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  • Fred Smith

Evander Preston: My Most Eccentric Casting

I wasn't going to leave until he agreed to be in my movie, but for a guy with his own art palace and beer label, he sure seemed to have a knack for ducking attention.

We were sitting in his kitchen and on our third round of his personal home brew when Evander Preston told me about why he chose to make the signature brew of his namesake brand a light pilsner.

"My doctor says it's the kind of beer that will kill me the slowest."

Years later, that little quip seems to encapsulate Evander Preston as an artist, jeweler, brewer, gourmet cook, and all-around eccentric. He embraced the chaos and he wanted to be a part of tomorrow so he could see how it all turned out.

Like a lot of people living in the Tampa Bay area in the mid-late aughts, I'd heard about Evander.

Every year around Christmas time, he'd make the news for passing out cigars and liquor to homeless people in a public park. (The eventual law banning the act would affectionately get referred to by locals as the Evander Preston law.)

So when it came time to cast a beggar in my movie, Uploading to Angels (2009), I knew exactly who I wanted to play the part.

It would take some convincing (and a few more rounds of his pilsner) to get Evander to agree to the role, but he eventually did.

And he nailed it.

In his lone scene, Aunt Jana (Nevada Caldwell) and 9-year-old Terry (Abigail Taylor) experience car trouble that's alleviated only after a little altruism. (The clip begins at 35:39)

This scene was shot in an alley in Pass-a-Grille, Florida. If you look over Evander's shoulder you'll see a building. That's his gallery and home.

Part the agreement for him being in the movie was we had to shoot his scene close to his home because he didn't like to travel.

That, and we had to take home a few complimentary six packs of his private-label beer.

That was Evander. The law may have forbade him from passing out liquor to the homeless, but it didn't say anything about giving beer to struggling filmmakers.

Evander Preston died last week. He was 84.

I'll miss him, but I'll never forget him.


Fred Smith is an author and filmmaker. His debut novel, The Coolest Labels, is available on,, and other online retailers.

You're on his site. So stick around, have a few rounds on the house, then you something.

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