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Tampa production company sues filmmakers who shot movie in Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG — A Tampa production company says it hasn't been paid for work done on a movie that was shot in Pinellas County and stars actor Joey Pantoliano of The Sopranos fame.

Digital Caviar filed suit against a film company that shot scenes for an upcoming feature called Random Tropical Paradise. In the suit, Digital Caviar said Shabash Films, the company created by writer and director Sanjeev Sirpal, owes Digital Caviar more than $15,000 for work completed before and during a 21-day shoot that began on Dec. 1.

A contract between the companies shows that Digital Caviar was hired to provide preproduction services for the film company over a six-week period. Digital Caviar claims to have helped with casting and crew selection, securing camera equipment, hiring food vendors and finding office and housing locations.

A contract attached to the complaint filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court shows that Shabash Films agreed to pay Digital Caviar a $25,000 deposit by Nov. 4, 2015, before work was to begin.

In the suit, Digital Caviar claims that Shabash has "failed and refused" to pay them.

Random Tropical Paradise, which is in post-production, is a comedy about a jilted groom, played by Bryan Greenberg from How to Make it in America, and his best man, Brooks Wheelan (formerly of Saturday Night Live), when they go on the planned honeymoon together after the groom's wedding plans fall apart.

Funding for the movie was largely secured by private equity investment, though the movie will receive a $50,000 incentive grant from Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, according to a news release. Most of the movie was filmed at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach.

When contacted Monday, St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer said the lawsuit isn't connected to the pending $50,000 incentive payment to Shabash Films for producing Random Tropical Paradise in Pinellas County.

Payment of the marketing grant funded by VSPC depends upon Shabash Films meeting provisions Armer called "deliverables."

"We don't pay out a marketing grant in advance of anything," Armer said. "Not a dime. (Payment) only comes at the end of the project when all the deliverables are delivered.

"It's a variety of things from behind-the-scenes promotional pictures that we can use for marketing purposes, testimonial videos, special thanks in the credits, all that sort of stuff."

Those endorsements of Pinellas County's locales, entertainment labor force and other attributes are used in ad campaigns touting the area's film and video production benefits.

"Obviously the film has to be released," Armer said. "Whether it's video-on-demand or DVD, it doesn't have to be theatrical."

Armer said he spoke last week with Sirpal, who said the film is being prepared for release later this year.

Armer didn't seem concerned about the lawsuit.

"Lawsuits in the film business are nothing new," Armer said. "It's between two private companies and we assume they'll get it all sorted out, so that the film can be released, as it needs to be."

Tampa production company sues filmmakers who shot movie in Pinellas County 04/18/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2016 9:38pm]
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