Tampa Bay's largest festival dedicated to film is bringing something big for reality TV fans when it returns to Tampa March 19 to 24. Producer Randall Emmett will moderate an industry panel featuring cast members from Bravo network's Vanderpump Rules, Lala Kent, Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright at the Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival.
The panel, titled Reality Television — The Highs, the Lows and the (Vanderpump) Rules of Survival, will take place at Tampa Improv on March 21 from 4 to 6 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. meet and greet with the panelists. The panel is free and open to the public, first come, first served, while space is available, with priority given to festival pass holders. The meet and greet is free for pass holders, and $20 for everyone else.
Emmett, who is engaged to Kent, and has produced dozens of films such as Lone Survivor, End of Watch and the upcoming Boss Level starring Mel Gibson, will also be awarded the festival's career achievement award.
Also in attendance at the 13th annual festival will be actor William Fichtner, whose directorial debut Cold Brook will have its Florida premiere March 23 at 8 p.m. at AMC Classic Centro Ybor 10, followed by a meet and greet with Fichtner, actor Kim Coates and writer Cain DeVore.
Fichtner, a prolific character actor, has appeared in more than 80 films, including Crash, Armageddon, Black Hawk Down and The Perfect Storm, as well as the network series Prison Break. Coates may be best known for his role as Tig in the series Sons of Anarchy, and has appeared in more than two dozen films including The Last Boy Scout, Goon and Battlefield Earth.
Actress Samantha Mathis (The Strain, Billions, American Psycho) who will be joined by director Miranda Bailey for the Florida premiere of dramatic comedy You Can Choose Your Family starring Jim Gaffigan on March 22 at 6 p.m. at AMC Centro Ybor. Greg Sestero, star of "greatest bad movie ever made" The Room, will return to the festival for a March 22 screening of Best F(r)iends 2, in which he stars alongside Room director Tommy Wiseau at 10:30 p.m. at AMC Centro Ybor, followed by a meet and greet with co-star Rick Edwards.
The festival will feature dozens of film screenings, including feature length movies, documentaries and shorts, plus industry panels on topics such as women in film and television, the pros and cons of film school and financing. Events are spread across 15 venues, including Tampa Theatre, AMC Centro Ybor, AMC Palm Harbor, Armature Works, Tampa Improv and AMC Sundial in St. Petersburg.
This year's opening night film at Tampa Theatre will be The Hummingbird Project starring Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard and Salma Hayek, about high-frequency traders attempting to build a fiber-optic cable between Kansas City and New Jersey to gain a competitive advantage.
The festival closes with the dramatic comedy Family at AMC Centro Ybor starring Taylor Schilling as a self absorbed workaholic who attempts to babysit her 12-year-old niece until the girl runs away to become a Juggalo.
Other screenings of note include two documentaries filmed locally. Save Our Cottages is about three women artists who painted, and worked to preserve, the once ubiquitous cottages in Indian Rocks Beach. We Are Mermaids is about Weeki Wachee Springs, one of the last remaining Florida roadside attractions, and its famous choreographed mermaid show.
A full schedule of events can be found at gasparillafilmfestival.com. Unlimited and weekend screening passes are on sale there for $75 to $150, as well as tickets to the opening and closing receptions, priced at $65 and $75 respectively. Tickets to individual screenings are $12 or $15.
Contact Christopher Spata at [email protected] or @SpataTimes.