Thursday, September 30, 2010

FREE Actor's Workshop with Producer/Director Dwight Cenac!

The Performers Academy will be hosting a FREE Actors Workshop for actors and actresses 18+ on Thursday, October 7th from 5pm-7pm.

The two-hour class will focus on teaching actors how to jump into character quickly, easily call up powerful emotions without the use of traditional method memories, and it will also cover scene and character analysis and a whole lot more!

There will be a flyer with a coupon for $20 off the 8-week class for anyone who enjoys the class and wants more.

Anyone interested in the class can RSVP the Performers Academy @ 904-322-7672.

The Performers Academy is located at 3674 Beach Blvd. Jacksonville, FL 32207.

WJCT Picture This on Patrick Barry's "VEER!"

Patrick Barry talks about his experience filming VEER! in Jacksonville. Watch it on WJCT's TV page.To learn more about VEER! go to Blue Llama Studios website or the VEER! Facebook page.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Like Dandelion Dust" Opens September 24

The film Like Dandelion Dust opens around the country this weekend, September 24, 25, 26, and then it continues to expand week after week thereafter.  

Please look at the "theater" tab on the website to find the location nearest you, along with the opening weekend dates in your area.

"It absolutely sets a new standard for story telling and casting. Mira Sorvino (Academy Award Winner) and Barry Pepper (Golden Globe Nominee) give their most brilliant performances of their careers. The film has already won more than 30 film festival awards, both domestically & internationally, and is now being screened by the Hollywood Foreign Press for awards consideration. It also sets up an interesting opportunity to engage friends and colleagues in discussions about real life issues -- fear, control, doubt, sacrifice, and most importantly, LOVE."
-Executive producer, Christopher Morrow

Director hopes for Hollywood ending for JU film program

The university wants to play a major role in the city’s movie future.

It's an oft-told bit of Jacksonville lore that early in the 20th century the city competed with New York and Los Angeles as a center of motion picture production. But by 1917, political opposition here and a milder climate there led filmmakers to abandon Jacksonville for Hollywood.

A vestige of Jacksonville's decade as a film capital is located on Arlington Road: the old Norman Studios, built in 1916, which a nonprofit foundation is trying to turn into a museum.

Now administrators at Jacksonville University, a few blocks from that piece of the city's movie past, are hoping the school can become a significant part of Jacksonville's movie future.

In July, JU President Kerry Romesberg and Bill Hill, JU dean of fine arts, hired Rich Heller to become executive director of the university's film and television program. Heller said one of his goals is to open a multimillion-dollar working film studio on campus, which could provide students with practical experience and attract projects from outside filmmakers.

Heller, 60, spent about four decades working in Hollywood, mostly as an executive with various television production companies. He was an executive at Columbia Pictures Television in the 1980s when the studio made such shows as "Hill Street Blues," "Trapper John, M.D." and "Designing Women."

Making a move, movie

About a year ago, he and his wife, Max, decided they were tired of living in Los Angeles, Heller said in a recent interview. Max had grown up in Jacksonville, so they decided to relocate to Atlantic Beach.

One of the first people he met after arriving was Fran Kinne, JU's former president, who has a lot of Hollywood connections. She introduced Heller to Romesberg and Hill.

Three years ago, JU began offering a major in film and television production. The program is still small - the first class of four film majors graduated last spring. The university had long-range plans to build the program's reputation and add a graduate degree, a master's of fine arts, Hill said. But those plans sat on the back burner until they met Heller.

"I couldn't let that opportunity pass," Hill said. "He's a very dynamic individual with an extensive background in the industry."

Romesberg said he had the same reaction. "Here's a guy who just has an unbelievable background," he said. "When we met Rich, I thought, 'Boy, how lucky we are.'"

Meanwhile, Todd Roobin, head of the city's film and television office, had heard about Heller's move from Steve Papasian, president of Worldwide Physical Production at Warner Bros. Pictures. Papasian and Roobin met during production of "Pointman," a television series that filmed in Jacksonville in 1995. Roobin said Papasian gave him a heads-up that Heller was someone Roobin should know.

"It's a huge coup for JU to have him on board," Roobin said. "Rich is very visionary and very well-connected in Los Angeles."

