Six employees of a Sarasota tech startup hit the jackpot and won $120 million. The media dubbed them “the Lucky 6.”
They went their separate ways but returned to Sarasota five years later amid allegations from state and federal officials of improprieties surrounding the win.
On a recent Friday afternoon, lottery winners Norm, Ernie and John, along with Brandon, the selfish younger brother of lottery winner Darla, chased each other down the beach in a fight for a document that could hold the truth about the lottery.
The possibilities of fines, restitution and even jail time loomed as they sprinted and tumbled across the white sand beach away from the abandoned resort toward the glistening Gulf of Mexico waters.
So, does the document prove the lottery’s corruption?
“You’ll have to see the movie,” first assistant director Nellie Smydra said.
The shuttered resort that lingers in the background is none other than the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
The scene is part of the plot of “The Lucky 6,” a comedy-drama film that’s the inaugural project for the Summer Feature Film Program, a new collaboration between the Ringling College of Art and Design and FSU/Asolo Conservatory, in which Ringling students produce and Asolo students act.
Norm, Ernie, John and Brandon are FSU/Asolo Conservatory actors Jacob Cooper, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe McGranaghan and Brendan Ragan.
The goal of the project is to provide students from both institutions with actual feature film-production experience. It’s also meant to put the spotlight on film-production possibilities and talent in the Sarasota community.
The cast has shot scenes throughout the community in locations such as Ringling College, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Bird Key. But shooting at the Colony was “our biggest wish-list item,” according to Tony Stopperan, Summer Feature Film Program director and executive producer of the film.
Here’s how the Colony (called the Windward, in the film) fits into the plot:
Lottery winner Darla Troy, played by Andrea Adnoff, is a savvy business woman who uses part of her winnings to buy an abandoned resort. When the group reunites five years later, they reconvene at the property.
“They’re all coming together, almost like a band that had its heyday and now they’re coming back as a reunion tour,” said director/screenwriter Brad Battersby.
The Colony looked the part for the role. The last guests checked out of the resort in August 2010, in the middle of a long-running dispute between Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber and the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association.
“It’s supposed to have this lonely, isolated feeling for the group,” Stopperan said. “(Director/screenwriter Brad Battersby) had it in mind almost from the get-go.”
Logistically, the property also worked: It’s vacant, plus it’s big enough for a cast of eight principals and dozens of extras and minor characters along with a crew of 35 and all their trucks and equipment to move from location to location with ease.
But filmmakers were especially interested in the Colony because it’s a landmark in the Sarasota area.
“Some of the students used to come here. They used to travel here with their families,” said costume mentor Sheryl Haler. “People talk about ‘what used to be’ at the Colony.”
Many of the scenes have been shot in the Monkey Room Patio, where the large monkey mural remains in place.
The monkey becomes a metaphor throughout the film, according to Battersby.
One character, Simon Troy, played by Jesse Dornan, was a genius who loved monkeys and had monkey masks and toys, but died. The monkeys first appear in a scene shot near the mural, and soon they begin to haunt the surviving members of the “Lucky 6.”
“It reminds them of their missing member from the very beginning,” Battersby said.
Town officials didn’t require the group to get a permit because it’s a student-funded effort but did a walk-through to determine where filming would take place before giving the OK for shooting.
Klauber’s daughter, Katie Moulton, who served as the Colony’s president and general manager, said she and her family are Ringling College supporters and were intrigued by the idea when filmmakers approached them.
“If they can show that a full-length film can be filmed throughout Sarasota, I think that’s a tremendous economic development opportunity,” she said.
The Klaubers worked with the Association to agree on locations around the property where filming could occur. Along with the beach and the Monkey Room Patio, cast and crew have shot scenes at Klauber’s Vagabond and Castaway units and at the property entrance.
Shooting began May 20, at the Colony, and is scheduled to end later this week. Filming will continue throughout the community through June 13. “The Lucky 6” could be ready to be shown throughout the community within a year.
As for Klauber, he’s had the starring role in the resort’s history.
And you might just catch him on screen.
He and his wife, Sue Bassett-Klauber, are extras in the scene filmed April 30, at Ringling College, during which the “Lucky 6” accept their prize.
Flashback: ‘Spring Fever’
“The Lucky 6” isn’t the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort’s only film credit.
Actress Susan Anton and Carling Bassett, now Carling Bassett-Seguso, then a student at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, shot the 1981 teen comedy “Spring Fever” at the Colony.
The film’s plot centers on two girls competing in a tennis match who decide to spend 24 hours doing every wild, crazy thing they ever dreamed of — with unexpected results.
Bassett-Seguso’s mother, Sue, married longtime Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber 25 years ago.