Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Christian film shot in Tampa Bay marketed to churches for now

Ben Rosa directed The Message, which was shot in Tampa Bay with a local cast.

Photo courtesy of Craig Litten

Ben Rosa directed The Message, which was shot in Tampa Bay with a local cast.

Ben Rosa wouldn't seem to be the logical choice to direct a Christian film.

His background is in animation, and his only film was a short about an abused child who escapes into fantasy.

And even though Rosa is a Christian, his taste in films didn't lean toward the religious.

"It's not really my genre," Rosa said. "I like horror."

But for some reason, when the writer and the producer of a Christian film called The Message saw Rosa's work, they decided he was the director they wanted.

The Message, which was filmed entirely in the Tampa Bay area with a mostly local cast, premiered at an invitation-only screening at Muvico Centro Ybor on Jan. 10. But you're not likely to see it in theaters or on TV any time soon.

At least for the moment, it's being marketed to Christian organizations, especially churches.

Rosa said he's happy with the film, even though severe budget restraints and his limited experience as a director sometimes made the shoot challenging.

"We had to figure out how to do the things we wanted to do as we went along," he said.

He filmed at local businesses and featured shots of their signs in exchange for food for the cast and crew. Except for the two leads, his actors were just plain folks who had never acted before.

"I actually don't like working with stage actors, because they're concerned with everything technically right," he said. "If I use inexperienced actors, they're more genuine."

The Message follows a self-absorbed computer tech who's about to be married. He's not religious, but his wife-to-be is Christian.

A photograph from a pivotal day in his life starts showing up on computers he's fixing. It's a picture of his family at the beach. Eventually we learn that it was taken moments before his father drowned and that he hasn't spoken to his mother and sister in years.

The photograph starts appearing more often. At one point, dozens of laptops in an office turn themselves on and display the photo when there's no one else around.

He thinks someone is playing tricks, even when he gets instant messages from God. But eventually he's led to the Openwater Church on Race Track Road, where the pastor helps him come to some realizations about his life.

The film's writer, Joe Navarro, approached Rosa with a shorter version of the script after a screening of Gisela's Closet, Rosa's short film that took home top honors at the Gasparilla Film Festival in 2008.

Rosa fleshed out the script, and helped to gather a cast of locals to make their acting debut in the film. Among them are Arlane DiGiovannie, Pastor Billy Brown, Pastor David Towner, Rachel Spears, Cindy Miller-Ray and Mollie Anderson.

Miller-Ray, a State Farm agent in Seffner, and Anderson, who works for Allstate in Sun City Center, have starred in a number of community theater productions in the Brandon area.

Even though the film was shot entirely in the Tampa Bay area, the locale is never mentioned. Except for a few shots of local businesses, there are virtually no local landmarks.

One exception is a stone staircase at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor. The cast and crew of The Message were filming at the park, not even realizing that the staircase — which, in the film, looks almost spookily out of place in the midst of a wooded beach — was there.

Rosa made it the setting for a pivotal moment in the film.

"I came across that and it was perfect, and I said, 'Whoa, I just have to use this,' " Rosa said.

Marty Clear can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Christian film shot in Tampa Bay marketed to churches for now 01/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. GOP senators blink on a big chance to repeal 'Obamacare'

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — After seven years of emphatic campaign promises, Senate Republicans demonstrated Wednesday they don't have the stomach to repeal "Obamacare" when it really counts, as the Senate voted 55-45 to reject legislation undoing major portions of Barack Obama's law without replacing it.

    U.S. Sen. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talks with reporters as he walks to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  2. Rick Baker's debate answer revives painful St. Pete controversy

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Bill Foster fired one of his top administrators, Goliath Davis III, six years ago for disobeying an order to attend the funeral of a slain police officer.

    St. Petersburg police officers stand by two caskets before the beginning of the 2011 funeral services for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |  Times]
  3. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  4. Editorial: Trump assaults rule of law by attacking attorney general

    Editorials

    Jeff Sessions was a terrible choice for attorney general, and the policies he has pursued in his brief tenure — cracking down on immigrants, bullying sheriffs, prosecuting low-level offenders to the max — are counterproductive. But the stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Sessions this …

    The stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Attorney General Jess Sessions this week assault the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law.
  5. Iowa group sues United over death of giant rabbit, Simon

    Nation

    DES MOINES, Iowa — A group of Iowa businessmen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against United Airlines over the death of Simon, a giant rabbit whose lifeless body was discovered in a kennel after a flight from London to Chicago.

    In this May 8, 2017 file photo, attorney Guy Cook speaks a news conference while looking at a photo of Simon, a giant rabbit that died after flying from the United Kingdom to Chicago, in Des Moines, Iowa. A group of Iowa businessmen have filed a lawsuit against United Airlines over the death of Simon. The businessmen filed the lawsuit Wednesday, July 26, 2017, more than three months after airline workers found the continental rabbit named Simon dead. [AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]