Screening in Sunshine City: 5 reasons to hit up the Sunscreen Film Festival

It's St. Pete's turn in the film-fest spotlight.

click to enlarge All Square is one of Sunscreen's most anticipated films. - Publicity Image
Publicity Image
All Square is one of Sunscreen's most anticipated films.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Tampa Bay has become home to one of the busiest film-festival scenes in the country. Oh sure, we don’t have a Cannes or a Sundance or a South By Southwest — but neither does any town that isn’t Cannes or Park City or Austin. What we do have is an inspiring variety of fests of all sizes, from the upstart Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival to the established Gasparilla Film Festival, which just pulled off its liveliest installment yet.

Holding its own in the midst of all this is the Sunscreen Film Festival, now in its 13th year. (Yep, Sunscreen actually predates GIFF.) Put on by the nonprofit St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Society, Sunscreen is a short film-heavy success story that nonetheless boasts its fair share of full-length features and star power, thanks in some part to the support it enjoys from the Church of Scientology. From its early days at [email protected], the festival has grown into quite the to-do, screening more than 100 films of all kinds at the ‘Burg’s AMC Sundial, with additional programming, events and parties all around downtown.

So do you need another film festival in your life? We suspect you do. Here are five reasons to check out Sunscreen 2018:

1. Local Films

And lots of ‘em. Sunscreen features blocks of homegrown short films every day of the festival, with a double dose of locals on Friday. The styles run the gamut from horror and thrillers to a “neo-noir rom-com” and more. Lots of film festivals throw some token hometown talent into the mix for appearances’ sake, but Sunscreen really seems to be walking the walk when it comes to giving local filmmakers of all stripes a chance to show their stuff.

2. Workshops

Who really goes to film festivals for the workshops? Well, it probably depends on the variety and quality of the workshops themselves, but we’re guessing, erm, people with an interest in the film industry beyond watching films (and hoping to see celebrities up close, natch). Sunscreen really shines here, offering a wealth of panels and instructional programming at St. Pete’s Hyatt Place that go above and beyond the “watch a famous person talk” format. Into screenwriting? Acting? Producing? Directing? The festival has workshops on all of those facets, as well as more obscure yet no less important subjects like financing, distribution and documentary filmmaking.

3. Women in Film Brunch

This popular event — which will very likely sell out, so get your tickets now if you’re interested — brings together women in all aspects of the industry to nosh, network and talk about “cultivating the best future for the new generation of women in film.” Don’t think it’s too lightweight a deal, either — underrepresentation, ageism and #MeToo are all among the topics up for discussion this year.

4. All Square

One of the most highly anticipated major motion pictures of the Sunscreen 2018 slate, All Square focuses on a broke-down bookie who creates more than his share of drama when he begins betting on little league baseball games played by an ex-girlfriend’s son. The film stars Michael Kelly, who seems to be everybody’s favorite actor from House of Cards, along with Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), Pamela Adlon (Louie, Californication) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa Freakin’ Simpson), and won an Audience Award at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. What’s more, members of the cast and crew are scheduled to be there.

5. St. Pete Unfiltered

Yep, it’s the documentary that everyone’s been talking about for months — even more so since it screened at Gasparilla International Film Festival in March, and won the Audience Award for Best Florida Production. St. Pete Unfiltered closes out Sunscreen this year with its unflinching look at the ‘Burg’s own sewage-dumping controversy, and raises questions about how much untreated water was really dumped into Tampa Bay, who was responsible, and whether or not they’ve been held accountable. Producer Brandon Shuler, co-producers Justine Ortiz and Melissa Isacs and co-directors Caroline Smith and Evan Smith will be in attendance for a panel discussion, as well. Check out the trailer below: