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Movie Planner: Meet 'Gifted' screenwriter from St. Pete, plus The Fate of the Furious


Tampa Bay is again the setting for a movie that wasn't filmed here.

The child prodigy drama Gifted includes "St. Petersburg" locales that, like Live by Night's "Ybor City," were filmed in Georgia where production incentives are available and generous.

"(Director) Marc Webb came to St. Pete and scouted for a few days," said screenwriter Tom Flynn. "He thought it was perfect . . . He was sold but the Florida incentives didn't come through. It's hard for a movie like ours, on our budget, to thumb our nose at 30 percent of our budget (coming) from the state of Georgia."

It gets worse: Despite the fact that Flynn lives in St. Petersburg, Gifted wasn't written here, either. Not for financial reasons; Flynn just needed a quiet place to work, settling into a North Carolina beach house in the dead of winter.

"I knew there wouldn't be anything else to do," said Flynn, 62. "Everything's closed, no Internet."

Gifted is Flynn's first dramatic screenplay after selling scripts for 14 comedies never produced. He'd pretty much given up on the Hollywood idea, moving to St. Petersburg a decade ago.

"Now I'm unretired, I guess," he said. "In a big way."

Visiting his sister in Ohio — "an egghead for a large corporation" — and her precocious daughters inspired Gifted, in which a 7-year-old prodigy named Mary (Mckenna Grace) deals with being different.

"(My sister's) two children did a lot of those things you see in the movie," Flynn said. "They did break a boy's nose, they did yell at a (school) principal, the same attitude that Mary has. So I thought these girls are movie moment-worthy. And my sister was a prodigy when I was growing up so I sort of put them all together to make Mary."

Even with its out-of-state inspiration and production, Gifted capably fakes St. Petersburg through signage, letterheads and a bar called Ferg's where Chris Evans' character hangs out. So does Flynn occasionally.

"I like (owner) Mark Ferguson," Flynn said. "He's a good dude. And the scene got cut out of the movie but we had one at my favorite coffee shop in St. Pete, which is Brew D Licious."

That loss stung Flynn, but not like one detail that isn't obvious in Gifted:

"I had to sit there sadly in Savannah and watch them paint 'Pinellas County Unified School District' on the side of buses. That was really heart-wrenching for me."


The billion-dollar Fast & Furious franchise takes its eighth victory lap through theaters this weekend. Just like NASCAR, there's a running beef between drivers.

Dwayne Johnson, below, started it on the set of The Fate of the Furious (PG-13) with a blistering social media post about an unnamed co-star. The target is assumed to be Vin Diesel, who showed up late to the set that day, sparking an argument.

Eight months later, Johnson didn't join his castmates in promoting The Fate of the Furious at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, though he showed up to hype Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Baywatch. Now Johnson and Diesel are reportedly being kept apart during a worldwide promotional tour. Testy stuff for a franchise built on the concept of "family."

But the tension might pay off on screen. The Fate of the Furious sees Dom Toretto (Diesel) seduced to the dark side by the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron), betraying his friends. Johnson's Luke Hobbs and the rest of the gang must stop him.

Everyone in the multicultural cast is back, including the late Paul Walker in another end credits memorial. New to the lineup are Oscar winner Helen Mirren, Scott Eastwood and Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody siccing Hobbs on Dom. Read a review at and on Etc, Page 2B.

in theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1Logan: Requiem for a Marvel mutant (Hugh Jackman). Best comic book flick since The Dark Knight.

2Get Out: Jordan Peele makes race relations scarier than ever with bold horror satire.

3 Gifted: Math prodigy (Mckenna Grace) tries being a kid. Written by St. Petersburg's Tom Flynn.

4 The Boss Baby: Alec Baldwin's voice carries a so-so animated comedy.

5 Going in Style: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin make a lame script sing.


(Dates subject to change)

April 28: The Circle; How to Be a Latin Lover

May 5: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; The Dinner

May 12: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword; Snatched; Lowriders

May 19: Alien: Covenant; Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Movie Planner: Meet 'Gifted' screenwriter from St. Pete, plus The Fate of the Furious 04/12/17 [Last modified: Friday, April 14, 2017 10:37am]
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