Nicole Emanuele and Devyn Waitt are best friends who graduated from Florida State Film School in 2007 and moved to New York City, where they developed a movie about Adele and Sara, best friends who want to get out of small-town Florida and move to New York City.
Writer and director Waitt, who grew up in Oldsmar, and her team picked the Tampa Bay area as the backdrop for Not Waving But Drowning, an independent film expected to receive critical accolades at several film festivals. Pasco County will play a minor part Sunday morning, when crews will shut down a leg of U.S. 98 near Zephyrhills to film an opening scene, in which two characters drive down a deserted stretch of road near the Green Swamp.
Pasco may not be the star of the film, but county spokesman Eric Keaton is just happy the film's location scouts found Pasco. His office occasionally tries to draw location scouts to the area, but its operation is small.
"If any organization could come in and pump more money into the area, whether it be eating at a local restaurant or going to one of our local Publix and buying some groceries or gas, that's good," Keaton said.
Much of the film is set in Bartow, where Sara, one of the main characters, is forced to stay behind to face a personal tragedy while best friend Adele leaves for New York. Bartow's Main Street will make an appearance, while the crew will film other scenes at R.E. Olds Park in Oldsmar, Vinson Funeral Home in Tarpon Springs and various houses. On Monday, filming will move to Emily's Family Restaurant in Homosassa, where some of the crew used to eat as students at Florida State Film School, said Rousso Kanaris, the son of Emily's owner.
Waitt's family still lives in Oldsmar, making the area a natural choice for the backdrop of the film.
"This movie, it's not autobiographical, but whenever someone writes a story, it comes from their personal experiences," said Emanuele, the producer. "Not only is it beneficial to have the family ties, this area's so diverse and interesting."
Despite knowing the area and getting help from St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Jennifer Parramore's staff, it took the filmmakers weeks of scouting to find places that would match Waitt's ideas — "the biggest scavenger hunt in the world," Emanuele said.
Waitt has specific plans for the style of the film, too. Emanuele says the film's focus on music and the pauses between dialogue will be similar to Sofia Coppola's 2003 Lost in Translation, "lyrical" but with "a sense of humor." With several dream sequences — including one in which a white horse rides a New York City subway — the film will "look and feel like peering into a girl's journal," complete with lipstick kisses and bubble letters, according to its Facebook page.
Parramore has high hopes for the film, which she calls "high concept." Though the Tampa Bay area frequently hosts shoots for commercials, television shows and low-budget horror movies, Parramore said, feature films are less common, and independent films likely to receive accolades even less so.
"It's a film with a reasonable budget that is going to get accepted to, most likely, several good quality film festivals," Parramore said of Not Waving But Drowning, which was funded entirely through donations and private investments. (Emanuele is still looking for donations, she says.)
Once Emanuele and Waitt wrap up their Florida shoot, they will again leave Florida for New York City to film and edit the rest. The character Sara, however, stays in Bartow, finding work at a retirement home and befriending an elderly woman there.
"Her best friend's gone off on this exciting adventure and she feels like she's stuck in small town USA," Emanuele said, "but she learns to love and appreciate it."