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The Tampa Film Review unauthorized review by film festival expert C. A. Passinault. A Tampa Bay Film exclusive!





The unauthorized review of the Tampa Film Review monthly film festival By C. A. Passinault



Tampa Film Review Introduction

For the past four years, there has been a monthly film festival in Ybor City, a film festival which has featured many short indie films, and which has served as a gathering for people interested in Tampa independent film. This film festival, known as The Tampa Film Review, or simply TFR for short, started as a free, grassroots-sort of film festival, and it has remained largely the same. Little has changed for The Tampa Film Review, except for a change in venue within a two block area of Ybor City, although the audience has grown a lot since the venue change.
My very first Tampa Film Review was in October of 2005, just over two years ago, when it was then known as the Coffeehouse Film Review, or CFR. I had been aware of the monthly film festival series since it began, but it took me a while to get around to going, as I always seemed to have something going on, so it took me over a year to finally attend. The film festival was then held on Thursday nights, and I set out on a pleasantly warm October evening to finally check out what I had been reading about for so long. I was hoping to see some creative indie films and meet talented filmmakers.
As a place, Ybor City has a lot of history going for it. Its architecture is superb, and it is a throwback to Tampa Bay of one hundred years ago, when cigars and railroads were the booming businesses of the day. Despite its long history, It also seems to attract some of the oddest people in the Tampa Bay area. I seldom go there, and when I do it is something modeling photography related. As a professional photographer, I have done a lot of modeling portfolio photography shoots in Ybor during weekend days, and I even recall doing one with another photographer and six models at night on 7th avenue as far back as 1999. Although Ybor does have a high crime rate, I've never had a problem walking around with models and expensive cameras (at least a few years ago when I last used it as a location).
Arriving in Ybor for my first Tampa Film Review, I was annoyed to learn that parking was not free. I parked in the parking garage, and quickly made my way down to the street level and onto the busy 7th avenue.
It took me a while to find the location, which was a small coffeehouse café. The neon signs of the tattoo parlors and loud music blaring from the storefronts proved to be most distracting, and after a time of wandering and asking around, I finally found where I was going. The coffeehouse, Walter Romero’s Studio 1515 Coffeehouse, was a small place which proved to be very difficult to find.
Upon locating the storefront, some people exited, complaining about an inconvenience. I asked them if this was the Coffeehouse Film Review, and an attractive, young woman told me that it was, and that they were having all kinds of technical problems inside. She told me that this was nothing new, and that they simply took the bad with the good because this was the only monthly film venue in the Tampa Bay area. I exhaled and pushed forward, not at all optimistic about what I would find on the other side of the door. The unhappy couple walked off, telling me that they wished me luck and that they were sick and tired of all of the problems that the event had. They were going home for that night.
I entered the café, and was pleased with what I saw. Brick walls contained genuine charm and style. I later found out that this would be the last Coffeehouse Film Review, as the place was half-gutted and in the process of going out of business, but I must say that, in retrospective and looking back, that this venue was the high point in The Tampa Film Review’s cyclic history. Although the smell of coffee makes me ill, I absolutely loved this place, and was sad that it was closing. I was also sad that, due to the pending closure, that it was difficult to get any food service in the café, and most of what they had available were the aforementioned coffee and some pastries, which held little appeal for me.
I looked further in the back of the store, and witnessed event organizers, brothers Paul Guzzo and Pete Guzzo, working on some audio problems. I introduced myself and offered to help, but was told that they had things under control. With that, I took a seat and waited. I waited some more. Hungry, I left for another restaurant to get a bite to eat, and returned a while later.
Upon my return, the Guzzo brothers had relocated the screen to the front of the café, and were using some band equipment for the sound. They had set up some chairs for the new configuration, and were just starting their late debut. Several other people had shown up, among them Crazedfanboy’s Nolan Canova and Icon Film Studios legendary Chris Woods. Although I knew a good amount about everyone there from research and from visiting their web sites, no one knew anything about me, or what I looked like if they did, so I decided to formerly introduce myself.
Nolan knew who I was only because our mutual friend Steve Beasley (who I had trained at Bank Of America) had told him about me years before, and also because I had contacted Nolan a few days before. He had been depressed about the cancellation of his Nolancon event, and I broke my self-imposed communications blackout to let him know that it wasn’t as bad as he thought it was.
Why did I study up on the Tampa indie film scene and why didn’t I introduce myself sooner? I wasn’t ready. I had other things going on.
After making my introductions, freaking out Chris Woods, I sat down with Nolan, Chris Woods, and some other person who I don’t recall, since it has been over two years. The first film I remember seeing was Life Is A Circus, from Paul Guzzo and Pete Guzzo, which I remember was competently put together, but one which I absolutely hated as a film.
Two months, and one Halloween Horror Picture Show indie film festival later, the Coffeehouse Film Review relocated at the International Bazaar, a block away in Ybor, and was renamed The Tampa Film Review. With that, my review of The Tampa Film Review begins.

