Making Stills was such a special experience for our team of filmmakers. It allowed us to hone our craft with a unique and engaging story while featuring our beautiful hometown of Brooksville, Florida. When Florida’s Adventure Coast tourism got wind of what we were up to, they wanted to get involved. Thanks to their generous contribution, we were able to screen our award-winning short film at Beacon Cinemas in Brooksville, Florida. Guests came from The Space Coast, Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale area, Orlando, Tampa, Lutz, and our backyard of Brooksville to see Stills on the big screen. While there was a lot of talk about the film and its twist ending, one of the things that stuck with people was how we showcased the Adventure Coast in our story.
Locations from Florida’s Adventure Coast
Over the course of six months, we shot at several locations within a three-mile radius of our historic small town. We featured locations like Tom Varn Park, Mainstreet, The Jennings Building, Vinelife Church, and a home around the corner from Hernando High School. But why take the chance on doing something like this so far from any major film hubs? The answer: Brooksville is bustling with talented and creative people ready to be discovered, and we knew this would be a great opportunity for people to showcase their talents. Our cinematographer, gaffer, director, production designer, and more all call Brooksville home.
Tom Varn Park
We utilized Tom Varn Park as the setting for Katharine Temple’s Birthday Party. This required our production designer, Jenn Lipidarov, to set up a fictional birthday party filled with presents, cupcakes, balloons, and other decor. At the same time, our cinematographer, Lief Thomason, and gaffer, Tommy McTague, rigged lighting in the pavilion to keep things consistent during the six-hour shoot. Below you can see a still image from the film itself.
We worked with city officials to ensure that both pavilions were allocated to our team for our one-day shoot at Tom Varn. It was a gorgeous day out, and we filled the park with 40+ extras to give it some hustle and bustle. Volleyball players, an exercise group, picnickers, birthday party guests, and kids playing were all used to breathe life into our main character’s surroundings.
With only a month left in production, the crew was gearing up for a return to Tom Varn Park to capture the last sequence needed for the film. However, prior to the shoot, Kyle Marra (Director) and Lief Thomason (Director of Photography) realized that the scene they were about to shoot was not necessary from a story standpoint and that if it were a feature film, it would most likely get cut. With neither feeling excited about the scene, they went back to the drawing board and drafted a new sequence that introduced all of the police characters. The setting: a drug bust at a warehouse. Vinelife Church just so happened to have multiple warehouses on site that fit the look of the film and was gracious enough to allow us to shoot there.
For this scene to work, the team coordinated with Tom Downes, a Brooksville local who works with Tampa PD. He was our law enforcement consultant throughout the entire film. He selected which warehouse we should use, coordinated the action sequence, and gave the cast insight into how drug busts typically go down while also playing one of the officers in the film.
The Jennings Building
In the early stages of production, our team was initially planning to shoot the police department scenes in a fully operational police department. We sought permission from Tampa PD to accomplish this, but our request moved slower than we would have liked because Tampa was undergoing a change in leadership with their police chief. While we waited, the idea of keeping our entire production close to home grew more appealing to our team. To accomplish this, we had to find a space that could double as our fictional police station. Thanks to the generosity of Brooksville local Wayne Johnson, we were able to use the blank canvas of The Jennings Building for our scene.
The building was completely empty. It had been sitting vacant for quite some time. Before we turned the power on, we walked through the space with an electrician to make sure nothing would catch fire when power was restored. Once we got the all-clear, Jenn Lipidarov was tasked with filling each cubicle with office equipment and making it look like each one was personal to the occupant. We encouraged our actors to bring pictures from home to complete the aesthetic. The result was a department that looked and felt believable.
One of the most pivotal moments in the film revolves around a sequence we shot on Brooksville Main Street. It features one of our supporting characters as he experiences a decisive moment in his life. We were again able to use one of the side buildings in The Jennings Building for part of this shoot. Initially, this scene was to be shown in color, but as we edited, we decided that black and white would be fitting. The result: a gorgeous sequence that features one of Brooksville’s iconic streets.
This shoot required the least amount of setup and the least amount of crew. No lighting, no sound, just a flag to cut light and a camera. Lexi Allocco lent her talents as a make-up artist to give Micah a realistic-looking black eye for the scene. It was nice to have a lax day for our production’s halfway point. We also ended up with a few spectators.
To kick off the production of Stills, the production team elected to shoot the last half of the film first. It required the least amount of on-screen talent, and the location happened to be the residence of one of the crew members. This made it very easy to get in and test lighting setups. Our team chose President’s Day weekend 2022 to start filming. The holiday weekend allowed us to have three days on set. One for setup and two for filming. It was a chaotic couple of days, but the footage we captured set the bar high for the shoots to come.
One of the key elements needed for this scene involved the use of a police interceptor for our lead detective. Thanks to Facebook and a generous Brooksville local, we were blessed with a vehicle for the scene. We also had a few extras on set in the morning before settling in with the two leads.
Beacon Cinemas Premiere
After filming was over, our team partnered with Florida’s Adventure Coast, St. Luke Heart Institute, The Spotted Narwhal, Live Oak Theatre Company, and Monocle Design Solutions to bring Stills to the big screen at Brooksville’s Beacon Cinemas. It was a special evening for the cast, crew, sponsors, family, friends, and even a few strangers. All who arrived got to walk the red carpet before settling in for the screening.
Getting to showcase our award-winning short in our hometown was a dream come true for us. Between 240-250 guests came to experience this film on the big screen. Many of whom call Brooksville home. This entire project was backed by our community, and to share it with them was an honor. The mayor, county commissioners, members of the press, and members of the Hernando Fine Arts Council, Brooksville Main Street, and Florida’s Adventure Coast were all in attendance.
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