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Sunday, Jul 15, 2018
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Sunday Conversation: Charleene Closshey

Homegrown married high tech at the premiere of No Postage Necessary on June 28 at the Tampa Theatre. • Plant City actor/composer/producer Charleene Closshey found herself surrounded by scores of family, friends and fans — even her piano teacher — at the red carpet event.

The celebratory buzz flew industry-wide as she and fiance Jeremy Culver, the film’s writer, director and producer, release the first movie using blockchain technology and crypto-currency.

The distribution may be groundbreaking, but critics are calling Closshey the "emotional superglue" in the indie movie: a "quiet yet infinitely memorable" performance.

The former pageant winner stars as the widow of a U.S. Marine who writes to him c/o the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A convicted computer hacker, posing as a mailman to find cash, steals those love notes and is smitten.

The couple filmed the romantic dramedy in less than two weeks, entirely in Hillsborough County. Film Tampa Bay rebated 10 percent of the $200,000 they spent on local actors, crew, lodging and 7,000 meals. Dozens of the extras attended the premiere, clapping to see themselves and familiar sites.

"My father is Pat the Irish bartender at Four Green Fields," Closshey said. "My aunt Yvonne Fry corralled 150 extras through her agency, Fresh Pick Talent, like the strawberries."

Closshey, 37, recently spoke to Tampa Bay Times reporter Amy Scherzer about her path to stage and film, putting Plant City on the map and being too busy to set a wedding date.

Singer, songwriter, film and stage performer, producer. Are you living the dream you imagined as a precocious kid in Plant City?

Without a doubt. I always knew I wanted to create stories that impact peoples’ lives. The role of storyteller in society is really powerful and needed to connect us to a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Music is my foundation to creating characters through sound and the interplay of vibrations. I started piano lessons at 2 … reading music before words, then started violin at 12. It all led to a pretty diverse background. Performing on Broadway in the musical Once to singing at OperaFestival di Roma and now producing and starring in the first film released via blockchain. It’s pretty cool.

Not so long ago you were on a pageant roll: Miss Tampa Bay (2001), Miss Orlando (2002), and Miss Tampa (2003), among others, winning more than $30,000 in scholarships. Would you say beauty contests e_SEmD being judged on your looks, talent, poise and so on e_SEmD helped you as an actor?

Oh, I’m so far removed from that world. Acting is about the craft, and how do you become an actor? You study the craft of acting. How do you win a beauty pageant? You study the craft of pageantry. The two are very different. There are life skills in pageantry that are helpful, like the ability to speak with people.

I did not grow up wanting to be a Florida Strawberry Festival Queen though I loved my time on the court. I wanted to be known for my intelligence, my creativity. I was a tomboy, karate with my dad, horses with my mom. Being an only child shaped my perspective of the world and grounded me. I saw teachers as peers. I had great relationships with my teachers but not so much with students.

I was not a popular pageant girl growing up. I was overweight and never considered myself an attractive person until I was 20. Pageants were part of my journey to start to see myself differently.

Have you experienced harassment, as many actors have reported via #MeToo, either in pageantry or filmmaking?

I won’t confirm or deny if that’s happened to me because it’s irrelevant. I am of the opinion we are a victor or a victim. I choose to be a victor, so whether I have had experienced it or not. I choose to shape my own reality. No one has that power over me.

People in positions of power need to be held accountable. It’s not an easy topic. Don’t give the jerkos 15 minutes of fame. Celebrate the victors.

How did you meet Jeremy? And when is the Big Day?

We met through mutual friends in Sarasota in 2007 when I was transitioning from professional violinist back to acting and he was shifting out of commercials and into narrative storytelling. We were pretty fluid back and forth between New York and LA, you go where the projects are happening. We were going to marry in 2016 but there were location issues so we made a movie instead. We’re looking to set the date after this hullabaloo is all said and done.

Jeremy’s proposal was amazing. He took us on a surprise trip to Charleston and recreated my favorite painting, The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano, on the beach. He had a red dress made for me, with red gloves.

We really appreciate that our creative partnership is a rarity. It’s great synergy when you know exactly what the other person is thinking.

How did you sell Jeremy on filming and living in Plant City, foregoing bigger film incentives in other states?

He loves it. We’re really happy to call Plant City home and we’re also blessed to get to travel a lot. We really considered Mississippi and Georgia where the fiscal assistance is much greater. However, the community buy-in is huge. Plant City championed us so anything we can do to give back, who knows what the potential might be. A couple of Dukes of Hazzard episodes were shot in a tiny town in Georgia in the ’70s and to this day, it’s a significant part of their tourism. At home, you see what Winter has done for the Clearwater Aquarium. We are very conscious of that long-term benefit.

(Using the blockchain), we’re getting press in publications all over the world — Variety, Fox Business, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Entrepreneur — and the crazy thing is its happening in little old Plant City.

What’s next for you two lovebirds?

Jeremy and his sister Morgen are writing a Scandi-noir inspired drama titled Arcana. I’m getting ready to release an album, Talk About Love, featuring three songs from the film. Six-time Grammy winner Brent Maher, who discovered the Judds, produced it and I’ll be heading back to Nashville soon to record a Christmas album with him.

And a wedding to plan.

Sunday Conversaion is edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected] Follow her @Amy_Scherzer

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