The Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival (TBUFF) was founded eight years ago by award-winning Tampa Bay area filmmakers, actors, critics and artists to catch the independent films that fall through the cracks and end up, well, underground. With most independent films going straight to home video, TBUFF offers each cast and crew the opportunity to see their movie on the big screen in digital sound at a real theater, as well as marketing, promotion and accolades to shore up distribution prospects.
“Although the ‘U’ in TBUFF stands for ‘Underground,’ we don’t necessarily mean that in the ‘dark and disturbing’ sense. ‘Underground’ is really more about the manner in which the movies are produced—in a scrappy, micro budget manner, generally without Hollywood backing, although we’ve had a few movies with well-known talent in them,” said TBUFF’s programming director, R. Presley Stephens. “But the average person hasn’t heard of most of the filmmakers and actors involved in TBUFF movies and, unlike a lot of festivals, we’re fine with that.”
TBUFF is looking for film submissions for the festival that will be taking place in late October of this year.
“Although we’ve had plenty of horror films, art films and just plain ‘weird’ films, TBUFF is definitely an all-genre film festival and we’ve shown everything from feminist dramas and family films and heartbreaking documentaries to superhero films and sci-fi action films, many of them with professional effects done on a shoestring budget,” Stephens said. “We showcase both feature-length and short films and, with the obvious exception of 2020, we’ve had more than 200 selections each of the past five years, which is among the most of not just any festival in Central Florida, but among all the so-called underground festivals in the country, so we do bring a lot of filmmakers together from around the world.”
TBUFF has a strong connection with the local film community and tends to show a great deal of films from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orlando, Sarasota and other areas of our state. “At the time TBUFF was founded, we felt like a lot of Florida festivals had become somewhat unsupportive of the state’s talent in favor of what we like to call ‘Sundance films,’ so we wanted to have a little different culture from that while still recognizing strong entries from around the world.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival or if you’d like to submit a film to the festival, you can visit its website at www.tbuff.org.