New film ‘Art in the City’ calls St. Pete its home

Photographs courtesy of Colin Parker, Sara Al-Mutawa and Mary Putulin


BY ERIN MURPHY, Neighborhood News Bureau

ST. PETERSBURG – With museums, music, murals and more, the city of St. Petersburg’s thriving arts scene offers tourists and locals alike a place to escape, enjoy and find inspiration. For Cranstan Cumberbatch, who serves as co-producer, co-writer, co-director and actor in the new film “Art in the City,” St. Petersburg is also home.

“[I] have first-hand experience of the amazing art and cinematic landscapes that exist here, so it was a no-brainer [to set the movie in St. Petersburg],” said Cumberbatch. “In fact, it was the beauty of the city and the art together that sparked the idea in the first place.”

“Art in the City” tells the story of a homeless war veteran named Danny, played by Cumberbatch, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Along the way, Danny meets a woman named Sandy, who is also homeless, and the two form a connection.

The film aims to turn the stereotype of what homelessness is on its head.

“This story was really something that needed to be said because all homeless people aren’t begging for dollars,” said Jabaar Edmond, the co-director and co-producer of the film. “Homelessness has taken on a new face, and a lot of people don’t realize some homeless people are veterans. Some of these people aren’t the typical image of ‘homeless’ and a main goal [of this project] is to shatter that perception of what homeless is.”

Cumberbatch said playing the role of Danny has been eye-opening for him. As an acting teaching, he tells his students not to be afraid to become the character. But looking for food in the garbage and begging for money from strangers gave him pause.

“I had to allow myself to really buy into the idea of, ‘Yes, as the character Danny, I’m homeless.’ Being this character has been a challenge, but at the same time, it’s been a reward,” said Cumberbatch.

Danny is also an artist, and finds an outlet for his pain through artistic expression. He learns to channel his feelings and his emotions through his art, and that also helps him cope with the depression that he’s going through.

“With that link, we’d like to say that the city of St. Petersburg co-stars in this movie because this movie is not only about Danny and Sandy, it’s also about St. Pete,” said Edmond. “It’s about the arts scene in St. Pete; it’s about the culture here in St. Pete. It’s a love story that co-stars the city.”

Both Edmond and Cumberbatch are St. Petersburg natives and know that the city offers many beautiful places to film.

“St. Petersburg has an amazing downtown cityscape,” said Cumberbatch. “[It’s] full of peaceful aquatic waterfronts, beaches, parks, natural habitats and special nooks and crannies that make the environment conducive to allowing creative energy to flow freely. Not many cities can say that.”

St. Petersburg’s arts scene and spirit was also a vital ingredient in filming “Art in the City.”

“This city flourishes from art,” said Cumberbatch. “The people tend to be nicer; the air tastes a lot sweeter when we cater to that. Art is about creativity, it’s about openness [and] it’s about allowing yourself to embrace the things that are around you. To see murals on the side of these buildings that would have been considered graffiti, but to know that the city is actually endorsing that [and] putting funds behind bringing in artists to actually enhance art in the city, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Cumberbatch also said that every part of the process of making the film so far has fallen in his and Edmond’s favor. The team anticipates a good turnout when it is released.

“We know that we’re gonna get good support from this city because of the people that are involved and just the beauty of this process,” he said.

The pair also hopes that their film will bring about change in St. Petersburg.

“We’ve seen a lot of things through the process of making this movie,” said Cumberbatch. “After we’re done with this project and once we screen it and showcase the individuals that are doing things in this city, [from helping] in homelessness, to highlighting art here in the city, I really think it’s going to bring about a drastic change. I know it’s changed us already.”

“Art in the City” is planned to screen during the Sunshine Film Festival in mid-January. Check out the film’s Facebook page @Artinthecitythemovie.

Neighborhood News Bureau members Sara Al-Mutawa, Shelbie Brown, Jonah King, Alana Long, Colin Parker, Mary Putulin and Jessie Santero contributed to this story.

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