A piece of the proposed Rays stadium site in Ybor will become a film studio

And the director of the Blair Witch Project is a part of it.
Published June 24

YBOR CITY — The way movie producer Kristian Krempel sees it, Ybor City didn’t lose out on an opportunity to become the home of the Tampa Bay Rays when the stadium deal fell through in December.

Rather, he said, Ybor gained an opportunity to be to independent film what Seattle was to the underground music scene that spawned the grunge era.

And he is willing to lead the charge.

“We are going to create an infrastructure here,” Krempel said. “Ybor will be a place where movies get made.”

His partner on the venture is fittingly a Seattle resident, Dan Myrick, best known as director of The Blair Witch Project.

Along with Charles Broadhurst, they are converting a 17,000-square-foot warehouse on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 15th Street in Ybor into a production studio with a sound stage.

Their company doesn’t have a name yet, but Krempel quipped one idea — “Third Base Productions.”

The reason: Their studio is located on a piece of the land that was included in the site for the proposed baseball stadium, in the centerfield section of the plans.

Myrick and Krempel already plan on shooting a web series and three films out of it. Although Broadhurst is a partner in the studio, he isn’t involved in their projects.

The sound stage will be available to other filmmakers.

“We will be in constant development,” Myrick said. “We are not here to shoot one film and leave. We want the cameras to constantly be rolling.”

Cameras have already been consistently shooting high profile independent films in the Tampa Bay area as of late. That includes two Hallmark movies, a film starring Katherine Heigl, and another produced by Tosca Musk, sister of billionaire technology entrepreneur Elon Musk

“The industry is exploding in Hillsborough County,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said. “But there has been one missing ingredient that we needed to take film to the next level.”

That piece, Hagan said, is a studio run by a big name in the film industry.

“We are very excited Dan selected Ybor,” Hagan said, “When you have an opportunity to work with one of the most successful independent filmmakers of all time that is pretty special.”

Still, Hagan couldn’t help but to note the ironic location of the studio. Hagan was the most outspoken elected official in favor of bringing baseball to Tampa.

But Hagan also championed the county program that provides a production 10 percent back on what is spent in Hillsborough. That incentive is credited with helping to bring the rash of independent films here.

“If baseball comes, great,” Hagan said. If it doesn’t, film “is an additional economic tool that will help take Ybor to the next level.”

Ybor will be busy in the coming years as it hosts Myrick and Krempel’s productions, three of which will feature the Latin District.

“What I look for in a place is character and history,” Myrick said. “Ybor is a place that has that history, it has its own vibe, and it hasn’t been overshot and exploited.”

The web series The Black Veil will begin pre-production this summer and cameras will start rolling in the early fall. Each of the six 15-minute episodes will be standalone fictional stories based on Ybor history.

RELATED: Blair Witch Project director will turn Ybor City into a horror hotbed

It was initially reported that the series would be called Lost Ybor, but the title Lost In Ybor actually belongs to their second project they hope to start shooting next year.

Lost In Ybor, Myrick said, will be a full length horror film about a daughter’s search for her father who went missing in the Latin District.

Myrick is shopping for a third script, developing a fourth that will tell the tale of Ybor’s mafia war in the early 1900s. Any of the six web series episodes, he said, might later be expanded into a feature film.

“Ybor’s history is so amazing. We can mine stories from it for years,” Myrick said. “And Ybor is the coolest place in Florida. It is it’s own back lot.” The Castle goth club is among Myrick’s favorites.

“The Cuban Club, the Italian Club, the Centro Asturiano,” Myrick’s partner Krempel said, citing the district’s grandiose social clubs erected over a century ago.

Still, “Tampa bay has an almost unlimited amount of looks and unique locations, but at some point we hit saturation point by not having brick and mortar facilities to help retain larger projects,” Hillsborough film commissioner Tyler Martinolich said.

This “investment into a suitably-sized facility in Ybor has the potential to push an already amazing increasing in production activity to new heights.”

Krempel and Myrick will primarily use locals for cast and crew and are already hearing from industry friends interested in relocating to the area.

“When people aren’t working, they want to be somewhere cool to go hang out,” Myrick said. “Ybor is it. When they are done shooting, they can walk for a cigar and beer.”

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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