An attempt to reflect upon the 2008 Sarasota Film Festival after being waaaay too close to it for eight long months.
Remember saying goodbye to your summer love? That first time you met someone special and, even though you knew it would never last, that the future was an absolute impossibility, you threw your entire heart and body into the moment anyway? And then, too soon, suddenly, that last night on the beach; The sun setting, the sky transitioning from blue to orange to purple to black, hands in the pockets of your hooded sweatshirt to keep them away from the cold wind blowing off of the water. An inevitable goodbye, a final kiss. You look up and the sky is on fire with starlight. You look down and see the image of your love receding into the oblivion of the summer night. You stare at your feet for a moment and remember the smallest details, the avalanche of perfect hours that lead you to this moment, stolen kisses, the river of nerves tearing through your stomach. You look up again and it’s over. Nothing but the long walk home and no way to ever explain how much it all meant to you.
That’s how it feels for me when the film festival ends. Hundreds of artists and co-workers walking one by one into the night, saying good-bye, I look up and then back and they are gone. And me alone with the memory of it all. You work so hard for eight months to create this temporal, collective cocoon, ten days of shared experiences and then suddenly it’s gone but for the lingering image in the darkness, a trail of sensations that will never exist quite the same way again.
I can remember most of it; The spectacle of Opening Night, the surge in film attendance (with audiences almost universally pleased with the films, always eager to discuss them), the pure living inspiration that is Liv Ullmann (and meeting her, talking with her, moderating her Q&A), chatting with Michael Barker, watching the juries deliberate the awards with passionate seriousness, Josh Safdie accepting the Independent Visions Award in a state of shock, the unexpected precision and grace of the 10th Anniversary Ball, the passion and thoughtfulness of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Ted Hope, Stanley Tucci and the radiant and fiercely intelligent Charlize Theron, Dennis Lambert performing his monster hits at the wrap party, catching up with Elvis Mitchell, meeting the possible #1 pick in the NFL Draft at our 10th Anniversary Ball, a standing ovation for Battle In Seattle, meeting an amazing group of artists whose work I so deeply admired; It all feels so surreal on the other side of the experience of living it. In the moment, I was trying as hard as I could to maintain a sense of professionalism, but there was certainly a part of me that hovered above it all, observing everything and gasping at how perfectly it was all unfolding before me; I just wanted to hold onto every day and slow it down, to savor what was happening.
I couldn’t be more proud; From Kim Miele and her amazing work on our events to Carolyn Kaylor and our technical dream team to Brian Reiss and his unbelievable graciousness in treating all 250 festival guests like rock stars to Bob/Chris/Becky/Noah/Grace making the trains run comfortably on time to Jen Weiss pulling it all together and me, taking a step back and watching Holly blossom into an even more exemplary professional right before my eyes; It just doesn’t seem possible. I am privileged to know and work with all of them.
And then there was the karaoke. This year, staff and filmmakers took no less than three trips to The Cabana Inn for amazing nights of singing and dancing that just blew the doors off of the place. I still haven’t recovered.
I am not sure what else to say. It’s too close to home; I can’t even begin to put things into context. All I know is that we had a very special group here this year and if ever I doubt my desire to spend eight months struggling to pull the festival program together, I need only remember the time we had together. Thank you to the artists and audiences who made this possible. There is still much to do, but it’s nice to take a minute and reflect. I miss it already.