter Mike Walters' documentary Breaking News, Breaking Down (Saturday, 4 p.m. at Cinebistro), Andrew Allan's horror flick Brainjacked (Saturday, 10:15 p.m. at Cinebistro), Pete and Paul Guzzo's mixed martial arts short Caged Dreams (Saturday, 10 p.m.) and Endure (Saturday, 7 p.m. at Muvico Centro Ybor), a thriller starring Tom Arnold and Judd Nelson, filmed in Lakeland.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.