Student boxumentary wins big

Before Jeff Pesce knew he wanted to be a producer, he was working at RBK Architects Inc. and pursuing a degree in architecture.

Occasionally, the firm would need to film promotional videos for its products. This is when Pesce found his true calling. But his first opportunity to work with “like-minded, educated people” was for a mass communications project.

The project turned into Ringside Stories, a boxing documentary that won Pesce – along with Jarrod Collier, Rosalia Gaitan, Bryan Coward, Jason Allen, Emila Gagnon, Trisha Short, Clayton “OnPoint” Barnes and Stacey Bake, also mass communications students – the Independents’ Film Festival’s Florida Choice award.

Pesce didn’t know what to expect from the project, but he knew he wanted the focus to be local. So he and the other students scoped out the Tampa boxing scene, which led them to some well-known boxing aficionados in Ybor, Muhammed Ali’s “fight doctor” Freddie Pacheco and one eager female fighter.

“I thought it would be edgier to talk about a female fighter,” Pesce said.

He couldn’t have been more right, as several of the interviewees were completely opposed to the idea, not to mention people who saw the documentary. When Ringside Stories echoed off the walls of the Tampa Theatre for the award, it proved that controversy speaks volumes.

Pesce is still at RBK and will “hopefully” graduate in December, but he has his sights set on other things. He’s working on a project for the National Film Challenge ( unlike anything he has done so far. The NFC staff e-mails each contestant with a genre, prop and dialogue. The contestants then have 48 hours to come up with a 5- to 10-minute short film. Auditions were held in Ybor for producers, actors, screenwriters and several other positions.

As with Ringside Stories, Pesce doesn’t want to make people feel boxed into one position.

“I wanted everyone to have a chance to try what they wanted to try, and I want to do the same thing with this,” Pesce said. “If you want to try lighting, I want you to try it, and if you want to try filming, I want you to try that, too.”

Pesce is co-producing this endeavor with Brian Coward, who worked alongside him on Ringside Stories.

So what is there for aspiring producers to learn from somebody who’s found success quickly? Pesce’s best advice is to learn the process.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s your grandma’s birthday party – treat it like it’s a professional film and stick to the method,” he said. “Any company, no matter what they’re filming, is going to look for organization.”

Pesce also unearthed what he calls “one of the most important and helpful film resources,” Without a Box ( Without a Box is a Web site that has international film festival listings as well as the contact information and requirements to submit your films. Participants can submit as many films to as many festivals possible.

“Just getting your work out there is the most important thing,” Pesce said.

So what lies ahead?

“Hopefully the opportunity to own my own production company in Tampa,” Pesce said. “I would love to do a ridiculous spoof movie just because I can, but I know you gotta work before you play.”

Students can view Ringside Stories on Pesce’s MySpace profile,, under his “videos” section.