By John DiDonna
If one had driven through Sanford earlier this year, they might have had to blink twice to wonder, “Did I just see a fairy with wings?” There’s no need to puzzle over that because, during a 10-day span, Barry Kirsch and his cast and crew at Iron Robot Films were busy filming his digital short, “The Forever Tea Party.”
When talking to Kirsch, it becomes evident why this film was shot in Sanford. “First off, it’s my hometown. Secondly, Sanford is a great location to film in, and third, we have an amazing support infrastructure.” Kirsch points out that Sanford has virtually everything one needs — from wonderful locations within the Historic District, to the Riverfront, to the neighborhoods that surround Sanford. The infrastructure that Kirsch speaks of includes the proximity to both I-4 and 95, the Sanford and Orlando airports,
and perhaps of utmost importance, our proximity to TALENT. “Central Florida has more people with “Entertainer” on their résumé than any other place in the world,” says the filmmaker.
Kirsch also mentions the underutilized warehouse space contained within Sanford that can provide space for office space, set construction, and filming. Crucial to the success of this film, along with any future film endeavors, is the cooperation and collaboration with local Sanford businesses. In this case, it was most notably our small businesses that stepped up. “The first business to come aboard was The Colonial Room. I was sitting there eating lunch and mentioned it to Michelle Simoneaux, the owner of the restaurant, and she said yes right off the bat!”
This helped lead to the support of other local small businesses, including Luisa’s Cellar, Magpies, My Sanford Magazine, Triple Goddess Treasures and Red Cottage Realty, which led to Nancy Groves stepping in as an Executive Producer because of her love for the art form. “I have always loved the movies—I hope that step by step, we can draw the film industry to film- friendly Sanford,” says Groves.
To continue to build this industry here in Florida, so much support is needed from both the City of Sanford and the community at large. Kirsch acknowledges that, “This is so important. If we are trying to bring the film industry to Sanford, we have to get the town behind it.” And that is difficult in any town. Kirsch points out that saying it is different than doing it, and mentions that the first question should always
be, “How can we help?” rather than just, “Do you have a permit?”
As for the film itself, it is a delightfully warm tale inspired by Kirsch’s great grandmother, Lillie, and could be described as “fond reminiscences and childhood fancies that lead to surprising secrets at the end of life.” Lead actress, Jeanne Niolet DeVore, believes that “Barry’s vision of Lillie is touching and magical—our Sanford location was perfect.”
The film was shot specifically for digital release for viewing on smartphones, iPads and the like, representing a whole new frontier for entertainment viewing. This coming Fall, Sanford residents will be able to preview the film and meet the cast and crew in person. The film will be presented in the same place it was filmed, located at 1719 S Sanford Avenue. There will be continuous viewings and tours of the venue.
In the meantime, Kirsch is not standing still. Currently, he is working on the treatment for a feature length film that he also intends to shoot in Sanford, as well as the digital series, “Gardening for Wine Drinkers,” that is currently filming in Sanford.
For more information make sure you visit www.ironrobotfilms.com or follow them on social media.
DiDonna is a long time Sanford resident, Program Chair of Theatre for Valencia College, and creator/ artistic director of Sanford’s own Phantasmagoria.
photos courtesy Barry D Kirsch