Few productions have generated as much enthusiasm among Sarasota’s filmmaking community as Paradise, FL, a movie shot largely in Cortez with a team consisting primarily of locals. A buzzworthy operation that showcases both the location and the professional assets has many hoping the film will be the project that raises Sarasota’s cinema profile on a national scale, and now the film has a spot in the Sarasota Film Festival.
At a press unveiling of the festival program for 2015, the announcement of Paradise as an official selection, while surprising no one, drew applause from gathered sponsors and filmmakers. “That makes you feel good,” says writer-producer Tony Stopperan, with a wry grin across his face.
The world premiere of Paradise will screen Saturday, April 11, at 4pm during a coveted Sarasota Opera House screening, then show again on Monday, April 13, during a 7:45pm screening at the Hollywood 20.
Of course, local cinephiles may note cuts of this film have been projected on local screens before. But no audience, according to Stopperan, has seen the cut that will play at the festival. The filmmaker has been in contact with distributors already-one is interested in picking it up but Stopperan isn’t at liberty to drop names-and notes on the submitted edit have guided serious revisions to the final edit. The world premiere, Stopperan says, will showcase the completed film for the first time.
The Sarasota Festival has always been on the mind of the filmmaking team. Many, including Stopperan, were part of last year’s festival selection, The Lucky 6. “The festival has been a friend to me personally,” Stopperan says. “Mark [Famiglio, SFF president] and the SFF staff have been supportive of me as an artist.”
Showing the final film for a broad community audience in the place where the film was made also means a great deal to Stopperan. “To be in Sarasota, a community that supported this financially, through production and post-production, and now to have a homecoming, it’s a honor. To have this platform is incredible.”
But does it bring certain pressures? Stopperan dismisses the notion. “The hardest thing about a film in our budget is getting it done,” Stopperan says. “The burden is lifted. “As for any artist telling a story, it’s now up to people’s personal tastes and sentiments what they think. I’m happy with the art I have made.”