The Review Of The Tampa Film Review for 2006-2007

I’ve been attending the Tampa Film Review for about two years. During that time, I also reviewed some of the films on several different occasions.
Since this TFR Tampa film festival review is very important to the upcoming indie film community, and to indie film professionals who plan on organizing and becoming involved with a professional Tampa indie film community, I will use my event scorecard as a guideline, which will score the Tampa Film Review at a glance at the end of this review. I also have a lot to cover here, and if you are a professional and really do care about professional indie film in Tampa Bay, you really need to read this and consider every point which is addressed.
I am hoping the Paul Guzzo and Pete Guzzo read this, take any criticism constructively, and use this review as a blueprint for improvement.

The Tampa Film Review Concept

As a concept, The Tampa Film Review isn't bad. Film festival organizer Paul Guzzo has always stated that the event is kind of like a group of friends getting together at a friend's apartment and watching movies. Conceptually, this is a admirable concept and is actually a good idea. It does have its drawbacks, however.
The "friends hanging in the home of their friend" ambience lends itself to poor organization and the sloppy execution of the film festivals. The flow is not very professional, and undermines the credibility of the film festival as a legitimate way to promote indie films. Paul Guzzo usually steps up in front of The Tampa Film Review audience and loads a DVD player next to a tired video projector, introducing each film. If the filmmaker is in the audience, Guzzo will allow them to address the audience, but this become tedious since the filmmaker will stand up wherever they happen to be seated and speak to everyone. This makes introductions, and speaking, very hard to follow. The audience members have to crane their necks to follow what is going on throughout the room, and the lack of microphones makes it hard to hear much of anything.
On the subject of sound, this has been a major issue during the entire four year run of The Tampa Film Review. I am going to speculate that many of the technical issues that the film festival has is due to weak cash flow, but regardless of the reason the bad sound seems to constantly haunt each and every event. Sometime, during the viewing of an indie film, the sound will completely cut out. While there are also issues with the old video projector, which seems to project images poorly, and a rickety DVD player, which refuses to play some DVD's, the sound, by far, is an issue which tends to annoy the audience the most at The Tampa Film Review.
Ironically, it didn't have to be that way. I own a Tampa event planning company with professional sound equipment, and am a highly experienced, professional Tampa DJ (a reason why the poor sound particularly annoys me, I suppose. I would never allow such flawed sound at one of my events, and it would really bother me; I would immediately fix the sound). When The Tampa Film Review moved to the International Bazaar in early 2006, the Guzzos made a public request for sound equipment, asking everyone if they knew anyone with sound equipment that they could use for The Tampa Film Review. When I offered the use of my sound equipment at no charge, Paul Guzzo told me that they no longer needed sound equipment, and that they had it covered. It seemed that the Guzzos decided that they didn't need the logistics of making a trip to Brandon to pick up my sound equipment every time they had to do a Tampa Film Review, and that they would settle for the "sound system" that the new venue had. This is the reason that each Tampa Film Review has been cursed with bad sound and other technical difficulties. My Eventi Events sound equipment could easily do a larger Tampa Film Review-type event with professional results.
Technical issues aside, the main professional flaw of The Tampa Film Review, and another things which tends to undermine the progress of the Tampa film festival series, is simply the lack of a professional tone. The loose organization and laid-back atmosphere does not support a professional experience. The Guzzo's have decided that they won't screen film submissions for quality, and the result is that the audience has to sit through many bad, and often unwatchable, films to see anything good. While there have been some good films shown at The Tampa Film Review (Gunn Highway and the Guzzos The End Is Blossoming some to mind), the majority of the films are largely amateurish efforts and make sitting through the Tampa Film Review film festivals an unpleasant exercise in patience. This said, The Tampa Film Review was never advertised as a film festival where submitted films were screened, and the participants mostly accept that, so I suppose that it works. Accepting the good with the bad films, it could be argues, it what gives The Tampa Film Review its charm. This film festival review, however, reviews The Tampa Film Review as a film festival, so the scoring will reflect it as a film festival, and not as a screening event. It is what it is.

