MANATEE -- Sometime this year, "The Investigator," a faith-based movie that was filmed in the Tampa Bay area, will premiere in 20 to 25 select theaters around the country.
Producer, actress and casting director Nicole Abisinio, a Sarasota native and owner of Sarasota-based Gabriel's Messenger Films, the company that produced the movie, is hoping its message will resonate spiritually with anyone whose views it. "The Investigator" is an inspirational true tale of a New York police detective who struggles with his faith and eventually becomes a high school baseball coach, which leads him to the most important investigation of his life. The message of the film is to show how trials and tribulations can strengthen one's character.
Filming for the movie, which was written by Richard Romano, upon whose life the main character's life is based, began in January 2012 and took place in parts of St. Petersburg, Tampa and Brandon, in east Hillsborough County. The film took four weeks to shoot.
"The point of the movie is about having joy and peace that we're in God's hands," Abisinio said.
Abisinio's Gabriel's Messenger Films produces family-based films. "The Investigator" is the company's first project, but will be Abisinio's seventh.
Actor and musician Wade Williams portrays Sgt. James Buanacore in the film. Williams said he was able to relate to many of the obstacles his character faced.
"I drew from my own life, a lot," Williams said. "In my own life, I was pretty down. Before I got saved, I was pretty much a mess. I had already been through that. God got me ready for this role a long time ago."
In the movie, Buanacore deals with the aftermath of the death of an apparent suspect during a drug raid, which forces him out of a job. When his wife has a miscarriage, he beings to question his previously strong faith.
Williams, 41, lives in Orlando and at times would commute to the set.
"Knowing that heavy burden and knowing you want to be the best you can be, but not knowing you're doing your best? A lot was drawing on my own life," Williams said.
Williams spent time with Romano in New York to study his role. He said he gained weight and worked on his New York accent.
"Becoming a Richard-type person isn't as easy as I thought," he said.
"They got really close," Abisinio said. "We had Richard on the set to make sure things were accurate and real."
Other projects on Abisinio's resumé includes producing movies "Kid's Cafe" (2011), "Prime of Your Life" (2010), which she also co-wrote, and "Gutter King" (2010). As an actress, she's appeared in the film "Broken Flowers," starring Bill Murray, and "She Hate Me," directed by Spike Lee. She also was featured in the TV series "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." She also appeared in stage productions, playing the lead roles in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Romeo and Juliet."
Switching to family-based films coincided with her spirituality.
"I was making movies for years, but nothing felt like it was clicking," she said. "What I realized God was using those skills to work for Him."
Being a spiritual vehicle has become a part of Abisinio's personal life. A Rollins University graduate, Abisinio majored in theater and economics. She is a eucharistic minister and faithfully attends two churches in the Tampa Bay Area, St. Mary's Our Lady of Grace in St. Petersburg and St. Martha Catholic Church in Sarasota. Father Julio Rivero, who ministers at St. Mary's, has become one of her mentors.
Williams and Abisinio said the film teaches faith.
"God's plans for our lives is so much better than our plan," Williams said.
"It's not our way, its His way," Abisinio said. "Wherever we go, we know that we trust Him."
Abisinio said the movie will premiere at a location in the Tampa area. Eventually, it will be available on DVD.
Visit www.theinvestigatormovie.com for more information.
Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049.