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Hidden In Plain Sight: 'Sarasota Half in Dream'

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 13, 2013
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
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Any videogame enthusiast can describe the novelty of discovering hidden messages within games. The game’s programmer leaves these surprises, appropriately called “Easter eggs,” which are only discovered when players abandon the game’s structured objective and explore areas off the beaten path.

Filmmakers Derek Murphy and Mitchell Zemil liken that gaming experience to their new collaborative film project, “Sarasota Half in Dream.” The experimental documentary aims to explore the hidden aspects of life in Sarasota, which they say are often hiding in plain sight.

“It’s almost like we’re trying to discover the “Easter eggs” in life,” says Zemil, half-jokingly. “When you stray from the normal path of your everyday life, you discover that there’s more to Sarasota than what you see on the surface. It feels like these things were put there for you to discover, if you look for them.”

Murphy, a Riverview graduate who studied film production at the University of Rochester, and Zemil, a Pine View graduate currently studying film production at New York University, met last year through a mutual friend and began developing the idea for the documentary. Based on a concept Murphy had been generating for years, the film was originally intended to be a web series or collection of short films, but the two decided, upon filming, that the subject warranted a full-length documentary.

“When you start delving into some of Sarasota’s more obscure or secretive places, there’s this almost palpable feeling of energy,” says Murphy. “It’s like a wellspring of energy that manifests itself in these little phenomena. Our goal was to try to document that.”

Strongly influenced by the subculture of urban exploration, Murphy and Zemil filmed in various locations around Sarasota, which they discovered mostly through word of mouth. Locations included abandoned boxcars, golf courses and factories, as well as isolated areas, like a portion of Lido Key, where a colony of hundreds of crabs greeted them every time.

After about a year of filming off and on, Murphy and Zemil hope to have all of their footage gathered by the end of summer. The two recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the rest of the film, which they hope to complete by the end of the year to submit to the Sarasota Film Festival, as well as other festivals around the country.

“I was born and raised in Sarasota,” says Zemil. “On the surface, it has this very tropical suburban appearance, but when you begin to explore outside of those places, you discover how unique Sarasota really is. I hope that’s what people take away from the documentary.”

Secret Sarasota
Derek Murphy and Mitchell Zemil reveal some of their favorite locations from the filming of their upcoming experimental documentary, ‘Sarasota Half in Dream.’


Abandoned railroad cars
“There were a few of these in Sarasota,” says Derek Murphy. “It was interesting to see how they became canvases for graffiti. There was actually some really impressive art and poetry on some of the boxcars.”

Abandoned factory

“There was nothing left of this factory but the framework,” says Zemil. “Inside was a stunning mix of urban decay and Florida fauna. We were actually filming inside this factory during Tropical Storm Debby, which was very strange.”

Secluded portion of Lido Key
“This is a place that not many people go to,” says Murphy. “Any time we went there, there was a huge colony of crabs — so many that you couldn’t see the sand. When they would see you, they would run off and create this surprisingly loud sound, like rain sticks.”

 To make a donation to the documentary, click here.



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