CLEARWATER — After a decade of on-again, off-again production announcements and new casts, the movie about former University of South Florida football player Nick Schuyler — who survived 43 hours in the Gulf of Mexico after a boat capsized and three of his friends died — is finally being made.
“Not Without Hope,” based on the book about the true story, is currently being filmed in Malta and stars Zachary Levi of “Shazam!” fame as Schuyler and the “Transformers” series’ Josh Duhamel as the U.S. Coast Guard captain who leads the rescue mission.
It was initially announced as a movie in 2013 and was to star Dwayne Johnson as Schuyler. The movie stalled for years, and the role was recast as Miles Teller in 2020 but stalled again.
In February 2009, former USF football players and friends Schuyler and William Bleakley, along with Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper and free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith, left for a fishing trip from the Seminole Boat Ramp near Clearwater Pass.
Their 21-foot vessel flipped in choppy waters 75 miles from shore when the men tried to free a stuck anchor by gunning the motor, according to Schuyler’s book. One by one, he wrote, his companions disappeared under the waves.
Schuyler, who today owns Sky Athletix gym in Lutz, was rescued by the Coast Guard.
Schuyler and his wife, Paula, “made the trip to Malta to meet the cast and share some background with the actors portraying them, which our cast found to be very helpful,” producer Rick French said.
Though it is being shot in Malta, “the story is set entirely where the tragedy took place,” French said. “We couldn’t shoot in Florida because it doesn’t have the type of water tank we needed to shoot the film safely for our actors. In addition, the lack of state film tax credits was a deterrent.”
Florida used to have a state film incentive that offered up to 30% back on state expenditures with a cap of $8 million. The Legislature allowed the program to sunset in 2016 and has shown little interest in creating a new one.
Pinellas County has its own incentive program but its annual pot of just under $2 million is more suited for independent and made-for-television movies than blockbusters.
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The production might film exteriors in Tampa Bay to establish the Clearwater location, but such shots do not include the actors, and even that is a maybe.
“It depends if we can get the exact looks we need” in Malta, French said.
This is the second movie in the last year to re-create Pinellas elsewhere. In October, “Suncoast,” starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Linney, was shot in Georgia.