Gulfport Filmmaker Lurking in the Shadows

With its diverse landscape and abundance of sunshine, Florida has long been a popular destination for film productions. Local filmmaker Nicholas Canning is adding his own work to the list and using his adopted home of Gulfport as the backdrop.

Canning’s new short horror film “The Shade” was an official selection at the 1st Annual iHorror FIlm Festival held this past October at the Cuban Club in Ybor City, and was not only well received but nominated for Best Florida Short. 

“From start to finish, it took around nine months to complete the film,” said Canning, who arrived in Gulfport from New Jersey in 2012. While spending time on sets for other people’s films – including work as a stand-in for John Leguizamo on “The Infiltrator” and pulling double-duty acting and doing special effects makeup on a short written and starring “Child’s Play” actor Alex Vincent – Canning was building his own network here in the Tampa Bay region. 

“Since moving to Florida, the Tampa Bay film community has been kind to me,” Canning said, “and it’s been great to make so many friends with a common passion for storytelling.” His first project was writing and directing a short drama dealing with depression and much of the feedback he got was positive, with viewers pointing out how the piece made them cry and feel inspired. 

“Film festivals are an amazing environment for me,” says Gulfport filmmaker Nicholas Canning. “The spectacle of walking the carpet and getting to see your film with an audience on a big screen is very motivating.” Since its premiere at iHorror, Canning’s short film “The Shade” has been well received from audiences and fellow filmmakers. It has also screened at the Good Enough Films Halloween Time Spooktacular Screamfest and the Spooky Empire International Film Festival. The next screening will take place on December 6 at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival and Canning will be submitting the piece to next year’s Sunscreen Film Festival and Gasparilla International Film Festival.

“So,” said Canning, “I thought that it could be a fun challenge to try and scare them for my next short.”

The story of a mother and daughter tormented by a foreboding entity, “The Shade” clocks in at just under five minutes with credits. But it packs plenty of suspense and dread into its brief running time, and makes use of seamless visual effects to enhance the story rather than distract from it. 

“I tried turning to primal and childhood fears for ideas,” Canning said, “and for some reason I thought of Peter Pan and the part where he is trying to reattach his shadow to himself. So, I took that along with stories of paranormal encounters with Shadow People and crafted something simple in concept and budget, yet effective in execution.” 

Filmed in an eight-hour day at a friend’s house in Gulfport, Canning said he was fortunate to have a completely local cast and crew lend their talents to the project. 

“Our lead, Lisa [Walton] is an actress and teacher out of Andi Matheny Acting Studios and she was amazing in portraying different levels of fear without saying a word,” he said. 

And this was the first ever project for Walton’s young costar, Luna Jarquin. Director of Photography Chuck Terzian served as Canning’s second-in-command and was “amazing at translating my storyboards into the final images in the film,” he said. 

Upon completion of the rough cut, VFX supervisor Malachi Cull, sound editor Trevor S. Anderson composer David Velez, took over and gave the film its finishing touches. 

“I’m looking forward to working with the cast and crew in the near future,” said Canning, “as well as hearing the screams from the next audience that gets to see the film.”

That next screening of The Shade will take place on December 6 at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival. Visit for more information. 


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