Stills and Florida’s Adventure Coast

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.

Social media promo for Stills featuring five nominations in the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival.

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.

Actor Andrew Kerr prepping for a scene with Shaila Velazquez at TomVarn Park.
Director Kyle Marra working with the actors in preparation for the drug bust at Vinelife Church. – Photo Credit: Hernando Sun.
The production crew turned Jennings Building into a Police Department.
A historic home doubled as the residence of one of our main characters.

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.

Katharine Temple’s (Isabella Rossiter) birthday party at Tom Varn Park.
A scene from the film featuring our exercise group extras at Tom Varn Park.

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.

Cinematographer Lief Thomason and Boom Operator Julian Merril prepare for a take.
Extras Josh and Julie Hofstede get into character for a scene.
The second unit crew capturing b-roll for the opening scene.

Vinelife Church

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.

A still image from the final drug bust sequence in the film. Detective Monroe (Left), Officer Farley (Middle), and Sgt. Hall (Right) keep an eye on their perpetrators after a successful raid.

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.

Tom Downes (Yellow polo) instructs the actors on proper search warrant procedures. – Photo Credit: Hernando Sun
Rachel Espendez (Right), Lina Lenis (Center), Kaiden Rossiter (Back) rehearsing for the drug bust scene. – Photo Credit: Hernando Sun
Rachel Espendez (Front), Lina Lenis (Middle), Kaiden Rossiter (Back Middle) from 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.

A scene involving a bank robber being brought into the department for questioning.
Tony Palles (Sgt. Hall) getting to his mark to start a scene. – Photo Credit: Danielle Skinner

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.

Production design by Jenn Lipidarov. – Photo Credit: Danielle Skinner
Tony Palles rehearses a scene while Lief Thomason sets a light and Tommy McTague inspects the in-camera look. – Photo Credit: Danielle Skinner
Production design by Jenn Lipidarov. – Photo Credit: Danielle Skinner

Main Street

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.

One of the closeups from our Main Street shoot.
Lexi Allocco creating Micha Rossiter’s black eye.
Paul Saulo (Ansel Stills) and Lief Thomason (Director of Photography) working on a scene.
The crew of the Main Street shoot on standby.

Brooksville Residence

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.

Jesse Cuddeback’s Police Interceptor as used in the film.

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.

Lief Thomason (left) and Kyle Marra (right) discuss the next shot on the shot list.
The crew setting up for a dolly shot.
Lief Thomason (Left) & Justin Diehl (Right) framing up Patrece Bloomfield (Front).

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.

A stills image from the film.

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.

The cast of Stills at Brooksville’s Red Carpet Premiere.
Director Kyle Marra and his wife Katie Marra, a PA and Actress in the film.
Director of Photography Lief Thomason and his wife Audra, a Production Manager on the film.
Gaffer Tommy McTague and Shannon Zulinke.
Co-writer James McTague and his mother Cheryl McTague.
The audience for Brooksville’s Red Carpet Premiere of Stills.

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