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  ‘When Jeff Tried to Save the World’ Premiers at Sarasota Film Festival

  ‘When Jeff Tried to Save the World’ Premiers at Sarasota Film Festival

| Laura Bell Adams |

One of the many ancillary aspects of the Sarasota Film Festival are all the young people that attend the screenings and events.  Look at any of the red carpets that have happened this week and a youthful presence is seen everywhere, from the directors and producers to the actors and actresses who have been making the trek around town.

Hollywood is a young person’s world and that is obvious as the Indie film circuit has been intermingling with our somewhat, ahem, more mature crowd here in Sarasota.   Our retirees, many of them clear film buffs, love the glitz and glamour that accompanies the film festival and have been gracious hosts to these young film visionaries as volunteers and attendees of the films screened this week.

One film that premiered at the Sarasota Film Festival that was widely liked by an eclectic group of viewers was “When Jeff Tried to Save the World.”  Starring Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame, the crowd in attendance was well proportioned with aged nerds clamoring for a minute with Napoleon himself.  Retirees and couples rounded out the crowd along with several members of the film’s cast and crew, including Kendall Goldberg, the film’s writer/director.  She told the audience she had been working on the movie for a long time “since she was 18.”   She went on to captivate the audience with interesting and thorough answers regarding the film’s conception and fruition during the Q and A session following the film.

 “When Jeff Tried to Save the World” follows Jeff, the manager of a local bowling alley which is about to be sold and converted into a strip mall.  Nostalgia for his job and routine make it hard for Jeff who must come to terms with the haste at which his life is spiraling out of control.  A potential love interest and the support of the quirky people at the bowling alley, including Jim O’Heir from Parks and Recreation, help Jeff stay sane in his ever-changing world.  The soundtrack to the movie could easily be the background music for any good summer party.  A mix of new wave-techno songs kept things upbeat but with an element of sadness when needed.  Shot almost solely in a bowling alley, the cinematography mixed the natural background with clever 3D effects, illuminating Jeff’s text message exchanges for the audience to see.   The movie was engaging and light, with a message in the end.  It did not wrap things up in a neat little bow for Jeff but showed the viewer what we all learn at times…when one door closes, another opens.

Another lesson to be extracted from the film is that “you should find joy in whatever you are doing,” as explained by leading man Jon Heder.  We had the opportunity to speak with Jon for a few minutes before the screening and asked him what advice he might give awkward teens and underdogs, a group he has represented with a high degree of success in several of his films, particularly Napoleon Dynamite.  He said that finding happiness wherever you are in life, even if it’s not where you ultimately want to be is key.  He also said to “hold on, because before you know it life will change, and you will be at a completely different place in life.” This seems to be sound advice from a guy who is now a father and taking on more serious rolls like this character, “Jeff”.

Some of the cast and the director of 'When Jeff Tried to Save the World'As for the director of the film, Kendall Goldberg, she is a woman on a mission.  “When Jeff” premiered at last year’s Sarasota Film Festival as a short film, and she was honored and humble to return just one year later.  During that time, she worked on writing the script with a friend, gaining investor support, securing producers, actors and actors, locations, and a million other aspects of making a movie.  She was poised and extremely well received by the crowd in attendance and revered by the cast and producers on stage with her.  She is on to several other film festivals around the country, but hopefully will remember her time in Sarasota fondly and will delight us with another amazing film in the future. 

If you would like more information about Kendall Goldberg or “When Jeff Tried to Save the World,” please visit

Photos courtesy of When Jeff Tried to Save the World Facebook Page

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