The Tampa Film Review Venue

Location, location. Much can be said about the location of a venue. Where do I start here? Ah, let's start with Ybor City itself.
Ybor has a lot of drawbacks. You have to pay for parking. Sometimes, you have to pay too much. Once, I simply drove into the parking garage after 10 PM for a Tampa Film Review after-party and, after leaving five minutes later, was forced to part with ten dollars for my trouble. Parking fees are even worse on Saturdays, and safe parking is always difficult, at best, to find.
The International Bazaar in Ybor City, which is the venue for The Tampa Film Review, is a nice enough place. The people are nice, the store is huge, and they have a great selection of many great, and often hard-to-find, things. As an avid chess player, I especially like their chess sets, and I plan on buying my next chess set there. This said, however, it's not an ideal location for a film festival.
You see, when an audience watches films, they need to be able to concentrate on watching films. The store is usually quite busy, and on more than one occasion you will find that store shoppers will make lots of noise when people are trying to watch indie films.
By the way, who had the bright idea of putting musical items and other noisy merchandise in the back of the store where you have a film festival going on?
Oh, and the heat. Let's not forget about the heat. There is something terribly wrong with the air conditioning in the back of that store. If you plan on going to The Tampa Film Review, make sure that you put on disposable undergarments and lots of deodorant. Then again, being late winter, I would have to say that the next time that there Tampa has freezing weather, and The Tampa Film Review is going on, that The Tampa Film Review is the best place to go to warm up.
The best venue that The Tampa Film Review ever had was at the Coffeehouse, which is out of business. Although that too was in Ybor City, at least it fit the film festival better AND was much closer to the parking garage. You also didn't have rude shoppers making noise when you were trying to watch indie films.

Tampa Film Review Vendors

Since The Tampa Film Review is not run as a business, like film festivals should be, there are no vendors, paid sponsorships, or cash flow to run, or improve, the event (not that most improvements would cost that much). This is a big problem, and with The Tampa Film Review's outstanding track record of regular Tampa film festival events (something they have done every well at; in the few instances that the Guzzos could not attend, they did a good job at delegating and making sure that the show went on), they may have a good chance of landing some.

Tampa Film Review Attendance

The Tampa Film Review has had a history of small to average-size audiences. In January 2007 (The Quiet Place debut!) and again in January 2008, the Tampa Film Review celebrated their anniversary, each bringing in large crowds. Historically, however, the audience returned to normal after these special events, simply because the Guzzos have been unable to maintain the benchmarks that they set during these times. Again, lack of sponsors and professional planning are, in my opinion, the reason that they cannot maintain any high point.
The regular audience is more of a sign of a demand for indie film screenings and is not at all a result of the efforts of The Tampa Film Review. Proof of this is that most of the time the audience does not grow, and when it does spike, it quickly returns to what is was before; with the core-regular audience mostly consisting of the small group of regulars. Many visitors are put off by the lack of professional organization, the glut of poor films, and the technical problems. Sadly, they never return.

