Sarasota Film Festival Celebrates 25 Years- An Interview with SFF President, Mark Famiglio
As spring ascends on Sarasota, thoughts drift to stretched days so we may enjoy this tropical paradise, and warm nights to catch a show or top-notch dinner. Everybody wants to be in Sarasota, just look at the incoming numbers! Beaches, history, architecture, arts… There is so much to love in this city we call home. Of all the magical moments that come out of Sarasota’s lively cultural arts scene, Sarasota Film Festival remains one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world and a beloved event for locals. It provides wonderful opportunities for film buffs to view a broad array of short films and documentaries in beautiful settings. It is a community uniter in that it showcases the specialness of our hometown. Celebrating 25 years this year, Sarasota Film Festival is a success story in its own right. Beautiful setting? Well, everything is held in Sarasota, so check. Plot? High-paced action with a cast of known characters and many walk-on’s aka volunteers who make it all look easy. Check. Interesting lead character? With Mark Famiglio as the leader of Sarasota Film Festival… check and double-check.
We spoke to Mark about some of his favorite memories of festivals past, what has worked and what they’ve needed to tweak over the years. Stars, writers, production teams, volunteers, critics…, Mark and company at the Sarasota Film Festival have survived a recession and pandemic, all while delivering edgy independent films where, for a long time, no topic was taboo. All the while, they moved their home base to a headquarters that better meets their growth. But as the old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The Sarasota Film Festival and its leaders have met every challenge with gratitude, and a general interest in bringing the best films to the viewer while providing a thriving outlet for filmmakers of every genre. This consistency is the secret sauce that binds this successful film fest.
The Sarasota Film Festival began in 1998, and grew steadily until the recession hit in 2008. It was near this time when Mark Famiglio was tapped to take over. His first major decision was to answer the question, “what is the film industry going to look like after a financial collapse?” He decided to enlist the help of a friend, a director of the Cannes Film Festival, to assist on ideas for the Sarasota Film Festival to live on. Though tough, they stayed true to their original motto which was always to showcase amazing independent films in Sarasota’s ideal location. They kept costs down and provided an environment where loyal volunteers really provided the foundation. The festival thrived, even during the past pandemic years by pivoting to add more online options, and utilizing outdoor locations for screenings and events. Throughout all of the trials and tribulations that come with 25 successful years, the critically acclaimed Sarasota Film Festival has been the spotlight beacon for hundreds of independent filmmakers.
Along the way some fun was had, as one might imagine. Mark chuckled at the notion there could be a “favorite” festival moment, he instead shared a few. There was the time the Sopranos gang was in town and walked in with, “Hey, I’m supposed to find Mark Famiglio,” (insert best mob guy voice) Or the time Ed Norton couldn’t be found in the usual Sarasota places he was known to hang out at while in town. Where was he at 12:30 AM? Playing cards and eating pizza with the locals at Il Panificio, of course. Or, how about the time Woody Harrelson took a stroll down Main Street and the crowds went wild! Though Mark doesn’t really enjoy the nightclub scene he does note Sarasota has always been the best place to host all of the parties and events.
This year’s Sarasota Film Festival will run from March 24th through April 2nd. Mark promises besides the usual great films, glitzy events and glamorous stars, the 25th anniversary will provide a few surprises and extra moments of enjoyment for all. He credits his small, but dedicated staff and dozens of loyal volunteers for much of the festivals success and knows the films really speak to the quality of the organization. He also feels a deep commitment to the community to be a prudent steward of Sarasota Film Festival. He takes a business approach to every decision he makes, including keeping administrative costs to 2% of the budget.
We would like to congratulate the Sarasota Film Festival for the wonderful film moments, star-studded parties and events, and the opportunity for the community to come together to support independent filmmakers. We look forward to this year’s festivities and cannot wait to see what the next 25 years will bring. Be sure to check out the full film lineup and screening dates, as well as VIP party information for the 25th Anniversary of the Sarasota Film Festival at Sarasota Film Festival – March 24 – April 2, 2023.
Photos courtesy of Sarasota Film Festival Facebook page.
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