‘Sanibel Tomorrow’ is Farst’s latest historical documentary
Some folks may call him “The Stephen Spielburg of Sanibel Island,” but Rusty Farst would probably only chuckle at the comparison. While both men are directors and producers of film, only Farst can claim that his movies are written by people with a keen understanding of the island’s history, use local residents as actors and are shot right here on Sanibel.
Next week, BIG ARTS will host the debut screening of Farst’s latest production, a documentary entitled “Sanibel Tomorrow: A Celebration Of Mayors,” premiering on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7.
“My original vision was to do a narrative film about the incorporation of Sanibel as a city,” said Farst. “In preparation of that film, I wanted to get all of the previous mayors of Sanibel together and have them tell their stories.”
In March of this year, Farst gathered 13 former mayors of the city to discuss the history of the island since its citizens voted in favor of incorporation more than 35 years ago. What he captured on camera will become a movie entitled “Sanibel Inc.: The Birth Of A City.”
However, the idea for the 40-minute featurette, “Sanibel Tomorrow,” was born in that process.
“As you can imagine, these mayors — who went on to lead this island and keep it special — they have a lot to say about the importance of incorporation,” said Farst. “And they are all charged about this project.”
Case-in-point: Mick Denham, a two-term mayor and current vice mayor of the city, said, “The story needs to be told because of the heros that have been able to contribute to who we are today.”
Mark “Bird” Westall agreed, adding, “We have to understand the history to be able to understand how important it is to fight for things in the future.”
According to Farst, a group which called themselves Sanibel Tomorrow — previously known as the Home Study Group — fought for the island to become independent from Lee County in the early 1970’s. Following the eventual vote to incorporate as a city in November 1974, Sanibel Tomorrow merged with the Sanibel-Captiva Planning Board, changing their name to Committee Of The Islands.
“The film starts out discussing why we are and who we are,” Farst added. “It gives you a good taste of our incorporation history. There were a lot of people who tried to pull the rug out from underneath our citizens.”
Last year, Farst directed and produced “Sandbars To Sanibel,” a film set on the island in the late 1920’s. The movie is an affectionate look at Sanibel history was conceived by the late island pioneer, Sam Bailey. It was shot on location at the Sanibel Historical Village & Museum as well as on the property of the Sanibel Lighthouse, with characters portrayed by local actors and actresses.
The red carpet screening of “Sanibel Tomorrow,” Farst explains, will be full of all the pomp and showmanship of any Hollywood premiere. However, he added that it “will not be your typical black-tie event.”
“If you wear a tie, it’s gonna get cut off at the front door,” he noted with a laugh.
As part of the third annual “Celebrate Sanibel” event, the movie debut will also feature a raffle for an enlarged image taken during the historic gathering of Sanibel mayors this past spring, a few paparazzi as well as an appearance by the first president of the Committee Of The Islands, Melena Eskew.
“The current president of COTI, Barbara Joy Cooley, will be there, too,” said Farst. “I don’t think that (Eskew and Cooley) have ever met before.”
Farst, who also spent hours going through the photographic archives and bound editions of the Island Reporter from that era, hopes “Sanibel Tomorrow” will inspire more interest from the community to complete work on his feature film.
“There’s a big story that needs to be told here,” he added. “Our history needs to be available to our citizens. The film will be a contemporary interpretation of that story, with interviews of the people who were there.”
“Sanibel Inc.” is being produced by Farst to capture the emotional and dramatic story behind the historic home rule effort. He has requested personal stories from those Islanders who actually lived it and hopes to attract more archival photographs and film/video from the public to enhance the integrity of the production.
“It is a story that needs to be told because it’s a story of democracy in action,” explained another former Mayor, Carla Brooks Johnston. “It’s a community that involved everybody.”
Islanders wishing to contribute material for the film should contact Farst by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or may visit www.sanibelinc.com for additional details.