TARPON SPRINGS — Dino J. Gallina has been interested in movies since he was a child.
At 7 years old, he just missed playing opposite Burt Reynolds in the 1993 movie Cop and 1/2, his mother says.
But Gallina continued to work on his acting and his love for films continued to grow. This week, with Tarpon Springs as the backdrop and the city's sponge business a central theme, the New Port Richey native is filming his first feature-length movie.
"It's surreal," Gallina, 28, said between takes Tuesday at the Sponge Docks. "It's so busy, you don't have time to realize what you are doing. But at the end of the day, you look back, and it's extremely rewarding."
A 30-member crew has been in Tarpon Springs since Sunday filming the movie Red Tide.
"It's a story I had been working on and realized that it's a film we could do on an ultra-low budget," Gallina said. "It's a slice of life about things around us." The screenplay was written by James Henderson of Orlando.
The movie's plot centers around Alex Nikoladis, a Greek young man who returns to Tarpon Springs after the city's lucrative sponging business is wiped out by Red Tide, according to the movie synopsis.
During that time, Tarpon Springs becomes home to drugs and crime and Nikoladis' brother is in a tough position. In an attempt to keep the local drug lord at bay and to get his father's sponge boat back, Nicoladis makes a deal to work for the drug lord. At the same time, he has fallen in love with his brother's fiancee, the synopsis said.
Daniel McNamara of Orlando, one of Red Tide's producers, said Tarpon Springs is the perfect place for a film.
"It's one of those hidden gems that contains a great story," said McNamara. "There are plenty of places like this around with rich, rich stories that can be told."
Gallina graduated from New Port Richey's River Ridge High in 1998. He went to Brevard Community College, where he earned an associate's degree in digital broadcasting. He then received a film degree from the University of Central Florida and is in the school's Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema track master's program.
Gallina and business partner James Q. Mitchell met in a film class at UCF. In 2005, they started Long Shot Pictures. Red Tide is the company's first feature-length film.
They have a $50,000 budget and 25 days to film the movie.
Six days will be spent in Tarpon Springs with the remainder of the movie being shot in an Orlando home similar to those found in Tarpon Springs.
Sponge boat owner Solon Zagorianos, 61, allowed Gallina to use his sponge boat Solo during Tuesday's filming. He was also a movie extra.
"I want to help these guys and hope that they make a good movie that they can sell," Zagorianos said.
Gallina and Mitchell expect to have the movie finished by summer 2010. They will then shop it at small film festivals.
"It's really exciting because he's worked so hard for the last two years," Gallina's mother, Sheila Gallina, said as she watched Tuesday's work from a folding chair at the Sponge Docks. "He's been giving it everything he has since he started this."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or [email protected]
This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification: James Henderson of Orlando is the screenwriter for Red Tide, a movie that was filmed in part in Tarpon Springs. A June 4 story about the movie was unclear on that point.