DUNEDIN — A successful Kickstarter campaign brought filmmaker Adam Bowers of Los Angeles back to his college town of Gainesville. The University of Florida grad who was born and raised in Dunedin wrote, directed, starred in and is now editing his second feature-length movie, Paperback.
At 29, Bowers has already scored one success in the moviemaking industry. His "no budget" indie film, New Low, also shot in Gainesville, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010.
Bowers played the lead, a video store employee who must choose between two girlfriends, one a Dumpster-diving alcoholic and the other a committed social activist. Variety described Bowers as "a Woody Allen for the no-visible-means-of-support generation" after the film's release.
Paperback draws on similar themes, with Bowers playing a pizza cook who never left his college town and meets the girl of his dreams before realizing that there are unforeseen obstacles between them. Bowers describes the film as the "spiritual" sequel to New Low, because in both films he plays characters with no apparent motivation or direction.
"Both of those are avatars for me," Bowers said. "They're sillier, but those characters I write in my own voice."
Paperback co-stars Dreama Walker, a Tampa-born film and television actress who played a character in the ABC comedy Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.
Although the synopses of Paperback and New Low make them sound like generic rom-coms, Bowers' distinct style and humor make them anything but.
"I wanted to give it the aesthetic of an indie film from the '90s," Bowers said, describing the grainy, low-resolution look of his films.
Bowers' father, Tom, who lives in Dunedin, was not surprised when his son told him he wanted to be a filmmaker. Bowers was always interested in writing stories as a kid and wrote and filmed sketches while attending Dunedin High. In college he studied telecommunications and made his first short films, including New Personal Worst, on which New Low is based.
"I've always liked movies and TV," Bowers said. "When I started thinking of ideas, I thought I needed to express them in that way."
Bowers obtained funding for Paperback through the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter. Because the planned budget of $39,000 was so low, he did not expect to attract any investors. Instead, he turned to social media. Kickstarter provides a platform where anyone with an idea can request funding from the site's users.
Bowers had 30 days to raise the entire $39,000, and under Kickstarter's policy, he had to reach the goal or receive no money at all.
"Kickstarter is really hard. You're constantly on the computer figuring out things to do," Bowers said. "I posted on Facebook and Twitter almost every day, but after a while I felt like I hit the end of the Internet."
He ended up raising $39,246 from the site. Bowers was able to complete the film with no other funding required, although it took some creativity and community involvement.
Filming lasted less than a month, with Bowers and his crew often working 12-hour days.
To garner community support for the film and to help recruit extras, he enlisted the help of a former employer, Roger Beebe, the owner of Video Rodeo, a video rental co-op. He's also a UF professor of film and media studies, who was named a producer of Paperback.
"The film really represents the color of the town" of Gainesville, Beebe said. "It had some charm I didn't expect."
Bowers currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is editing Paperback and working various jobs to pay the bills, including a gig on an ice cream sandwich food truck.
He tentatively plans to premiere Paperback in early 2015.
He's already seeking money for his next film, We're A Wasteland, which will have a significantly bigger budget.
"I feel like all the opportunities I've had, I made myself," Bowers said. "I don't have to wait around for someone to give me the chance to make a movie."
With such drive, it is hard to draw parallels between Bowers and the lost slackers he plays in his movies and writes in his own voice.
"He has a much better grasp on life than his characters do," said his father, who is confident that his son can become a well-known independent filmmaker.
"I can't believe that someone who had a $2,000 film at Sundance and a great review in Variety would not be successful," Tom Bowers said.
Despite having found a new home in Los Angeles, Adam Bowers still feels drawn to Florida. When asked if he would consider shooting a film in Dunedin, he replied: "I've daydreamed about it a lot. There are so many stories I would love to film there."
Will Hicks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4155.