Suncreen Film Festival offers film screenings and productions in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — When Tony Armer founded the Sunscreen Film Festival with his friend Derek Miner, he did so to bring independent cinema to Tampa Bay screens.

But, as the annual film festival prepares to kick off its 17th year on April 28, Armer said the event has impacted the region in another unforeseen way.

Sunscreen brought independent film productions to Pinellas County, where it is headquartered.

Foreign filmmakers attend the festival, fall in love with Pinellas and come back to shoot a movie or a web series.

Armer has at least 13 such productions.

“I wasn’t a film curator when we launched Sunscreen,” said Armer, Pinellas film curator since 2014 and a current member of the festival’s board. “But it certainly makes my job easier now.”

It will have a chance to woo more guest filmmakers at this year’s festival, which runs until May 1 at AMC Sundial 12 in St. Petersburg.

Filmmakers are expected at their screenings of the following films:

pretty problemswhich, according to, is about two friends invited over by wealthy strangers on a getaway that turns into the most deranged weekend of their lives.

Love after the warwhich introduces viewers to veterans and their partners who candidly share how they won the battle to restore emotional closeness and physical intimacy after surviving catastrophic battle-related injuries.

follow the dead, who says it’s about four rural Irish millennials who can’t tell fake news from real news against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse.

Each of these filmmakers and more will be invited on a tour of Pinellas County.

“We take them out and show them places they can use and tell them how great it is to shoot here,” Armer said. “And I always ask them what we can do to bring their next project here. But to be honest, the neighborhood sells itself.

Filmmaker Sanjeev Sirpal attended Sunscreen in 2008 and returned to Pinellas in 2015 to make Random tropical paradise.

Oliver Robins, better known as the son in the original Fighting spiritattended in 2015 then shot Celebrity crush in Pinellas two years later.

Michael Baumgarten was also there in 2015 and returned to Pinellas in 2019 to film A brother’s honor.

Marty Poole has made three films at Pinellas since taking part in one of the first sunscreen festivals – two Bernie the dolphin movies and Radar the bionic dog, which recently ended and stars Dean Cain.

“And then there’s the number of residents who attend each year, meet and end up collaborating on a project,” Armer said. “There must be hundreds of them who have met at one of our parties, screenings or workshops.”

This year’s workshops include ‘How to Get Talent and Representation’, ‘Making Documentaries for Distribution’ and ‘Writing: The Art and Science of Pitching’.

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“It’s all very natural, very organic,” Armer said. “You put a group of creative filmmakers in one place for four days and they’ll talk and find ways to collaborate.”

Armer remembers being mocked 17 years ago when he first announced the Sunscreen Film Festival.

“There were successful niche festivals, but no one had been able to launch a successful mainstream festival in the region,” he said. “So people smiled and told me it was a good idea like I was a little kid they were patting on the head. Well, the sunscreen is still there.

If you are going to

Solar Film Festival

When: April 28-May 1

Or: AMC Sundial 12, 151 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

For a schedule and tickets: Visit

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