74-year-old has big-screen dreams with screenplay

Tony Schweikle, of Ave Maria, won award for ‘Tiki Bar Pirates,’ which he hopes to film in Collier County

Tony Schweikle sets up a shot. Schweikle, a one-time still photographer, went into film production and sighting and has just won an award for his screenplay,'Tiki Bar Pirates.'

Photo by submitted

Tony Schweikle sets up a shot. Schweikle, a one-time still photographer, went into film production and sighting and has just won an award for his screenplay,"Tiki Bar Pirates."

Part-time Ave Maria resident Tony Schweikle is a movie industry veteran who has worked as a production and location manager for several Hollywood films.

Now, at age 74, he can add “award-winning screenplay writer” to his credits.

Two weeks ago, Schweikle received a Silver Ace Award for his screenwriting debut, “Tiki Bar Pirates,” at the Las Vegas Film Festival. The screenplay about a gang of lovable losers from Southwest Florida and their plan to hijack a yacht for ransom is also a finalist at this year’s Ventura Film Festival.

It even made the finals at the Atlanta Film Festival and the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.

“I didn’t know if anybody would like it,” said Schweikle, who spends four months in Ave Maria and eight in Naples, Italy. “I thought it was good stuff, but everybody in Los Angeles has a screenplay in their back pocket. So, to be recognized even as a finalist is a big thing.”

Tony Schweikle of Ave Maria and Naples, Italy, talks with an interviewer from a Las Vegas network after winning a Silver Ace screenplay award with his 'Tiki Bar Pirates' tale.

Photo by submitted

Tony Schweikle of Ave Maria and Naples, Italy, talks with an interviewer from a Las Vegas network after winning a Silver Ace screenplay award with his "Tiki Bar Pirates" tale.

Schweikle originally was a still photographer in Colorado. He got his big break when producers for a Roger Corman film hired him to take photos. After that, Schweikle began taking jobs as a location scout for major motion pictures, such “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

In the early ’90s, he made the transition to a role as the assistant director of the Colorado Film Commission; later, he became the director of an 11-county film commission, helping to bring Hollywood movies such as “City Slickers” and “Cliffhanger” to Colorado.

“I’m very up on the economics of film production pertaining to a state or a region,” said Schweikle, who has also directed commercials and TV shows. “And I know how film productions help a region and all the money it can bring.”

That’s why he wants to turn his “Tiki Bar Pirates” screenplay into a movie and film it in Collier County. Schweikle expects to find a distributor this year and begin production next spring.

“We’ll be doing it in the area and hiring a lot of the local film production people,” said Schweikle, who moved to Ave Maria four years ago. “Then, if Collier County becomes ‘film-friendly,’ then other movie productions will come to Southwest Florida, and we’re talking about millions of dollars.”

In addition to a much-needed economic boost, Schweikle hopes the proposed film will bring some Hollywood celebrities. He’s currently putting together a cast with a few high-profile stars in mind, but he won’t comment on their names.

“This isn’t going to be an indie movie,” Schweikle said. “This will be a $7 to $10 million film with people that everyone will want to see.”

Those big-screen dreams began two years ago when he started typing on a small-screen computer. Schweikle said he drew inspiration for the story from news at the time about Somali pirates hijacking boats off the coast of Africa. He adapted that to Southwest Florida.

“I knew that was news, and I knew about the Collier area,” Schweikle said. “I thought‘Let’s get these nice people in their mid-40s who really had nothing to look forward to and have them do something extraordinary.’ ”

This is not Schweikle’s first foray into writing. He has written and published a historical novel titled “The

Cardinal’s Treasure,” but before that book, writing was a struggle.

“I couldn’t write,” Schweikle said. “For me, writing 20 pages was like bleeding, but then, all of a sudden it just came pouring out.”

Since then, he has directed several documentaries and written five screenplays.

Even with the work, he still considers himself somewhat retired.

“I thought I was going to retire when we moved to Florida, and things happened,” Schweikle said. “I guess you can say I’m semiretired.

“But,” he added, “I’m working on film projects every day.”

Film projects he would like to win awards for, particularly one prestigious gold statue.

“Every night before I fall asleep I have these dreams,” Schweikle said. “And the finality of all of them is walking up and getting an Oscar."

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