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Q&A with documentary maker Rusty Farst

By Staff | Oct 22, 2009

Where did you spend your childhood?

I grew up in a small Norman Rockwell setting in a quaint Ohio Village named Bellville. With two brothers and three sisters I had plenty to do. I grew up bailing hay in the summer with a paper route in the winter. At night I found myself nestled around campfires roasting marshmallows hearing scary ghost stories.

What brought you to Sanibel?

After a year of college, I traveled the western United States back-packing and hitch-hiking. In 1980 hiking was still reasonably safe yet very experiential and rewarding. One day I found myself on the beaches of Sanibel Island and have just never left. Although I still consider myself “on the road”.

What do you enjoy most about living on Sanibel?

Different seasons of life have brought me different appreciation for Sanibel’s gifts. Thirty years ago it was the sun and the beaches. That evolved into the plants and the wildlife, which led me to our underwater environment. Today I am learning to fly ultra-lights so now I see the islands from up above yet up close and personal.

We heard you make documentaries. Can you share with the readers a little bit about what you do?

I was always taking pictures underwater during my wreck and cave explorations. I was fascinated with the film industry and the ability to tell stories. My filming career has evolved from underwater with sea creatures to more the human stories and the life legacies of our island characters.

We also heard you just put out “Sandbars to Sanibel”? What is the piece about? What kind of reaction have you got?

“Sandbars” is an embellished narrative set on Sanibel in 1929. This film showcases the buildings at the Sanibel Historical Museum and the people who inhabited them. It is a fun story of our island pioneers.

Everyone who has seen the show has really enjoyed it. This community seems thirsty for creative ideas and new choices for fun. I am honored to have others stand behind me like they have. I have never experienced “community” like this before.

What’s on the agenda next?

My vision and focus is for a seasonal film festival here on Sanibel. This will give many others the opportunity to share their creative works and stories with all of us here on Sanibel. It will be a win-win for the film makers and the Island merchants. I welcome any support from the community to manifest this dream.

How difficult is it to make a documentary?

Passion is the major requirement. It is not difficult to begin a documentary, however, one really never finishes one, a film maker must simply abandon it. A doc. never seems completed or comprehensive.

Any advice for would-be documentary makers?

If you want to make a doc., first ask yourself if this is the story you passionately want to share with the world and why you must be the one to tell it. Then once you begin production, never take no for an answer.

What is your favorite documentary? Why?

I don’t have a favorite doc., but two of my favorite movies are Forrest Gump and City Slickers. They both “well me up” with emotion.

What do you do when you are not in filming mode?

Lately I have stepped up to be Little League Baseball coach with my son Zachary. I play some softball for Bailey’s Baggers and I enjoy riding my motorcycle into the twisty-curvy roads of the Smokey Mountains.

What is something about you that most people would be surprised to learn about you?

I was born with 11 fingers and 12 toes. I could have been an amazing concert pianist but my mother had them removed when I was still an infant, she couldn’t find socks to fit me.

What is your family life like?

My wife Patti and I are too often two ships that pass in the night. We spend time with Zachary inviting him on as many adventures as possible. We are all proud to be “The Farst Family”. We laugh a lot at ourselves.

What are your long and short-term goals?

Being a friend of Bill W., I live my life one day at a time. A long-term goal of mine is to visit all the National Parks together with Patti and Zach. We live in an amazingly accessible country.

You seem like a happy, free-spirited fellow. What do you attribute your

happiness to?

I refuse to see myself as a victim, of anything. It is so empowering to realize that I am the source.