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Website marries investors to imagination of filmmaker

NORTH TAMPA

Independent filmmaker Victoria Jorgensen is accustomed to launching dreams on a shoestring. Red Flag Women, a portrait of 10 women whose personalities might raise red flags to would-be suitors, was "entirely done with whatever I could grab — a minute budget,'' she says. For Plethora, a story about the stuff people hang on to, she put in a little of her own money and called in every favor she had out: "Free shooters, free sound people, free everything.'' She put in more of her money and combined it with a $3,000 grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County to make A Moving Feast, a documentary on the emergence of independent film in the Tampa area.

Her latest effort, The Evening Room, is almost paid for. She has invested $8,000 in it, part from a second arts council grant and the rest from an equity loan on her home.

And she has found a new way to come up with the rest. She's using Kickstarter.com, a website through which artists seek investments for their projects from average folks, but have a time limit to reach their goal. Jorgensen, who heard about Kickstarter.com from a fellow Tampa filmmaker, has raised a little more than half the $4,000 she needs, but her deadline for getting the rest — or losing all money pledged by the site's viewers — is Sunday.

The actors, two of them members of the Screen Actors Guild, agreed to work on speculation, signing a contract that awards them pay if and when the film makes money. But Jorgensen hopes to compensate them sooner with money from the site.

"I want to pay these people. They were amazing, and I think it's only fair.''

She's excited about The Evening Room, her first work of fiction, and hopes to enter it in the prestigious film festivals of Toronto and Berlin.

Co-written by Jorgensen and Marina Shemwell, the film focuses on the character Frank, a seemingly happily married man who enters a bar one day to escape the rain. There, he meets a woman that he can't stop thinking about. She introduces him to a somewhat magical place called the Evening Room, and his life changes forever.

The story explores the lack of intimacy and commitment in an era dominated by arms-length communication through computers, texting and cell phones, Jorgensen says.

The Zone Lounge in Tarpon Springs served as both the bar and the Evening Room. The film crew also shot scenes in Tarpon Springs' Currents Restaurant and several locations in Tampa, among them two private homes; Joe Abrahams Fitness and Wellness Center, 5212 Interbay Blvd.; and Features Costumes Inc., 3015 W Barcelona St. in South Tampa.

The project garnered a second arts council grant because Jorgensen has demonstrated a talent and commitment to her art through the years, says Jenny Carey, director of program services for the council. Carey expressed disappointment that because of a drop in the funding of artist grants, the council could award only $1,000 for The Evening Room.

"She's kind of one of the shining stars in the Tampa Bay Community,'' Carey says.

And she's made a good film, says cinematographer Curtis Graham of Greyhouse Films. Jorgensen says he agreed to participate on the project for less than his usual fee.

"I liked the script a lot. I thought it was a great story,'' says Graham. "If it's edited properly, it will be wonderful — absolutely stunning,'' he predicts.

Jorgensen, 55, owns A Business Printing & Promotions, a 42-year-old company that she inherited from her parents. She has dabbled in filmmaking, however, since the 1970s and took it up with a passion 10 years ago. By then, digital photography had made movie-making easier and less expensive.

Working out of her studio in the Forest Hills area, Jorgensen says her least expensively made film, Red Flag Women, has been the most popular so far, playing at more festivals than the others. She hopes The Evening Room will be the hit she has been working toward.

"It's almost your calling card when you get that really good short film under your belt,'' says Jorgensen. It increases the chances that a movie company representative will offer to turn it into a feature, saying, "Here's X amount of dollars to do that. Or we want to buy the rights to this — your name comes off and we do with it whatever we want.''

Perhaps The Evening Room will be the breakthrough that allows her to give up her day job and work on films full time.

She has been spoiled, however — she would insist on creative control on all her projects.

"I love shaking up people's worlds,'' she says. "I love making them look at what they're doing and think again. That's what makes me happy.''

Philip Morgan can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or pmorgan@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

To help

If you want to help fund The Evening Room by filmmaker Victoria Jorgensen, go to kickstarter.com and type her name in the search field. When her introductory page appears, click on ''The Evening Room.''

Website marries investors to imagination of filmmaker 01/06/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 3:30am]

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