Left, Sayno Moore, Jabaar Edmonds and Smooth Hines
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Last month’s Sunshine City Film Festival gave filmmaker Cranstan Cumberbatch his first chance to screen his latest work, and the experience was “definitely one to be remembered.”
Cumberbatch and Jabaar Edmonds wrote, directed and produced the feature “Art in the City,” which stars Cumberbatch in the role of Danny, a homeless veteran trying to get by on the streets of St. Pete.
“The people we were able to meet and network with, the response we got from the audience in reference to the film and just the energy and the vibe it brought to the city was just amazing,” Cumberbatch said.
Festivals give filmmakers the chance to sit side by side with moviegoers and gauge their reactions to the finished work, the culmination of their vision.
L-R, Jabaar Edmonds, Stephanie Porto, Cranstan Cumberbatch
“To have it up there on the big screen is one thing and then to be in the presence of people as their watching it is another,” the St. Pete native said, adding that it was a “surreal feeling all on its own.”
Cumberbatch has always had a passion for show business and took his first steps on this path when he was only 10 on a kids’ morning show on Channel 10 News called “This Side Up.”
“That kind of opened the door for me to want to get into acting,” he said.
He said the “bug really bit him” in 2008 when he had a live entertainment show called “Romantic Expressions.” The show featured music and spoken word poetry, but one of the elements he wanted to include was acting, so he and his fellow performers–which included his younger brother Joseph–came up with ideas for short features that they would film and present during his show.
“I would act in these and there was just something about being in front of that camera that just resonated with me,” he admitted. “Ever since the moment we did a short film called ‘Exposed,’ I was hooked. I’ve pursued it wholeheartedly ever since.”
The Sunshine City Film Festival also afforded Cumberbatch and Edmonds the opportunity to meet fellow filmmakers and learn valuable advice from industry professionals during a workshop for independent filmmakers.
One such filmmaker was producer/director Richard Stefanik, who has worked with Disney.
“He taught us how to cut the time in our filming sequences; he gave more information on how to monetize our independent works. So it was just great!”
In addition to presenting the feature-length “Art in the City” along with Edmonds, Cumberbatch also had the chance to screen his own short film “Loaded Love” at the festival.
There was also an industry mixer at American Stage, Cumberbatch said, where he and Edmonds got the chance to rub elbows with professionals involved in all aspects of the field, including cameramen, sound and lighting technicians, actors, directors and producers.
“Anyone who’s in the business of making films or getting produced by somebody, either cast or crew, was there to shake hands and network and give business cards,” he said. “We got the opportunity to see who’s who and who’s doing what in the city around us.”
He believes that St. Pete, with its appealing artistic climate and inviting weather, could become an ideal place for filmmakers to realize their visions.
“It is the perfect backdrop for anything film-wise,” he asserted. “It has everything here. With the number of filmmakers we met here, especially on the independent level, we have enough here that St. Petersburg could become its own Hollywood!”
Though he lauded other Bay area film festivals such as Gasparilla and Sunscreen and noted they also showcase what the area has to offer, Cumberbatch said the Sunshine City Festival “shows what’s here locally and then brings in others from the outside.”
He noted that the African- American community should take full advantage of all the artistic opportunities available, adding he would like to see more of a “balance.”
“Most blacks, they don’t really know that there are other outlets out there for their films to be seen,” he said. “So with the Sunshine City Festival, one of the great things about it is that it embraced all films from all different walks of life and cultures and things of that nature. It really embraced diversity on a balanced scale.”
As “Art in the City” was a team effort, Cumberbatch praised his filmmaking partner Edmonds for being one of the “main drivers” of the project.
“We came together to make that happen,” he said.
Cumberbatch and Edmonds plan to screen “Art in the City” in more festivals, including the upcoming Black Arts and Film Festival later this month and an art, literature and film festival at USF in March.