stills movie brooksville

Are Award-winning Movies being Made in Brooksville?

By Diane Bedard Posted on August 18, 2022

Kyle Marra is a thirty-something visionary. He met James McTague while interning at a local church, discovering that he and James had a real love of movies and writing. The two became a creative writing team. In fact, Kyle admitted, he may have preferred fantasy to reality at times.

Kyle’s day job is working at Live Oak Theatre, a family-friendly theatre company that offers kids of all ages the opportunity to be a part of live theatre. Live Oak Theatre also offers acting, singing, dancing, and other dramatic classes. Kyle has been an actor, writer, director, and producer for Live Oak for over five years, and, prior to joining the theatre group, he explored the local indie film world.

With several acting roles in indie features, short films, and even a couple of reality shows, he discovered that he wanted to be more involved with the story from beginning to end.  Production was where he belonged.

Root & Branch Films begins Filming in Brooksville

In 2017 he began Root & Branch Films, producing his first short film, Proximity, a drama with a bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure. “I am a Star Wars fan,” Kyle admitted. Proximity was a fifteen-minute film that won the Audience Choice Award at the SSSF Film Festival January 9th, 2019… and it was filmed in Brooksville.

The next film, “Can I Play Now?” was released in 2019, and Lief Thomason, owner of Odd!Life Studios, joined Kyle as the film’s Cinematographer, planning the film’s shots and how they look to compliment the writing that Kyle and James McTague had done.

Lief Thomason (Director of Photography) and Kyle Marra (Director) discuss the shot they are about to film for their latest short film, Stills, while Paul Saulo (Ansel Stills) studies his lines in the background. Location: Brooksville neighborhood home. Image by Audra Thomason

“I met Lief when we were working on Proximity. We were at Mountaineer Coffee, and he mentioned that he would love to help on a film if the opportunity presented itself. As we prepped for Can I Play Now, our previous cinematographer’s schedule did not allow him to participate. Lief jumped in to fill the void,” Kyle said. This film won the Best Indie Short at the Sunshine City Film Festival and the Best World Premiere Award at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival!

Award-Winning Films are being Made in Brooksville Florida

Kyle Marra, filmmaker
Kyle Marra describes how one of scenes of Stills was filmed in this location outside the Jennings Building in Brooksville, Florida. Image by Diane Bedard.

The team made three more films, won more awards, and is currently wrapping up their newest endeavor, “Stills.” Stills is a 30-minute short film that centers around the disappearance of a prominent attorney’s daughter and the detective who is trying to find her before it is too late. Created by Kyle Marra, Lief Thomason, Tommy McTague, and James McTague, Stills was completely filmed within a three-mile radius of the historic Hernando County Courthouse in downtown Brooksville.

NatureCoaster was able to catch up with Kyle recently and he shared how this film was created, as well as his vision for the future and whether or not Brooksville figures prominently in it.

“There is no formula for ‘making it’ in film. What works for one person might not work for someone else. We come up with ideas and then begin writing. The collaboration of a good team makes for a better film, so we revise a lot. In fact, right in the midst of filming for Stills, we came up with a new idea cutting a scene from the script in favor of a brand-new scene,” Kyle said while enjoying a drink at Mountaineer in downtown Brooksville.

Stills short film
Graded screen capture from the film where Detective Monroe (Patrece Bloomfield), Officer Farley (Rachel Espendez), and Sergeant Hall (Tony Palles) react to something gone awry. The scene’s location is the Vinelife Church Storage Warehouse.

Everyone who participated in this film volunteered. After putting together the trailer Root & Branch utilized crowdfunding to pay for post-production, props, and location expenses.

After writing the story, Kyle posted a call for auditions on some Facebook actors’ groups, as well as Green Room Orlando. Those who indicated a desire to participate were sent a few pages from the script for their preferred character and video auditions were returned to Root & Branch.

“As an independent filmmaker, we try to showcase our skills in short films. We want to show what we can do, while learning and growing with each project,” Kyle said. “Stills was filmed in Brooksville because the story was written with a small town in mind. It fits.”

Isabella Rossiter, who played Katharine Temple, the kidnapped child in Stills, said, “I enjoyed working with Mr. Marra and learning how the making of a film happened as opposed to acting on stage. I also enjoyed working in Brooksville because I was already familiar with the places we were shooting at.  They were places we go as a family.”

making movies in Brooksville
A lonely Katherine Temple (Isabella Rossiter) wanders away from her own birthday party in this graded screen capture. Location: Tom Varn Park.

