Actors Christian and Justin Long Bring Web-Series to Ringling College, Talk Mentorship, Kevin Smith and The Freedom of the Web

Thanks to the partnership between Ringling College of Art and Design and Semkhor Productions, Hollywood actors and brothers Christian and Justin Long are bringing their latest project to Ringling’s campus, where they will work in tandem with a team of select students to bring the show from page to screen. A now-untitled web-series that Justin describes as either “a comedy masquerading as a travel show, or a travel show masquerading as a comedy,” the initial goal is eight episodes, with a tentative goal of a summer release. David Shapiro, co-founder of Semkhor, will also be joining the endeavor in an executive producing role, as will iconic writer/director Kevin Smith, though in an unspecified capacity. Continue reading Actors Christian and Justin Long Bring Web-Series to Ringling College, Talk Mentorship, Kevin Smith and The Freedom of the Web

“Bullet of Madness” Wins Big at Florida Horror Film Festival

Bullet of Madness, the short film from Bradenton writer/director JB Whirtley swept the competition at last night’s Florida Horror Film Festival, winning the award for each of its four nominations in the short film category, including Best Short Film and Best Director for Whirtley. Actor and founder of ManaSota Films Mark Troy brought home the Best Actor award for his lead role in Bullet as the murderous surgeon, Dr. Mishlove, and local special effects maven Mark Angenola pulled down a Best Special F/X Award.

“It really was a shock considering that I don’t particularly consider Bullet of Madness a horror film. But winning all four categories we were nominated for definitely puts the cherry on the bloody sundae,” said Whirtley. “But the highlight of the evening for me was when an audience member told me that watching the movie was as if Pee-Wee Herman took hallucinogenics and directed The Wolf of Wall Street. That was the best part of the evening.”

View clips from Bullet of Madness, the weekend’s competition and other entrants into the Florida Horror Film Festival here:

ManaSota Films Marches On, Searching For Venue

Allaying concerns raised by the sudden cancellation of October’s monthly ManaSota Films Meet-Up at Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, founder Mark Troy reported the organization is in fine shape, but will be looking for a new home. Continue reading ManaSota Films Marches On, Searching For Venue

“Bullet of Madness” To Premiere, Nets Nominations at Florida Horror Film Festival

Bullet of Madness, the short film from Bradenton writer/director JB Whirtley, premieres this weekend at the Florida Horror Film Festival in Tampa, where the short has landed three nominations, including a nod for Best Short Film and one for Best Director of a short film. Actor and founder of ManaSota Films Mark Troy, who stars in Bullet as the unhinged plastic surgeon protagonist, Dr. Mishlove, also landed a nomination for Best Actor in a short film.

The 2015 Florida Horror Film Festival runs this Sunday, October 18, at 4D Studios in Tampa, from 10am-10pm. Tickets are $10. Winners to be announced that evening.

Luisa Leschin to discuss modern TV distribution at Sarasota event

Luisa Leschin

As episodic television explodes on the small screen across a growing variety of distribution channels, the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office is bringing in writers who have created content to air on network, cable and internet outlets. Luisa Leschin and Max CiVon, the husband-and-wife team behind Tortuga Productions in Los Angeles, will speak Tuesday at a film mixer hosted by the film commission at the Ringling College Auditorium.

Jeanne Corcoran, Film and Entertainment Office director, said Leschin can offer solid advise to local creatives because she has continued to be a successful writer even amid a paradigm shift in the way episodes are consumed by the public. “She has been involved in traditional outlets,” Corcoran said, “but is also now actively earning a living from these new channels of distribution. Leschin, one of the top Latina writers in Hollywood over the past couple decades, has written for network shows including George Lopez and Everybody Hates Chris, as well as for cable shows such as Disney Channel’s Austin and Ally and TBS’ Are We There Yet? Right now, she works as a consulting producer for El Rey Network on the Netflix series From Dusk Til Dawn and through Tortuga Productions is writing the upcoming Amazon Prime series Just Add Magic. Continue reading Luisa Leschin to discuss modern TV distribution at Sarasota event

Southern Gothic and the Florida Man

By Vincent Dale

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines Southern Gothic as “a style of writing practiced by many writers of the American South whose stories set in that region are characterized by grotesque, macabre, or fantastic incidents.” Cultural critics have since furnished additional shades of detail, including: “deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters, the religious and supernatural, perversion, drug addiction, sacrilege, decayed or derelict settings and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime or violence.” While Florida as a whole isn’t widely considered a part of the South, the state has inherited enough aspects of Southern Culture to allow for the adaptation of the Southern Gothic model. The “grotesque, macabre or fantastic” is almost shorthand for describing the eccentric collection of characters one encounters in Sean Dunne’s groundbreaking, 50­minute 
documentary, Florida Man.

