Above photo: Cranston Cumberbatch, professional actor and filmmaker, welcomes event goers to Studio@620 for a night of local documentaries. Taylor Brooks | The Crow’s Nest
By Jessica Jagodzinski
Studio@620, an intimate artistic space on First Avenue South, welcomed an audience of aspiring playwrights, passionate citizens and those with a taste for art on Thursday for a night of locally produced documentaries.
The event began at 7 p.m., but the audience flowed into the studio in waves prior to showtime. Arriving first were the directors, performers and providers of the production who gathered to mingle in an unofficial “family gathering.”
“Everyone in the artistic field has come through Studio 620,” said Dr. Lillian Dunlap, the Founding Executive Director of Your Real Stories.
Dunlap gestured to the wall adorned with a framed newspaper spread featuring Devin Jones, the studio’s founder and “yes man.”
“That man is the problem,” Dunlap said. “He welcomes everyone.”
The screening began with professional actor and filmmaker Cranston Cumberbatch welcoming a packed audience. He introduced the participating artists, welcoming them to St. Petersburg.
“For those of you who are transients to St. Petersburg or those of you who are born-and-raised, like myself, in the city of St. Petersburg—however you got here, you have learned that this is a city of the arts,” said Cumberbatch. “This festival is designed to highlight the works of the artists who are making art in this city.”
The screening showcase featured clips of the original documentaries to introduce the films’ topics as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the effort and strategy involved in film production.
The films recognized the heroes of St. Petersburg and depicted the city’s struggles with homelessness, LGBQT+ discrimination and racial segregation.
Allan Buchanan’s ongoing documentary series “Shero’s and Hero’s” honors the work of 90-year-old Winnie Foster, an iconic trailblazer in the St. Petersburg community, through an interview about her life, family and advocacy work.
Dr. Dunlap, along with Jay Sheldon, the founding artistic director of Your Real Stories, collaborated to create “Out of The Shadows,” a showcase depicting the growing homelessness dilemma LGBQT+ youths face when forced out of their homes after revealing their sexual orientation and identity.
“Out of The Shadows” utilizes the “theatrical journalism” storytelling model, using actors to portray the true stories of afflicted youths.
Jabar Edmond, director of “St. Pete the Burg…One City, Two Different Worlds” explores the distinct separation between white and black communities in St. Petersburg through news segments and media.
Edmond collaborated with Cumberbatch on the film “Art in The City” which depicted the story of a homeless war veteran who saves himself through art. Though characters are fictitious, interviews with displaced individuals in St. Petersburg brings authenticity to the narrative.
After the behind-the-scenes screening for “Art in The City,” Cumberbatch told the audience why different versions of the same interview describing a homeless war veterans struggles were included:
“‘What you guys actually watched were mini documentaries that were done by University of South Florida students, (in) the journalism department,” Cumberbatch said. “So, that was a very humbling experience for us because they followed us everywhere.
“We were up at the crack of dawn filming. They were out there. We were out in the late night wee hours. They were out there. Every step of the way, they were with us capturing these moments.”