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Tampa Film Review gears up for its final take

Brothers Pete Guzzo, left, and Paul Guzzo have risen to the top of the bay area’s independent film scene.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Brothers Pete Guzzo, left, and Paul Guzzo have risen to the top of the bay area’s independent film scene.

TAMPA

There are two eras of filmmaking in Tampa, according to those who produce and direct movies in the city.

B.TFR. and A.TFR.

That would stand for Before Tampa Film Review and After Tampa Film Review.

In the before era there wasn't much of a film community in Tampa.

When brothers Paul and Pete Guzzo got the idea to start a free monthly screening of local films in a coffee shop, that's when the after era began.

Over the past five years, the Tampa Film Review has brought together artists of all types, showcasing and promoting local filmmaking. However, with the brothers wanting to devote more time to work and their own films, it all ends tonight, when the Guzzos host their last TFR.

"It's going to leave a huge hole," said Lisa Ciurro, who writes local movie news and reviews at www.tampafilm fan.com. "There was no other avenue for filmmakers that I know of to show their creations to an audience and get some applause and their moment in the sun."

While local movie buffs bemoan the loss, the Guzzos say they are fading out with a happy ending. When Tampa Film Review began, it was the only show in town featuring local films. Now, partly because of TFR's influence, the Tampa Bay area has become home to several fledgling film festivals such as the Ybor Festival of the Moving Image and the Gasparilla and Sunscreen film festivals.

"There's so many places for people to show their films now," Paul Guzzo said.

The Tampa Film Review started in January 2004 as the Coffeehouse Film Review in an Ybor City coffee shop. When the store closed, the review moved to the International Bazaar, a sprawling boutique of worldly clothing and accessories. But that closed too, sending TFR to the Romeo Gallery in Ybor.

On the first Friday of every month, the Guzzos put up a projection screen, set out chairs and played short films they had gathered over the previous few weeks. Crowds of 20 grew to as many as 350 by last year, and Paul Guzzo said he spent hours each week setting up and promoting the event. He would send e-mails to civic groups and politicians, working to build a larger fan base.

But last year, he no longer had time to devote to the volunteer effort, an event he digs into his own pocket to stock with snacks and other supplies, he said. Guzzo, 33, writes for La Gaceta, Tampa's tri-lingual newspaper. He also produces and writes films. His brother, Pete, 30, works for Tampa Digital Studios and directs films.

Together, the brothers have released several films that have garnered praise at nationwide film festivals. Their last two films, a short fictional movie called End is Blossoming that takes place in the 1940s and a documentary on local gangster Charlie Wall, focus on Ybor City.

The brothers are raising money to begin filming another locally focused feature this year titled Blood is Thicker, a movie set in Ybor City about a mafioso and a Cuban musician vying for the love of a Spanish opera singer in 1941 as Tampa residents cope with an ongoing mafia war for control of the port.

Paul Guzzo said their busy lives are indebted to TFR, which introduced them to other filmmakers and gave them opportunities and a community name.

"It's ironic because we have to give it up because it's opened up so many doors for us," Paul Guzzo said. "My brother and I would definitely say we benefited as much as we put into it. It opened so many doors for us. It got to the point where we show a film at a film festival and we end up selling it out with 350 people."

Joe Davison, who runs Pop Gun Pictures, has been a local filmmaker since 1996 and calls the Guzzos the "commanders" of the film community, organizers who helped bring together a disparate group that needed a place to network. TFR also helped filmmakers by giving them a forum to show their talent to local sponsors.

"Without the Tampa Film Review, the filmmakers are going to get hit pretty hard because we're not going to have a place to show the product," Davison said. "You're constantly having to prove your worth if you're trying to find funding."

The Guzzos hope someone else will take up the mantle of TFR. Until then, Paul Guzzo said people should head to the Pinellas Filmmakers Society, a similar monthly event that began after TFR, and the many film festivals that have sprouted around the bay.

Still, Ciurro and others said it won't be the same.

"I've seen some good stuff at Tampa Film Review and I've seen some stuff that's not too good," she said. "But it's an accomplishment to make a film, and that's the thing I loved about the Tampa Film Review: They would show any film. ... They were happy you made a movie."

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

If you go

The final Tampa Film Review takes place at 8 tonight at the Italian Club, 1731 E Seventh Ave., in Ybor City. The event is free and open to the public.

The lineup of films includes:

Gunn Highway by Stefan Abbott; about perception.

To Live is To Die by Chris Woods; college students fall victim to their own stories in a writing class.

Tale of Two Meagans by Fred Zara; a cocky whiz kid finds himself faced with choosing just one woman.

Mexican Sky by Ken Collins; a mouthy criminal takes a sheriff and deputy hostage on his run to Mexico.

Time & Again by Todd Thompson; a man finds a way to control time but has a tough time cheating death.

The Last One by Garrett Brown; a stop-motion claymation film about a slacker who gets into a horrific car crash and wakes up to a surreal world where all perception is skewed.

Tampa Film Review gears up for its final take 01/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 3:31am]
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