ST. PETERSBURG — The ninth Sunscreen Film Festival begins Thursday with a number of intriguing flicks on its roster, as well as a slew of industry players.
The four-day event will screen dozens of short and full-length dramas, comedies, horror flicks, foreign films, documentaries and more. A series of workshops on acting, screenwriting and other aspects of the business also are scheduled. A string of parties at Mandarin Hide, Nova 535 and The Amsterdam tops of each night of the event, except Sunday, and an awards ceremony Saturday at 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House will honor notable participants.
Executive Director Tony Armer, who makes no money organizing the festival, said he does it year after year out of love for the film industry.
“I’ve always loved films and filmmaking, and doing the film festival was an opportunity to get even more deeply involved than trying to make films on your own,” Armer said.
The event has attracted a bit of star power over its short existence. Several years back, Armer contacted Lisa Mansell, who does public relations for the Church of Scientology, about getting John Travolta to the event. Travolta showed up and Mansell is now the director of special events. She said the church is not involved with the festival.
“It has grown tremendously,” Mansell said. “Just in terms of our reach into the community and the number of films we’re getting and the quality of participants.”
Since last year, the event has became one of 23 film festivals sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
This year’s guest list lacks the household names such as Travolta and Billy Dee Williams, who appeared at the 2010 festival flanked by Storm Troopers, but there are some notables.
Indie film Director John Putch, who directed the “Route 30” trilogy and episodes of the television show “Scrubs,” will speak at a panel on directing, as will Emmy-winning Producer Rik Swartzwelder.
A star of the festival’s opening film, Nicole Garcia, of “Confessions of a Womanizer,” also is slated to attend. Garcia may be better known as Nikki Bella of the Bella Twins, a professional wrestling duo that has a reality show on E!. The film also stars Gary Busey, who is not able to attend.
The opening film will screen 8 p.m. Thursday at the Palladium Theater. Wrestler John Cena and other WWE personalities are expected to walk the red carpet before the film and attend the opening night reception.
Other films will screen at venues throughout downtown, including Studio@620, the Salvador Dali Museum and American Stage.
In October, a version of the festival will be held near Los Angeles.
It’s pretty much a year-round endeavor for Armer and a handful of volunteers who organize the event. He co-founded the festival in 2006 to shed light on the Tampa Bay area’s ties to the film industry, with films such as “Dolphin Tale,” not to mention a host of student filmmakers and screen writers.
“There is definitely a film industry here,” he said. “I think the general populous, if they’re not in the business, they won’t know when someone is filming.”