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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, May 21, 2014 5 years ago

Spotlight: Stopperan produces movie based on reel life

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by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

Here's a tickler for what the film will look and feel like. The cast used in this aren't the actual cast, but they are FSU/Asolo Conservatory graduates Benjamin Williamson and Brian Victor Nemiroff.

PARADISE, FL from Tony Stopperan on Vimeo.

The last time Diversions talked to Tony Stopperan in May 2013, he was busy producing “The Lucky 6” at Ringling College of Art and Design. This film was the first full-length feature college students at RCAD produced using FSU/Asolo Conservatory graduate students as actors.  Since its premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival, Stopperan has fully immersed himself in his next project.

His next full-length feature film production, “Paradise, FL,” is completely independent from RCAD. The film starts preproduction June 16, and shooting begins July 8.

Stopperan wrote the script based loosely around events that occurred in his life. When he was 26 years old, he moved in with a friend whose wife attempted suicide and was hospitalized, and his friend had young children younger than 5 years old.

“I moved in to help and found myself in the middle of his drama,” Stopperan says. “He always said I’d write about it some day.”

Stopperan never thought he would write about it. His belief is that the leading character’s change, or growth, is something imperative to a well-formed plot. But Stopperan’s friend never changed.

“I realized that I was the one who changed,” he says.

Stopperan discerned it in summer 2011 when he was an FSU/Asolo Conservatory of Acting graduate student studying in London with other second-year students. One class involved monologue writing, for which Stopperan wrote about the experience. When he returned to Sarasota, he presented the one-man monologue to an audience, including his friend and Ringling College of Art and Design student, Nick Morgulis.

“He told me, ‘That needs to be a movie, and I need to make it,’” Stopperan says.

So, three years and many drafts of the script later, Stopperan has what he thinks is the best script he’s written, and Morgulis will be the director. They’ve cast a fellow FSU/Asolo Conservatory student in the role based on Stopperan — Jon-Michael Miller. They’ll film it all in Sarasota.

There’s also a recurring lullaby sung in the film that will be an original song. It hasn’t been officially confirmed, but Boyce Avenue, the band of three brothers from Sarasota that is gaining national recognition from YouTube, will write the song. 

The film’s roots are intentionally close to home, but Stopperan is also bringing in some national talent to make it marketable in the independent movie festival circuits.

He’s enlisted the help of big-name casting director Adrienne Stern. Her name might not be as familiar as the big-name talent she brings to independent films: from leading hunks Ryan Gosling and Matthew McConaughey to memorable funny people Tina Fey and Jeffery Tambor. Stopperan will finish casting in the next few weeks.

Right now, it’s still pretty surreal.

“I’m excited to watch people take my words and put them into a performance,” he says. “I’m excited to watch all these parts come together.”

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