"We are lucky to have a Hollywood insider with such an accomplished body of work and his ability to pick up the phone and make things happen," said Mike Ossi, a Jacksonville entertainment attorney whose clients include John Travolta. "He will be a driving force with the entertainment industry in Florida."

During his years in Hollywood, Heller's jobs included: senior vice president for development at Krofft Productions, the company that produced such shows as "H.R. Pufnstuf" and "Land of the Lost"; vice president of Twentieth Century Fox Television, vice president for comedy at NBC; senior vice president, comedy programming, for Columbia Pictures Television, where he helped develop and produce about 40 pilots, including his favorite project, "Designing Women"; and president of Lee Rich Television Productions, for which he produced a number of TV movies.

His feature film credits include co-producing the 1995 Pauly Shore movie, "Jury Duty," and serving as executive producer of the 1997 movie "Masterminds." For the last seven years he was a partner with Jerry Weintraub, former chairman of United Artists, who produced this summer's "Karate Kid" (as well as the original) and the "Ocean's" trilogy.

To be or not to be?

Heller said he has had no regrets about leaving L.A. for Jacksonville.

"Jacksonville is very different than Hollywood," he said. "It's an extraordinary place to be because of the folks who live here. ... Nobody has an agenda."

He said his goals for the JU film program include building it in size and prestige. One of his plans for doing that is getting people he knows from the industry to teach by offering them a master's degree in return.

"My offer will be: Come here and teach for six weeks. I'll give you an MFA," he said.

His most ambitious goal is to build a working studio on the JU campus "that could be a destination for filmmakers." That would involve raising $5 million to $12 million, he said, and is not something he expects to happen in the immediate future.

Hill said that while JU will never have a film program that can compete with top-tier film schools such as USC, New York University, Northwestern or Florida State, he wants to be at "the top of the second tier."

Heller's understanding that film is both a "viable art form" and "a business our students can be employed in" makes him the ideal man to guide the JU film program toward that goal, Hill said.

"Why Jacksonville University?" Heller asked. "My response is: Why not? ... This is my passion right now.", (904) 359-4413

Wes Skiles, photographer who captured vivid worlds underwater, dies at 52

Wes Skiles, photographer who captured vivid worlds underwater, dies at 52

Wes Skiles, 52, a freelance photographer and cinematographer whose mystifying underwater images of uncharted stalagmite caves and ancient crocodile skeletons revealed a dark, alien world in vibrant color, died July 21 off the east coast of Florida.

He was filming a project on the behavior of high-speed fish near the Boynton Beach Inlet when he was found unconscious on the ocean floor. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in West Palm Beach, and police were investigating the cause of death.

In his 27 years as a photojournalist, Mr. Skiles escaped from a collapsed ocean cave off the Australian coast and was among the first people to set foot on the largest iceberg in Antarctica.

One time, off the coast of South Africa, a shark jammed itself into Mr. Skiles's protective cage. The burly photographer beat the creature back with his heavy, waterproof camera, taking pictures throughout the episode, and had close-up photos of the great white's jagged teeth as a token of his survival.

Sitcom and Shakespeare on Forsyth Street

“Lights, camera, action!”

That’s the order of the day this week at The Florida Theatre during the taping of a locally produced situation comedy, “In the Pits.” It’s part of a plan to make use of local actors and locations. The cast and crew have been taping scenes in the historic theater’s auditorium and in the offices upstairs recently vacated by the City’s Planning and Development Department.

Directed by Devlin Mann and co-written by Stephen Dare, the plot revolves around a theater company facing more than the usual number of challenges, including the untimely death of its lead actor and his replacement. It’s also “about the economy and technology overcoming place and distance,” said Dare.

In addition to what’s being taped in Jacksonville, other scenes produced in London will be edited into the final product.

Mann is a graduate of Jacksonville University and worked in Los Angeles on several productions, including the Brooke Shields sitcom, “Suddenly Susan.” He’s also a Shakespearean actor and has performed in London, among other international venues.

Mann said he is working with CW 17 to air the pilot episode next month. If it’s a hit, a season of episodes will be produced and possibly distributed network-wide on CW, he said.

“It’s Jacksonville’s first locally produced, fully scripted sitcom. We’re trying to get as much local flavor as possible, while making it accessible to a broader audience,” said Mann.

