There was once hope that the Tampa Bay area would become Hollywood South, but Atlanta grabbed that mantle by building the production studios used to film the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Two local producers — one of whom made the highest grossing independent movie of all time — say that doesn’t mean this area can’t still become the hub for movies about superheroes.
But rather than telling comic book stories, they say Tampa Bay needs to focus on the real-life heroes.
“We are home to so many who served or still serve this country’s military,” Kristian Krempel said. “They are our national superheroes. They have stories that people need to know.”
He has produced and edited two documentaries so far, doing so with filmmaking partner Dan Myrick, best known for directing “The Blair Witch Project.”
And while neither focuses on locals, Krempel and Myrick expect those projects will come.
“There are countless tales here,” Krempel said. “I think once they see what we are doing, they will be more comfortable coming forward with them.”
Their first documentary, titled “Drop Zone Everest” and now streaming on FITE TV, follows a team of former special operators who skydive into Mount Everest to honor the 31 Americans who lost their lives in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011. Their helicopter was shot down by the Taliban. It was the deadliest U.S. incident during the war there.
The film details the stories of the skydivers and those who died in action 12 years ago. The documentary’s postproduction was completed locally.
The next project, a docuseries titled “Triple 7,″ is still being filmed. It follows a team of former U.S. and Canadian service members who skydived onto all seven continents in seven days in mid-January. Each member of the expedition jumped in honor of someone who died in service to the nation.
They skydived in Antarctica, and then over the Andes, Miami, Barcelona, the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Abu Dhabi and finally Perth, Australia. Their time of skydiving in seven continents in six days, six hours, and six minutes was a new world record.
On the eighth day, the team made an honorary jump in Zephyrhills to memorialize the 13 American service members who died during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Krempel said that they are now editing the jump footage and filming interviews — many in the area — detailing the lives of those to whom the documentary pays tribute.
The film will also promote the team’s effort to raise $7 million for the Folds of Honor nonprofit, which provides scholarships to the children and spouses of those who lost their lives or were disabled in service.
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“I’ve always been a big supporter of the men and women in uniform,” said Myrick, who splits time between Tampa and Bainbridge Island, Washington. “I did a 2,700-mile backcountry bike-packing tour last year to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. This documentary was a natural extension since it was raising money for Folds of Honor. Both experiences have been amazing, and I hope to have more like them.”
The two productions were planned by Legacy Expeditions, which, according to its website, seeks to “uphold the legacy of our fallen by planning and executing adrenaline-fueled, extreme expeditions” while also raising “funds and awareness for select veteran responder charities.”
Krempel hopes to do more with Legacy Expeditions while also mining stories from this area.
“Documentaries, series, feature films, you name it,” he said. “Our area is ground zero for American heroes.”
Hillsborough County is home to 93,400 veterans, more than anywhere else in the state, county spokesperson José Patiño said. Pinellas has nearly 76,000 veterans, according to the latest census.
And the area is home to MacDill Air Force Base and United States Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater that, in total, provide 175,108 local jobs, according to Enterprise Florida.
“When you look at our region, there is a huge untapped resource in telling the stories of the armed service members who are a huge part of our DNA,” said Tyler Martinolich, head of Hillsborough’s film commission, Film Tampa Bay. The agency provided “Triple 7″ with a $60,000 production incentive for shooting here. “They have stories that can inspire.”