UNAUTHORIZED REVIEW OF
THE TAMPA FILM REVIEW
review of the Tampa Film Review monthly film festival By C. A. Passinault
PUBLISHED JANUARY 23, 2008. REVISED OCTOBER 24, 2009
FILM FESTIVAL SCORES
Film Review Introduction
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
The Tampa Film
Review has had a history of small to average-size audiences. In January
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.
Film Review Film Festival Event Scorecard
note that a score of 5 is average.
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
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!
There are no vendors, or sponsors, outside of the
sponsoring retail venue. This is part of the problem, as vendors would
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?
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.
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
Film Review is entertaining for unintended
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
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
Tampa Film Review because it is presently
the only game in town.
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.
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.
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.
END OF REVIEW
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