Scenes from the city's Manatee Arts Festival will be incorporated into a movie on a manatee reminiscent of Free Willy.
By LETITIA STEIN
Published March 12, 2004
APOLLO BEACH - Lights, cameras, action: Apollo Beach?
Apollo Beach, prepare to meet Manny, the manatee with a starring role in a planned family-adventure film.
A moviemaker hopes to use this weekend's Apollo Beach Manatee Arts Festival as a backdrop for parts of the movie. "The excitement of the cause for the manatee - that's what I'm going for," said Sarasota-based producer Patrick Rankin. He noted that images from the festival would help Hollywood executives understand the beleaguered sea cow.
"They just don't know what a manatee does."
Of course, the movie's story line strays a bit from a typical day at the Tampa Electric Co.'s manatee viewing station, where Rankin also has arranged to film at a future date.
In Manny, a troubled 15-year-old named Alex who moves from Brooklyn to Florida struggles with the transition. Enter a strange creature - the manatee - and a mystical American Indian named "Shango." The adventure to save Manny begins.
California-based writer Rich Cohen scripted the movie around a small Florida town. Rankin grew curious about Apollo Beach while reading about the arts festival in a local tourism magazine.
"What we're looking at is an old Florida feel with trees covered with moss," Rankin said. "A quiet town."
In Apollo Beach, business leaders have welcomed the potential 15 minutes of fame.
"It's good for the economy," said Joanne Gadek, executive director of the Apollo Beach Chamber of Commerce. She noted Rankin's plans to use mostly local crews where he films.
Rankin and the yet-to-be-named director still have to pick a location for the four-week shoot planned in September or October. Rankin has looked at sites around Apollo Beach and Sarasota. He may combine scenes from several local communities under a fictitious name.
Regardless, the arrival of cameras marks a milestone for Apollo Beach's 12-year-old arts festival, which began as a small event on the beach. It since has spread to U.S. 41, where about 100 artists will set up on seven acres of pasture land borrowed annually from TECO.
"(The movie) fits in with what we have been doing for the last 12 years with the manatee," she said, noting that a portion of proceeds from the arts festival goes to organizations working to preserve manatees.
Members of the Apollo Beach Chamber of Commerce temporarily imported palm trees and landscaping to create atmosphere for the festival. Last year's event attracted 8,000 people.
In addition to the arts and fine crafts for sale, organizers have planned a children's tent with hands-on arts and crafts activities. Radio Disney is providing music Saturday and Sunday.
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: South of Big Bend Road on U.S. 41
Admission: $5 adults; free for children under 12
What: About 100 artists selling arts and fine crafts; children's center with hands-on activities; a youth art show; shuttle to the Tampa Electric Co. manatee viewing center; entertainment, food and beverages including the Luck of the Manatee Irish Pub, a beer garden.