The television show is just one part of Mann’s plans for the Florida Theatre. His “Backlight Theatre Group” is accepting applicants for a series of acting workshops that will be conducted there. One workshop will focus on developing Shakespearean actors.

Mann said earlier this year he invited Rob Clare from the Royal Shakespeare Company to come to Jacksonville and conduct three nights of workshops.

“The response was so tremendous, we decided we could do this year-round,” said Mann.

He said his goal is to provide a range of theatrical instruction, including acting, dance, filmmaking and other visual arts using the Florida Theatre as the campus.

“We want to find more ways to use this magnificent space. It’s underutilized and we want to fill it with a variety of events to supplement the existing programming,” said Mann.

For information, e-mail

(904) 356-2466

Tune in for the Metro Diner!

September 23, 2010 11:50 PM

DVR alert: Fans of San Marco’s Metro Diner will want to tune in Oct. 1st at 9 p.m. to the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

The Hendricks Avenue brunch hotspot will be featured in the upcoming “You Found Em” epsiode, where host Guy Fieri visits eateries suggested by viewers.

The show premiered at 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20 and re-airs at 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1.

Fieri and his crew visited Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia earlier this year, stopping in at Riverside’s 13 Gypsies, Mayport’s Singleton’s Seafood Shack, Culhane’s Irish Pub and The Sun Dog at the Beaches, Avondale’s The Fox, St. Simon’s The Blackwater Grill and more. (Singelton's, Culhane's and Blackwater were featured in episodes aired earlier this year.)

Metro Diner owners John and Mark Davoli announced earlier this year their plans to build a replica of the Hendricks Avenue restaurant at Julington Creek.

CW17 Premiere of "In The Pits"

CW17 will begin airing In The Pits on September 25th at 9:00pm. In The Pits is an original and locally–written, –casted, –staged, –shot and –edited sitcom produced by Jacksonville-based BackLight Theatre Group.

In The Pits is a dramatic comedy about a Stage Group named the Parafloramore Theatre Company that in the Great Recession falls into hard times. With a six hundred thousand dollar shortage and a fall in donations the Executive Director, Fincannon, decides to hire the underhanded talents of the corporate sharks to try to bring some financial savvy to their not for profit group.

The show will run at 9:00 p.m. in prime time on Saturday nights beginning September 25th, so tune in to CW17 for great local programming and enjoy In The Pits! Don't forget to check out all of Jacksonville's locally produced programming at

Friday, September 17, 2010

Special Screening of Easy A!

Screenwriter, Bert V. Royal, former resident of Clay County, who current lives in Los Angeles, will have a special screening of EASY A, 7 PM, Friday, Sept 17 at the Carmike Cinemas Fleming Island 12 with his friends, family and the audience, to see his first major motion picture (as the writer). Carmike Cinemas Fleming Island 12 is located at 820 Town Center Blvd. Fleming Island, Florida 32003.

Easy A is a Sony Pictures film starring Emma Stone. The film is a comedy about a clean-cut high school student relies on the school's rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing.  For more information on the film, please visit

There will be a Q&A session and poster signing with Bert V. Royal, screenwriter after the movie. Ticket prices are $9.50 for adults and $5 for children under 11 and senior citizens.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lawrence V. Smith, prominent photojournalist, dies at 78

Lawrence V. Smith, prominent photojournalist, dies at 78

He traveled with Fidel Castro and worked on "Wild Kingdom."
Florida Times Union
Posted: September 1, 2010 - 5:50pm
By Jessie-Lynne Kerr

Lawrence V. "Larry" Smith, an Emmy Award-winning photographer who spent his career pursuing adventure with a camera, died Monday of congestive heart failure in a local nursing home. He was 78 and had called Jacksonville home since 1959.

The family will receive visitors from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Corey-Kerlin Funeral Home, 940 Cesery Blvd. There will be a graveside service at 11 a.m. Saturday in Greenlawn Cemetery.

A native of Chicago, Mr. Smith received a degree in chemistry from Iowa State University and was working on his Ph.D. in biochemistry when he was drafted into the Army in 1954. He served as a guided missile expert.

In 1958-59, he worked as a cameraman in Cuba for CBS-TV during Fidel Castro's revolution.