By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall November 13, 2004 at 10:02AM
Long time, no typing! Apologies; I have recently relocated to Sarasota, FL to begin my work as the Director of Programming at The Sarasota Film Festival. While I have kept my job as Programmer at The Nantucket Film Festival (I am excited for June on the island), I am thrilled to be working in Sarasota. So far, things have been very smooth in terms of the move. My co-workers are all dedicated, nice people and I have been able to hit the ground running with the film program. I have been working hard on the invitations and the line-up, so I haven't had much time to get out and see many movies at all. It also doesn't hurt to be in the warm weather and sunshine here. I am looking forward to a building a strong festival here, and my goal is to get people to come right after Sundance (our dates are January 28- February 6, 2005.). From Sundance to sunshine! (Eugene, Matt, and Brian-- I mean you!)
One of the most encouraging signs so far has been the community support for the festival, which is tremendous. Last night, SFF hosted a screening of the TNT film The Wool Cap, at the amazing Van Wezel Performing Arts Center here in Sarasota. The building was designed by William Wesley Peters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and yes, it looks like a purple clam.
William H. Macy and Director Steven Schachter attended the screening and after party, both of which were a big hit with the crowd. What was most exiting for me was the fact that 1,600 people (that's not a typo) showed up for the free screening. I've been told that the festival always sells out Opening Night in this same theater, and that's 1,736 people. That number is reflective of the audience's appetite for strong films down here, and I am working to build a program that will reflect the diversity of ideas, tastes, issues, and stories. I hope I can challenge the audience with the program. It is daunting to try for a 10-day schedule, but I am working hard on it.
After the Opening Night film, we are holding the party at the Ringling Museum of Art , a gorgeous museum that holds an amazing collection of 16th-18th Century painting and sculpture.
" The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art was created in 1927 by John Ringling for the people of Florida. Having made a fortune through real estate transactions, railroads, and the well-known circus that he shared with his brothers, John Ringling amassed an art collection of over 600 paintings, sculptures, and various decorative arts including more than 25 tapestries. Collecting for the Museum over the period from 1924 to 1931, Ringling and his wife, Mable Burton Ringling, gathered important works by Cranach, Rubens, Poussin, Hals, Van Dyck, Pietro da Cortona, Guercino and other major artists who worked primarily from 1500 to about 1750. The Old Master collection, now including approximately 750 paintings, is the most important area of the Museum's holdings and within it, Italian paintings that are among the rarest and most celebrated in the country."
It's also home to the Cá d'Zan mansion, which was used in the Ethan Hawke/ Gwenyth Paltrow version of Great Expectations.
I am working hard to find a great musician for the party (playing in the museum courtyard) and a big film for Opening Night. Stay tuned. A film programmer never rests. But he may get very comfortable....