Lounge with other cool cats at the Rat Pack-meets-Vegas-style Casino Night at Push Ultra Lounge. The downtown St. Pete nightclub puts St. Pete in a Vegas state of mind on Aug. 18 with poker, black jack, craps and roulette — all to benefit the Sunscreen Festival, which has emerged as a legit film fest with nationwide cred and celeb appearances.
As gamblers bet their chips inside, guests can mosey to the rooftop balcony for a screening of the original Ocean’s Eleven (1960). There will be prizes for game winners as well as for the best-dressed ’60s-style costume.
All proceeds raised will benefit the 2012 Sunscreen Film Festival that is annually held in April. The Sunscreen Film Festival, which will celebrate its seventh anniversary next year, was established by two independent filmmakers, Tony Armer and Derek Miner.
The duo presents the fest in downtown St. Petersburg’s Bay Walk, the festival hosts three days of workshops on various elements of filmmaking, film previews and networking. The independent films shown include all genres of film such as documentaries, animated films and comedies and range from short films to full-length features.
“There is always something different to be engaged in during the festival and every night ends with a party where all guests, including the celebrities, attend,” Armer said.
Though it aims to make an impact on a local scale, its success has earned national recognition.
In 2009, just four years after its establishment, MovieMaker Magazine included the Sunscreen Film Festival, among big-wig film fests like the Ann Arbor Film Festival, in their list of 25 Coolest Film Festivals. The festival achieved their recognition due to the Hollywood personalities who attended the festival, stars like John Travolta and Billy Dee Wilson, but also for those who participated by teaching workshops. Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Little Children), who has local connections and is the son of Fox 13 anchor Jon Wilson showed up for the event, and screenwriters, Timothy Sexton and Steven de Souza, led workshops on acting and screenwriting.
“We are committed to increasing community awareness for the Sunscreen Film Festival, as the event contributes to the artistic quality of St. Petersburg,” says Matt Donahue, owner of Push Ultra Lounge. “We are proud to continue the partnership with the Sunscreen Film Festival, and hope to foster the relationship for future events.”
In addition to the Sunscreen Film Festival, the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Society that hosts the festival each year is responsible for various educational programs around the local area. For three years in a row during summer, kids ages 14-18 are able to attend the Sunscreen Summer Camp to learn and explore all the facets of film. For all members of the community there is also the sunscreen film school which holds workshops year round.
The organization is also responsible for several other events sprinkled through the months. Bollywood Nights is a weekend long event featuring Hindi films hosted at the Museum of Fine Arts. In addition to several other events there is also Holiday Movies in the Park that shows a series of holiday movies held alongside the St. Petersburg Christmas tree lighting.
Though the film festival has enhanced the local area’s role in independent film, it benefits more than the art of film. As the festival’s popularity continues to grow, bringing in over 8,700 guests last year, the festival has proven to be a significant economic impact on the city of St. Petersburg. From tourism and various events that go on during the festival, over $400,000 are generated for the city. In addition the city gains revenue due to directors and producers that come back to the area to film.
“We’ve had people from as far South Korea fly in to attend the festival and these people depend on our services and local business’ for food, cars and hotels,” Armer said.
Fundraisers such as Thursday’s casino night help to ensure the promising talented crowd that the festival is known for. In addition, this year’s festival will also be opening up an opportunity for six screenwriters to meet and discuss their work with established literary agents rooted in Los Angeles’ show biz scene.
In addition to being a fun night out, Thursday will also mark the day the festival will begin accepting submissions for the 2012 festival. Those who submit their film at Casino Night will get their submission fee waived.
Following Casino night, the Sunscreen Film Festival will host another fundraiser on Sept. 2 titled A Night on Broadway. The event begins at 8 p.m. and features performances of musical numbers that were adapted for Hollywood films. Admission is $30.
For more information on attending Casino Night or participating in the Suncreen Film Festival or the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Society, go to SunscreenFilmFestival.com. Julie Garisto contributed to this report.