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Sunscreen Film Festival in St. Petersburg gives underdog movies an edge

Bill Cobbs, left, and Michael Rooker, who star in This Man’s Life, will take part in an actors workshop at the Sunscreen Film Festival.

Stars North Films

Bill Cobbs, left, and Michael Rooker, who star in This Man’s Life, will take part in an actors workshop at the Sunscreen Film Festival.

By STEVE PERSALL

Times Film Critic

After Wednesday night's red carpet opening, the fourth annual Sunscreen Film Festival unspools in earnest today at Muvico Baywalk 20 in St. Petersburg, with an array of 70 feature films, shorts and documentaries.

A more adventurous lineup is tough to imagine, since none of Sunscreen's films are the type to be hyped by the media. They're low-budget works with high hopes, many created in Florida, mostly short films created as calling cards for potential financiers.

Last year, no less than seven works shown at Sunscreen parlayed the exposure into distribution deals.

"We hope that pace continues this year," said Sunscreen co-founder Tony Armer, reaffirming the festival's goal of inspiring independent cinema.

Among the films Armer listed that appear poised for distribution interest: the festival's first horror film, the ghost story Hampshire (7 p.m. Saturday); John Putch's Route 30 (5:30 p.m. today) starring Dana Delany and Robert Romanus; the seedy L.A. odyssey Fix (10 p.m. Friday) and Fagbug (8 p.m. Friday), director and former Tampa resident Erin Davies' documentary of driving cross country in her Volkswagen Beetle that was vandalized because she's a lesbian.

"(Filmmakers) can come here and make a Hollywood connection," Armer said. "Most festivals show their films, but that's all they give them. We are focused on, and have the ability to deliver, the opportunity for them to get behind the scenes and learn from people who make movies."

People like actor and St. Petersburg native Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Little Children), who is conducting an actors workshop that is closed to the public. Participants paid up to $175 for the two-day session that includes discussions with casting directors John Jackson (Sideways, About Schmidt) and LaTanya Potts (Soul Men, The Steve Harvey Show).

Joining the workshop are character actors Bill Cobbs (Night at the Museum) and Michael Rooker (JFK, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), who co-star in the short film This Man's Life. They and director Todd Thompson will appear at both screenings, part of a shorts collection Friday (5:30 p.m.) and Saturday (2:30 p.m.).

The acting workshop also includes the only Central Florida auditions for Get Lifted, an action drama in the Fast & Furious vein, to be produced in Miami.

Free panel discussions on producing, financing and distributing films (3 and 5 p.m. Saturday), and sound design (11 a.m. Sunday) — featuring Academy Awards winners Karen Baker and Per Hallberg (The Bourne Ultimatum, Braveheart) — complete the festival's educational slant.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.

. IF YOU GO

Sunscreen Film Festival

The festival runs today through Sunday at Muvico Baywalk 20 in St. Petersburg. Tickets are $8 for most programs, with the first screenings each day discounted to $1. Go to the festival Web site (sunscreenfilmfestival.com) for movie and ticket information.

Sunscreen Film Festival Awards and VIP After Party: DJ, dancing with hors d'oeuvres and expected guest stars including Patrick Wilson, top left; Michael Rooker, Bill Cobbs, Jeff Donovan, below left; filmmakers, casts and crews. It's at 7 p.m. Saturday at Nova 535 Art Lounge, 535 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. $175 (covers all film screenings and festival parties). (727) 821-6682; nova535.com.

Sunscreen Film Festival in St. Petersburg gives underdog movies an edge 04/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 4:30am]

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