The Final Verdict

Until The Tampa Film Review makes serious improvements and builds a solid support infrastructure, I cannot recommend it as a serious film festival for the promotion of indie films, but it is a fun diversion. I feel that The Tampa Film Review has achieved success due to the fact that it is presently the only game in town AND because there is a demonstrated demand for a monthly Tampa film festival (in fact, the TFR may actually sour this demand, and turn people off in regards to attending Tampa film festivals, and that's just sad). I hope that things will improve, but historically we know that this will probably never happen. It is quite possible that The Tampa Film Review, if it exists a year from now, will be the same, and that would be a shame.

The Tampa Film Review Film Festival Event Scorecard

Please note that a score of 5 is average.

Concept (1-10): 6
Good concept, but not as professional as it needs to be due to the casual theme. The concept is now, more than ever, in need of a serious overhaul, as the participants only seem to tolerate it because it is the only game in town. Seriously, the mish-mash films of various quality and the loose organization do tend to make the Tampa indie film scene look bad to anyone who is not actually a part of the scene.

Venue (1-10): 6
Mismatched venue. A busy retail store in a party city, with noisy, often intoxicated customers, is not at all appropriate for a film festival. Tampa Film Review participants can expect lots of rude distractions as the store activity clashes with the film festival. This was much better two years ago in a coffeehouse café!

Vendors (1-10): 1
There are no vendors, or sponsors, outside of the sponsoring retail venue. This is part of the problem, as vendors would give The Tampa Film Review the capital that it needs for major professional improvement. The lack of vendors is also a missed opportunity, and proof that the organizers do not see this as a business. With the lack of business-mindset, how far can this go, and how long can The Tampa Film Review last?

Organization (1-10): 3
The Tampa Film Review is plagued with poor organization and a casual, unprofessional execution which, perhaps, is an offshoot of the concept behind it. The production standards are amateur, the same technical problems occur with each event and solutions are not even attempted, and it is too difficult to meet and network with the few professionals among the fanboys. Again, a professional business mindset would do wonders.

Entertainment (1-10): 4
You get what you pay for, and in this case, it really is true. The Tampa Film Review may be free, but count the costs of wasted time, parking, and gas, and you may not be too happy. Sometimes The Tampa Film Review is entertaining for unintended reasons.
As a film festival, however, it falls way short. The organizers intend to show every indie film submitted to them regardless of the quality, and don’t bother screening them. Some Tampa Film Reviews don’t have a single good film to show. Others may, but prepare to endure the onslaught of bad films before you can see anything even approaching mediocre.

Attendance (1-10): 6
Usually moderate, the attendance is only as good as it is because this is the only monthly film festival event in Tampa, for now. While it does demonstrate that people are interested in film festivals and indie films, you can’t help but wonder if the attendance would be much higher if the film festival was professionally organized and executed, which it is not. The participants largely tolerate the shortcomings of The Tampa Film Review because it is presently the only game in town.

Features (1-10): 4
The only features would be indie films. The only purpose of the event is to sit and watch indie films of mixed quality. There are reviews of said films, which could be considered to be a feature, and the reviews can be seen on the Crazedfanboy web site every month. Some of the reviews are quite good, and add to the entertainment value.

Admission Value (1-10): 3
The Tampa Film Review is free, and be glad that it is. There is no direct admission cost. When you add gas and parking, however, expect to shell out around $10.00 for the privilege of attending.

Overall Event Score (1-10): 4
An overrated monthly film festival, successful in spite of itself because it is currently one of the few events of its kind. The Tampa Film Review seems to always be organized at the last minute, is held in a venue which is ill-suited for a film festival, always has serious technical issues, has no accommodations or support for serious professional networking, and is often hard to participate with.


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