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Filmmaker William Stribling returns to St. Pete for a new project

It stars former WWE wrestler-turned-actor John Hennigan.
Former WWE wrestler turned actor John Hennigan performs stunts in the movie "Speed of Time" being made in Clearwater. [Christian Cashmir]
Published Oct. 28
Updated Oct. 28

William Stribling hopes to visit home more often soon. It has been 11 years since he moved from St. Petersburg to achieve his Hollywood dream.

Since then, the 29-year-old 2008 graduate of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School has amassed 15 directorial credits. They include the feature-length comedies Lies I Told My Little Sister and Bear With Us, each of which came away with awards from Tampa’s Gasparilla International Film Festival. The former won “Best of the Fest” honors and the latter took home the “Audience Choice Award” in 2016.

Both were also heavily crewed by Stribling’s fellow St. Petersburg natives. Lies I Told My Sister, for instance, had 11 fellow Gibbs High graduates on set.

The Los Angeles transplant has now taken that hometown pride one step further. For the first time since making movies as a high schooler, Stribling yelled “action” on a set in St. Petersburg this month for a new short film. And, if all goes well, this could be the first of several movies he makes in the Tampa Bay area

The Tampa Bay Times got Stribling on the phone for a few minutes during a break from filming.

What is this new project?

It is called Speed of Time, a wild sci-fi action comedy time-travel film. A guy’s future self comes back in time to try and convince him to destroy a device that ends up doing really horrible things for the future.

We are collaborating with wrestler John Hennigan who wrestled with the WWE as John Morrison. He is a big, famous colorful wrestler who does all his own stunts.

This is what we call a “proof of concept,” a short film that gives the flavor of what the feature would be like.

This is also a test run to get a taste of what it’s like to shoot in the area and work with local crews, locations, vendors and film commission and see how to get things done here. We will later decide if it is viable to come back with a larger-scale project.

Film director William Stribling [William Stribling]

Why did you decide to make the movie in your hometown?

Whenever I have a new project I reach out to [St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner] Tony Armer and when he is in L.A. we get together. It was just a matter of timing. I sent him the script for this film, he looked it over and got back to me with a handful of potential locations like the the Don CeSar and it all fit.

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You’re known for collaborating with fellow St. Petersburg natives. Is that the case with this film?

Yes. Alexander Whittenberg is a production designer now based in Orlando, Dylan Glatthorn is a composer based in New York City and Alex Jennings is an actress in Los Angeles and my fiancee, who is on The Goldbergs. She is doing well. She plays Carla on The Goldbergs. She’s the mean, crazy one with the big hair.

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When will the Speed of Time feature film be made?

In the next year or so. We also have two other features that are set up and ready to go and neither have shooting locations locked down yet.

What are the chances the other two are made in the Tampa Bay area?

High. They don’t require the same kind of locations as Speed of Time. For this sci-fi action thing we are looking for weird, interesting, futuristic, industrial, stranger-looking locations. For the others, we just need present-day normal stuff — a school, a theater, homes.

So, you are interested in making several films here?

Potentially. It seems like there is a good thing going on here and we are hoping to get a taste of it.

How do your parents feel about you being back home for this film and potentially more?

My mom loves it. She loves being on set. She volunteers as a (production assistant). She came up for a week to the Poconos when we shot Bear With Us and said it was the best week of her life, and the crew loved her.

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