In July 1998, international and independent film aficionados sought to pioneer a local festival balanced with both foreign and domestic films. The following year, Sarasota Film Festival launched its first festival — two premiere screenings, eight independent films, two educational symposiums and one gala fundraiser.
Since its inception, the festival has blossomed, expanding from three days to 10, increasing its attendance from 2,300 attendees to more than 45,000 and broadening its scope, rising from 10 screenings to hosting more than 200 films. The festival also includes a plethora of special events and parties, lectures and panels with leading voices in the film industry and nationally recognized education programs.
“The festival is helping to establish Sarasota as a go-to place for the film industry and to further promote the community as a tourist and retirement destination,” said Mark Famiglio. Sarasota Film Festival Board president.
It has expanded to include year-round activities such as free outdoor moonlightm ovies in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Venice; Monday night movies at the Asolo Theater, the Screenwriters’ Circle and more. The festival also includes aspiring young filmmakers.
“It’s an interesting honor to be nominated as cultural organization of the year,” Famiglio said. “It’s nice that the chamber recognizes our attempt to become more efficient and fiscally responsible and further recognizes our important place in the Sarasota community as an economic engine and strong cultural force.”
AT A GLANCE
Address: 332 Cocoanut Blvd.
Start date: 1998
Number of employees when started: One
Number of employees now: Zero (all are independent contractors and full-time volunteers)
Biggest challenge: “Cleaning up years of fiscal excess.”
Advice: “Keep your eye just above the horizon and maintain perspective.”
Where do you see your business one year from now? “A year from now we will be even more lean with a distilled sense of purpose and a renewed vigor to keep our position as the acme of American regional film festivals.”