What the saints and sinners were doing over the weekend; the Beach Trolley might continue to roll; the Warped Tour still has some fringe cred; and a cowardly racist smears a conservative activist.
Indie Film Feast
On Aug. 3, local independent moviemaking outfit Renegade Films held its first Saints and Sinners Film Festival at St. Petersburg's State Theatre.
The Saturday event was a resounding success. A line formed around the block before the 4 p.m. starting time, and the soiree remained busy through eight hours of independently produced films, shorts and trailers. Insiders, actors, aficionados and hangers-on (yes, its true; if you're in the movie business on any level, you can get yourself some hangers-on) mingled in the lobby, smoked upstairs and filled the theatre proper. Renegade Vice President and host/MC Porl Denicolo looked resplendent in a black suit, fangs and creepy-ass contact lenses. As the cumulative alcohol intake rose, the lobby chatter often reached disruptive levels. But overall, the correct decorum for an indie festival full of psyched scenesters and torrents of fake onscreen blood was observed.
Quality of the screened works varied wildly, but all were lauded for their efforts. Highlights included the hilarious Rosemary's Baby-influenced short Child of the Apocalypse; the obtuse but endearing Wool; the blackly comic, zombie-infested After Life; the obvious standout comedy Looking In The Fishbowl; the Kevin Smithian satire Clarks; and a trailer for Renegade's own, horrific The Pledge, featuring 97X morning crew Fisher and Napoleon as over-amped cops.
The show culminated in several technical prizes, and overall-excellence awards in the categories of Saints (the aforementioned Fishbowl) and Sinners (Bleed).
Nearly everyone involved was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, and plans are in the works to boost the profile of the Bay area filmmaking scene by making the festival a quarterly event.
Two feisty beach communities may force the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) to bend the rules.
St. Pete Beach City Manager Mike Bonfield expects to receive a letter from Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris, chair of the PSTA board of directors, detailing the cost of providing bus service to the city. If St. Pete Beach agrees to cover 100 percent of the costs, Bonfield believes, PSTA will allow the city to remain part of the transit system.
"They have backed off the demand that we join PSTA," said Bonfield, who believes Pinellas beach communities put more money into PSTA than they receive.
As reported in Weekly Planet (See "Get Off the Bus," at www.weeklyplanet.com/ 2002-06-05/news_feature.html), St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island, which currently receive PSTA bus service through a federal grant subsidy, wrote letters to the agency's board of directors, informing them that the cities refuse to become full PSTA members when the grant money runs out at the end of 2003.
If St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island join PSTA, a special taxing district created by the Florida Legislature, their property taxes would increase substantially. St. Pete Beach would pay $900,000 annually and Treasure Island $600,000 — together filling one-tenth of PSTA's trough.
Retaining St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island is in PSTA's interest. Their absence would disrupt one of the most visible and popular routes, the Beach Trolley.
While PSTA Director Roger Sweeney confirmed Harris' intent to provide figures to Bonfield and Treasure Island City Manager Chuck Coward, he noted that any proposal requires approval by the board of directors.
"But I think there's room for open and frank discussion," Sweeney said. "And who knows where it will lead?"
Jim Lawrence, an Indian Shores City Council member who also represents the beach communities on the PSTA board of directors, isn't sure he'd be willing to allow St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island to receive services without joining the mass-transit system.
"I still feel they should be members of the authority, just like every other town on the beach," he said. "All those other citizens are supporting the system with their tax dollars."
The current debate comes at a precarious time for PSTA. Rumblings from County Administrator Steve Spratt's office suggest he is interested in folding PSTA into a countywide transit authority also responsible for the proposed light-rail system.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization is conducting a feasibility study. Creating a county transit authority would require a referendum, and acquiring PSTA would require approval from Tallahassee.
Warped In the Sun
The erosion of American arts and culture is a popular subject among barstool sociologists and philosophical hipsters everywhere — the homogenization of iconoclastic creative ideas, the descent from art form into advertisement. And the Vans Warped Tour, by nurturing the ad-man's ties between punk rock's once-underground sound and such esoterica as extreme sports, energy drinks and wireless communications, has become a favorite example, a notable symptom of the disease.