Dispatches from the Sunshine State, Odds and Ends

Loren Cass, a St. Pete based film, finally receives theatrical release

Some good news on the home front, folks. Loren Cass, that beautifully produced film by local creative and first-time filmmaker Chris Fuller, is set to premiere at a New York City theater. The well-established distribution company Kino International bought the film earlier this month.

In case you haven’t seen it, Loren Cass is a dark portrait of St. Pete youth set in one of the city’s bleakest times, the period following the ’96 riots. Here’s a snippet from my 2006 profile of the movie:

A few major films — Ocean’s Eleven, Health — have used bits of St. Pete as a backdrop over the years, but Fuller’s movie goes beyond just a few shots of the Pier (although they are in there, too). It features the city itself as a crucial part of the story line.

“St. Pete is in my blood,” Fuller says. “There’s a lot of shit here. It’s got a rich history and an often disturbing one at that.”

The film chronicles the coming of age of three St. Pete adolescents, their lives tied to the cycle of violence, suicide and destruction that surround the city after the ’96 riots. Cale (Lewis Brogan) and Jason (Travis Maynard) drive the streets, drinking and brawling, while Nicole (Kayla Tabish) keeps falling for the wrong men. On a chance encounter, Cale meets Nicole at her job, starting a fruitless relationship, while Jason spirals more out of control.

FILMSTILL_070Although Fuller is an amateur (he has no formal training in filmmaking), Loren Cass is hardly sophomoric; it has the persuasive acting, stellar soundtrack and quality look of a studio production. Fuller started writing the script while still in Canterbury High School, and immediately after graduating spent almost four years shopping his project around to various private investors. He raised a viable amount of cash (he won’t divulge the actual amount but says it’s in the thousands). During the same period, he found the actors he wanted, including Tabish (Girl Next Door) and Jacob Reynolds (Gummo, Road to Wellville), a New York-based actor born in St. Petersburg.

“Everybody I’ve met has some connection to St. Pete,” Fuller points out. “It’s like that Kevin Bacon shit.”

FILMSTILL_180In fact, almost all aspects of the film, from the soundtrack to the actors, have ties to the city: Locally based boxer Ronald “Winky” Wright and Uhuru leader Omali Yeshitela contribute to voiceovers; ‘burg denizens like musician Matthew Bistok and street poet Mike Glausier make up part of the supporting cast; the soundtrack’s haunting trumpet is the work of St. Pete’s Jimmy Morey. Fuller reached across the bay and enlisted the help of strip club magnate Joe Redner, whose Production Services and Systems donated some of the equipment in exchange for “profit points.”

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is Fuller’s use of recognizable north side landmarks — like, for instance, the nondescript house on 10th Avenue N., where Beat legend Jack Kerouac lived out the last year of his life before dying of alcoholism. These touches, from shots of the old orange and white city buses to the alley behind the State Theatre, add a realistic local texture to the film, creating what Fuller calls a “St. Pete-based Catcher in the Rye.”

loren_cass_poster_11Hopefully, the movie will play in its hometown at the Muvico cinemas or at least Tampa Theater. When I contact Fuller about that possibility, he shared my enthusiasm, but he’s not yet sure. So far, Kino plans to hold screenings in L.A. and Chicago in addition to NYC. But even if we don’t see a screening locally, Kino will release Loren Cass on DVD by the end of the year.

If you want to read more about Loren Cass, check out the website here.

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