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"Squanto' might not show in Tampa Bay, but "Wormkillers' will get its day

Bad news for all those Native American/outdoor adventure fans: Walt Disney Pictures recently announced that its historical epic Squanto: A Warrior's Tale likely will not be released in Tampa Bay. Or anywhere else, if a perfunctory trial run beginning today in the Midwest doesn't raise big wampum. There's no way of knowing if we're missing anything worthwhile, except a hero's name that's fun to say in mock-dramatic fashion.

Meanwhile, a couple of local filmmakers without Disney's deep pockets or publicists have a project that already has a chance to flash on more screens than Squanto. Another catchy title, too.

The Wormkillers' Last Spring, written and directed by Tom Dempsey and produced in St. Petersburg by Neil DeGroot, is a babyboomer-bonding comedy/drama filmed on a shoestring last year. Make that a softball-cleats string budget, since the story revolves around one night in the mid-lives of a recreational league team. Most of the film occurs at the St. Petersburg Catholic High School athletic field, with a late detour to Ferg's Sports Bar.

Dempsey and DeGroot's film made its world premiere last month at the prestigious Independent Feature Film Market (IFFM), a sidebar to the New York Film Festival. The results have been encouraging, said DeGroot.

Invitations to screen The Wormkillers' Last Spring at five film festivals have been extended to DeGroot and Dempsey, from Sarasota's CineWorld, Palm Springs, Seattle, Munich and Galway, Ireland. Such exposure is critical to establish momentum and interest in a low-budget labor of love.

"It was definitely a confidence-booster," said DeGroot. "You know in your own heart what you have, but there are those times when you need confirmation from somebody outside the production. It tells you: yeah, there's something there that resonates with people."

Only the invitation to Sarasota has been formally accepted by the filmmakers. The Wormkillers' Last Spring will be shown at Burns Court Cinema, 506 Burns Lane, on Nov. 7 at 7:40 p.m. DeGroot is waiting to learn if the film is invited to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah next January before he commits to any others. "A lot of things could happen between now and then," said DeGroot.

If you can't make the trip to Sarasota (or Galway, Ireland, if that's the case), The Wormkillers' Last Spring will have a special invitation-only screening on Nov. 11 at the Beach Theater in St. Pete Beach. The next day, a regular engagement open to the public will begin at the theater.

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