For years, writer and director Rob Williams has brought his films to the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. And he was always struck not just by how gay-friendly the area is, but by how friendly in general it is.
“Everybody made me feel like part of the family,” he said.
So it was a no-brainer for the California-based filmmaker, co-founder of Guest House Films, to use Tampa, rather than Los Angeles, as the backdrop for his seventh feature-length film, the gay murder mystery Out to Kill.
In fact, “we wanted to make Tampa another character in the movie,” said Rodney Johnson, the film’s executive producer and Williams’ real-life partner. “We had this idea of a gay murder mystery written specifically for Tampa Bay.”
This witty whodunit centers on a group of gay men living in an Ybor City loft complex. Private detective Jim Noble, who recently moved into the complex, is hired to investigate the murder of one of his neighbors.
“He finds, as in all mysteries, that not everyone is telling the truth,” Williams said.
He added, “This isn’t a movie about being gay. It’s a murder mystery that happens to have gay characters.”
St. Petersburg actor Jeffrey Klein, who took on a small role in the film, said fans can expect Williams’ typical humorous dialogue and entertaining storyline in Out to Kill.
“He has a way of writing wit and humor that I truly respect,” Klein said. “This story is that of a murder mystery, but adds in the everyday conversational humor that I think a lot in the community will relate to.”
When the couple screened The Men Next Door at TIGLFF last year, Williams made an off-the-cuff comment during a Q&A session about filming their next movie in Tampa.
“I was bombarded by people,” he said.
Locals offered him places to stay, contacts with area businesses and locations to film the movie.
“We had more locations than we can use in the film,” Williams said. “That never happens in L.A.”
“The hospitality has been mind-blowing,” Johnson added.
So Guest House Films brought their production to Tampa, filming in the area between Nov. 9 and 18. Locales used for Out to Kill included Box Factory Lofts and other parts of Ybor City, Davis Islands and areas of Bayshore Boulevard overlooking the water.
“The fact that [Rob] fell in love with the area and opted to utilize Ybor and Tampa as the backdrop for it was great,” Klein said.” Everyone locally seemed to really open up and help these guys achieve their vision of their seventh film.”
While Williams and Johnson brought a few actors with them, they heavily drew their cast and crew from the Tampa area.
“It was an absolute pleasure working with Guest House Films,” said Karleigh Chase, a St. Petersburg actress who portrayed real estate agent Ann Fitzsimmons. “They were so nice and it was easy to get along with everyone. Rob and Rod run a tight ship; it was great to work on such a professional set.”
Williams said he hopes to hold the international debut of Out to Kill in Tampa this year and also will submit it to next fall’s TIGLFF.
Williams and Johnson founded Guest House Films in 2005. They debuted their first feature film, Long-Term Relationship, on here! TV in August 2007. The production company is currently taking pre-orders for a new short-film collection, Green Briefs, featuring five gay films filled with family drama.
For more information on Guest House Films, go here.