Make us your home page

Gasparilla's music and film festivals to join forces in 2017

Singer Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello performs at the 2015 Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park.

JAY CRIDLIN | Times (2015)

Singer Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello performs at the 2015 Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park.

South by Southwest ... by Suncoast?

That's the plan, if not the title, announced Wednesday, when two Gasparilla staples joined forces, hoping to emulate the multifestival vibe of the annual event in Austin, Texas, popularly abbreviated as SXSW.

Starting in 2017, the Gasparilla International Film Festival and Gasparilla Music Festival will run consecutively, creating a 10-day-long arts event.

The alliance was announced by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, a longtime advocate for entertainment culture growth.

"I've had a vision," Hagan said at the commission's weekly meeting, "to really have these organizations ... coordinate with each other, with the goal to create a SXSW experience."

Gasparilla's film festival is most affected by the collaboration, moving up its starting date nearly a month to March 2, while expanding from five days to eight, at Centro Ybor 20 in Ybor City. It's followed by the music festival on March 11 and 12, on four stages at Curtis Hixon Park.

Officials for both festivals made clear this is a partnership between them, not a merger.

"We're still going to be running independently," Gasparilla International Film Festival executive director Monica Varner said by telephone. "It just makes sense to work together more."

Hagan said at the commission meeting that Gasparilla is a strong brand, but "we're not taking advantage of it from a marketing and tourism perspective."

Combining the film and music festivals further positions Tampa as a cultural destination, where tourists can build vacations around events. Gasparilla International Film Festival president Rachel Feinman thinks Tampa is less crowded and more accessible to visitors than Austin and the like.

"For any people who have tried to travel to SXSW or any other international festivals, it can be very challenging," Feinman said at the commission meeting. "There's really an untapped opportunity for us to be seen as a cultural and arts destination."

Over its 10-year history, the Gasparilla International Film Festival developed into a highly regarded regional showcase, attracting high-profile premieres including this year's opening night selection, Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman, and Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!! on closing night. Industry trade publications like Variety and Hollywood Reporter keep up with the festival's doings.

The music festival now hopes to glean some of that spotlight.

"It's going to help us get our name out on a broader, national scale," Gasparilla Musical Festival executive director David Cox said.

"Music festivals, just about every city has quite a few of them now. This helps us stand out on that national stage a little bit, as part of a bigger cultural happening here in Tampa."

Cox co-founded the music festival in 2011, as a one-day event that attracted nearly 6,000 people. The festival expanded to two days in 2015, averaging more than 20,000 people each year, according to Cox. This year's lineup included headliners Erykah Badu and Talib Kweli.

Although the film festival's lineup won't be set for months, Varner foresees a sidebar of music-related films and live performances throughout the week, leading up to the music festival.

The film festival is no stranger to movie-and-music connections. This year, an after-show party at Crowbar in Ybor City screened a concert documentary with Bradenton-based Have Gun, Will Travel leading a small army of local musicians in recreating the Band's penultimate live album The Last Waltz.

Cox assisted the film festival's programming even before his music festival was created. In 2011, the Gasparilla film festival hosted the world premiere of Color Me Obsessed: A Film About the Replacements, the pioneer alt-rockers. Cox hired a local band able to cover Replacements songs for the after-show party, attended by the documentary's director, Gorman Bechard.

Cox expects similar experiences under the new alliance of festivals, although it's too early to know.

"We haven't really sat down and coordinated on that level yet," he said. "The film festival gets into their programming over the next couple of months, starting to see what films are on the radar, that have that music connection ... Every year I think there's going to be several good options for that tie-in."

Times staff writer Steve Contorno contributed to this report. Contact Steve Persall at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Gasparilla's music and film festivals to join forces in 2017 08/03/16 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2016 12:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Plan your weekend Aug. 18-20: Elvis in concert, Jason Aldean, Monster Jam Triple Threat, Sing-Along Grease


    Plan your weekend

    The king

    Elvis: Live in Concert: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, and Ruth Eckerd Hall will have a Graceland-produced Elvis concert on a movie screen, accompanied by a full live orchestra. Graceland calls it the closest audiences …

    Handout photos of Elvis: Live in Concert, a tour spectacle featuring a live orchestra backing the voice of Elvis Presley, projected onto a movie screen. The tour comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall on 8/18/17. Credit: Graceland.
  2. Taco and Beer Fiesta set for St. Pete, followed by the Ooze and Booze Fest

    Food & Dining

    The Gulf to Bay Food Truck association recently announced a trio of events for mobile comfort food lovers.

    These kimchi topped tacos will be served by Anju Korean Gastrotruck. [Gulf to Bay Food Truck Association]
  3. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson can't keep 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' on-target


    The Hitman's Bodyguard is an assault tank on semi-automatic pilot, spraying jokes and bullets with only the ammo consistently hitting its targets. The irresistible teaming of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson might be even funnier if they missed once in a while.

    Samuel L. Jackson plays a master assassin testifying against a dictator, and Ryan Reynolds plays a bodyguard tasked with keeping him alive.
  4. 8 things to do in Tampa Bay on Aug. 17


    Clearwater Threshers: vs. St. Lucie Mets: For "Taps and Tacos" night, 16 local craft beers on tap near the Tijuana Flats kiosk, located on the concourse along the third-base line. 7 p.m., Spectrum Field, 601 N Old Coachman Road, Clearwater. $6-$10. (727) 467-4457.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow during the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Monday, August 14, 2017, in Clearwater, Fla. Monday night was Tim Tebow's 30th Birthday Party celebration.
  5. What's new in theaters: 'The Hitman's Bodyguard,' 'Logan Lucky,' 'Wind River'




    Loving the trailer for The Hitman's Bodyguard (R) poking fun at quotes from reviewers prone to phrases like "It's a roller coaster ride!" for better chances to see their names in TV ads.

    Salma Hayek and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman’s Bodyguard.