Florida Film Industry Expo strives to enhance level of local talent for TV and film productions

Tampa Bay has served as the site of many successful movies in recent decades. Among them are Cocoon, Summer Rental, Edward Scissorhands and, of course, Dolphin Tale. Though these movies brought attention to the region – and there are 30-plus feature films slated to take place here over the next few years – the chance remains that production companies will continue to import actors and crew members from Hollywood and New York City, unless the level of local talent improves. Ian Stevens is striving to make that happen through the second annual Florida Film Industry Expo (www.ffiexpo.com).

“The Expo provides guidance on proper technique in front of the camera and behind the camera, raising the level of experience and skill for beginners and professionals alike,” said Stevens, whose family has four generations in the Hollywood film industry. “A-list actors remain on the A-list because they never lose their thirst to get better by taking classes and instruction. You learn from people who have more experience and talent than you.”

Scheduled for August 2 and August 3 at the Doubletree by Hilton near Tampa International Airport, the 2014 Florida Film Industry Expo includes workshops conducted from actresses Jenny O’Hara (Mystic River, Devil, King of Queens, ER and current vice president of the Screen Actor’s Guild) and Pamela Roylance (The Social Network, Days of our Lives, Little House on the Prairie); actors Daniel Roebuck (The Fugitive, Matlock, Lost, The Late Shift) and Carlos Gomez (The Glades, Fools Rush In, All About Steve), producers Rasha and Stephanie Drachkovitch (who operate 44 Blue Productions, the leading provider of reality TV programs) and casting director Mark Paladini (The Mask, Mortal Kombat, Babylon 5).

The Florida Film Industry Expo will feature a Women in Film theme that will be highlighted by a red carpet event where a lifetime achievement award will be bestowed upon a legendary actress whose name will be announced in the approaching weeks.

Attendees can take advantage of the special early rate of $99 through February 28 by purchasing tickets at www.ffiexpo.com.

Along with the roster of guest speakers, Stevens gives the Florida Film Industry Expo instant credibility. Four generations of his family have etched their mark in Hollywood, and he made his industry debut at the age of 4 when he portrayed the young prince in a live stage production of “The King And I” and as a child appeared in numerous TV commercials. Over the course of his career, Stevens has etched a resume that includes being an actor in TV commercials and shows, live stage productions and improv troupes; a director, producer and executive producer whose projects have included film and TV projects for NBC, Discovery and PBS; and a visionary who served as a liaison for Paramount Studios on projects like Arsenio Hall Show and co-created the renowned Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.

Stevens founded 1-2 Punch Productions in 1996 and produced an array of TV commercials, documentaries, and realty-based TV programs. In 2009, he and his wife Angie decided to move from Los Angeles to Tarpon Springs to provide a better quality of life for their children, Jeffery and Lacey. The entertainment business would be a collection of fond memories as Stevens moved onto the next stage of his life, or so he thought.

One day in 2009, Tampa-based friend Matt Ayotte (who is now president of the Sunscreen Film Society and a senior producer for 1-2 Punch Productions) approached the Stevens with an idea. The TV and film production industry in Tampa Bay has promise, Ayotte said, but there was significant work to be done. Intrigued, Stevens opted to end his retirement and re-launch 1-2 Productions, only this time focusing on TV commercials and shows, feature-length films, documentaries, reality-based TV programs and music videos incorporating local talent.

Last year, Stevens co-launched the Florida Film Industry Expo, assembling award-winning names from both sides of the camera in Hollywood to provide guidance and expertise to actors, directors, producers and other crew members who call the Tampa Bay area home.

Revitalized with his passionate objective to transform Tampa Bay into a bustling center for TV and film production, Stevens envisions a time in the not-so-distant future when feature films and TV shows based in Tampa/St. Petersburg are prevalent, and the talent in those productions call this region home.

“So many people enter the industry thinking about the red carpet and the glamour. They see the end result but they don’t realize there is a lot of sweat, patience and resilience to even get opportunities, and then when you do there are 16 to 18-hour days,” Stevens said. “It’s hard work, and competitive, so you cannot afford to stop trying to enhance your skills and gain an edge.”