Continue reading Southern Gothic and the Florida Man

JB Whirtley and the Long Road to ‘Madness’

“I have been a prisoner for about three years,” said filmmaker JB Whirtley, the writer-director speaking from the sound booth where he’s made his home for the past couple weeks, dragging an inflatable mattress into the space and setting up camp as he puts the finishing touches on his long-awaited short film Bullet of Madness, to be screened for the first time August 19 at the ManaSota Films monthly meet-up in Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, where local filmmakers get a spot on the big screen to show their work. Now the nerves set in. “It was hard to make the movie, but it’s probably going to be even harder to watch it,” said Whirtley, tired but in good cheer, “especially with a bunch of strangers.”

A dark comedy starring an unhinged plastic surgeon (played by ManaSota Films founder Mark Troy) tearing through the local criminal element in a mad quest for revenge, Bullet of Madness began in 2013 with an idea, an elaborate trailer and a trip to Canada to meet with Magnet Releasing, a studio haven for the offbeat and bizarre, especially within the world of genre filmmaking. Impressed, Magnet sent Whirtley home to make his short film and meet again after with possible talk of turning Bullet into a feature-length film. Now, three years later, Whirtley’s film clocks in at a cool twenty minutes of slick and demented action, but not without a few bumps in the road, such as switching crews and uprooting the production from Orlando to Bradenton.

“Me and the crew just did not jive,” said Whirtley, regarding the Orlando crew with a stylistic update of the classic ‘creative differences.’ “They were trying to make a different film than I was.” Shifting his focus to Bradenton, Whirtley enlisted the help of local filmmakers such as Trishul Thejasvi, founder of Orensis Films, producer and cinematographer for Bullet, and now a regular collaborator, and John O’Keefe, an actor who stepped into a co-producer role to keep the film moving as crews were assembled and sets rebuilt. On top of that, Whirtley met the demands of his regular job as assistant director for commercial work. “Any time I had a gig, I had to stop to make money,” said Whirtley. “And then when I had money, I had to reopen the production again and start shooting.” Putting the film together in bits and pieces, time ran long. “We shot whatever we could over the course of two years,” said Whirtley.

Film in hand, Whirtley remains in contact with Magnet, where he says relations are “cordial, but I still have other options on the table.” That being said, he doesn’t want to overstate his position. Magnet knows he has something, he says, but they haven’t seen the finished product and anything could happen. “It’s business,” he said. “Nothing’s carved in stone until there’s a contract.”

But even if Magnet passes and Hollywood doesn’t come calling just yet, Whirtley hopes to see the film have an impact on the local scene, inspiring other artists to try more than the usual dramas, more often than not touching on drug addiction and other social ills, which he typically finds unsatisfying and overreaching in their attempts at depth. “Especially for first-time filmmakers,” he said. “I want to push genre filmmaking.” Genre films, the biggest being horror but including science fiction and fantasy, are usually relegated to schlock, but Whirtley sees opportunity in a cinematic tradition more focused on audience enjoyment and engagement than any pretense of high art, an opportunity to invigorate the local film community. “Everyone has their own way of making film and this is just my opinion,” said Whirtley, “but there needs to be more genre films treated with more respect. Filmmakers should try to please themselves and please audiences at the same time.”

Bullet of Madness screens tonight at Lakewood Ranch Cinemas at the ManaSota Films meet-up, which begins at 8:15pm. Also screening will be At a Glance, a short film from Rory Smith about coffee shop conflict; Stephanie Davis and Cindy Krapfel’s Speed Dating; Heading Nowhere, a lengthier and seemingly absurdist short film from Keenan O’Reilly and more. Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to give back to the theater that hosts the community free of charge for the event by treating themselves at the concession stand.

Your peek behind the scenes of Sarasota, Florida's growing film industry


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