Rachel Espendez who plays Officer Farley in the film contributed, “I grew up in South Florida, so being in Brooksville really felt like a completely different state to me.  I think it was the perfect place to film Stills.  I absolutely loved the small-town feel and everyone I met was super down to earth and kind. It was exciting to feel that local support.”

It Takes a Great Team to Make a Great Film

filming stills movie brooksville
Lief Thomason (Director of Photography), sets up a shot on day one of Stills while boom operators Julian Merrill and Danielle Skinner prep their equipment, and Austin and Hailey Spicer adjust the lighting. Location: Brooksville neighborhood home. Image by Audra Thomason.

The road that Root & Branch has taken involves local creatives working together to produce quality films that are not afraid to tackle challenging subjects. This group has a likeminded approach to filmmaking, which is part of what makes it so successful.

Andrew Kerr who plays James Temple, commented, “Being a part of this production was very fun!  The crew was very nice and professional.  Kyle’s direction and Lief’s creative eye made the experience of being part of Stills very enjoyable.”

inside the Brooksville Jennings Building.
Lief Thomason (Director of Photography) sets a light for the next scene while, actor, Tony Palles (Sergeant Hall) jokes with some of the crew.  Location: Brooksville Jennings Building. Image by Danielle Skinner.

Paul Saulo who plays Ansel Stills said “An opportunity to be a part of a well-crafted film (is what I got out of this experience).  The production was well thought out, and a good story to be told with a good script and skillful actors.”

Defining Success for the Root & Branch Films Team

Success is a difficult to define when there is no budget to create something that you want to represent your vision. Kyle coordinates a lot of volunteers for each shoot. “We filmed once a month from February through May, starting on President’s Day. Always on a weekend, I coordinate with the locations, the actors, and the production crew to ensure everyone can be there… and we have to eat.”

After filming, Colorist Marieta Farfarova in Bulgaria adjusts the film to make it look its best.

Chris Dudley, of the Grammy-nominated band Underoath, was brought in to create the score for the film.

The Visual Effects artist, Graham Hughes, and sound designers, Seann Dougherty and Brett Voss, add their talents to the mix. They are in California and Brooksville.

“We expect to wrap up Stills by mid-October or November,” Kyle shares, “Then we will hold a first viewing for our actors, production team, and our many local sponsors.

They include Randi Olsen, providing costumes, Eric Kessel of Kesseltech loaned computers to make the police precinct look real, VineLife Church donated use of one of their warehouses, the Hernando Sun provided newspaper blanks to create dated newspaper props, Greg Mys designed a computer program to emulate a digital case file, Jesse Cuddeback responded to a Facebook post for a police interceptor and let us use his vehicle, multiple filmmakers from Tampa Bay donated time and equipment, and Tom Downes, of the Tampa PD acted as our police consultant. The Treiman House provided overnight accommodations for out-of-town actors in their Bed & Breakfast. Wayne Johnson allowed use of the Jennings building for filming. I am sure this list is missing many, and we are grateful to everyone who contributed to the project!”

filming Stills in Tom Varn Park, Brooksville, FL
Kyle Marra (Director) describes the action for the next shot to actors Andrew Kerr (James Temple), Dawn Hester (Grandmother), Isabella Rossiter (Katharine Temple), and Trey Hester (Temple Child) while the rest of the crew sets for the shot. Location: Tom Varn Park. Image by Audra Thomason.

This is a Brooksville project by Brooksville residents and supported by the community. Stills is a mystery, crime, thriller that focuses on a jaded detective who is under tremendous pressure to find a missing girl. It touches on issues of complacency, burnout, and paying attention to people and recognizing when and how to help.

Kyle is currently in talks with a local movie theatre for a hometown premiere, and then Stills will be sent out to various local, regional, state, and international film festivals.

“It is really neat to see our work appreciated,” Kyle wraps up when asked about his previous films receiving multiple awards. “We could have moved to Tampa or Orlando, but we prefer to stay in Brooksville.”

Stay tuned to to find out how you can see Stills and judge for yourself how well local creatives are making their dreams a viable reality. Maybe we can all participate in the next crowdfunding campaign?



Stefen Phelps says

Great article, looking forward to seeing Stills!!!

Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ says

We are also, Stefen!

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