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Islander’s volunteer work turns to films with March 5 premiere

By Staff | Feb 25, 2015

Eric Pfeifer, Mary Ellen Pfeifer, David Carter and Luc Century are involved in the making of “7 Sanibel Artists,” which premieres March 5 at the BIG ARTS performance center in Sanibel. CRAIG GARRETT

Eric Pfeifer’s island real-estate firm in 2014 sponsored a film about life in Sanibel.

It was an unusual move for a former civil engineer with a decided left-brain way of looking at life.

Pfeifer was stunned by the reaction of the documentary produced by David Carter, an Emmy-winning islander. Acceptance and appreciation for “Growing Up on Sanibel” at the BIG ARTS performance center was so overwhelming, Pfeifer said, that he and his wife, Mary Ellen, have sponsored a second film that premieres March 5, with plans for two more in the works. The couple also sponsor Sanibel-Captiva TV, a website with short, slice-of-life films produced by Carter.

Eric Pfeifer also founded a flag football league and served as commissioner for Little League baseball in the islands.

While he’s not sure what to expect when “7 Sanibel Artists” premieres at the BIG ARTS complex, Pfeifer and his wife are fully aware of what drives their real-estate firm’s sponsorship of Carter’s work, kid sports, education and nonprofit giving.

“Living in a small community is about giving back, developing relationships,” said Pfeifer, who formed Pfeifer Realty Group in 2008. “But I’m definitely proud to be associated (with the films). We’d like to do something like this every year going forward.”

The film “7 Sanibel Artists” will feature Pam Boynton, Charlie Brown, Luc Century, Katie Gardenia, Myra Roberts, David Ruhe and Jim Sprankle. The 2014 documentary “Growing Up on Sanibel” examined the lives of islanders like the grocer Francis Bailey and Eden Roshberg, a 10-year-old islander who flies small airplanes with an instructor in the co-pilot’s seat. Other films about early Sanibel and the artist/entrepreneur Katie Gardenia are planned.

“Last spring, we sponsored the film ‘Growing Up on Sanibel,’ which premiered to a full house at BIG ARTS, and we got so many positive comments from people on the islands,” Eric Pfeifer said. “As soon as the credits rolled at the end of the film, people began to ask us ‘what are you going to do next.’ It was amazing.”

Mary Ellen Pfeifer was closely involved in the decision to produce a film about artists whose work inspires and fascinates. Carter and the Pfeifers settled on seven artists impacting the world.

“The best thing about working with the Pfeifers is that they take my ideas and make them better,” said Carter, who has a film in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. “Without their commitment to bringing these films to the people of Sanibel-Captiva, they would be just ideas.”

Artists in the March 5 film will include David Ruhe, who has sold his whimsical paintings to a Hollywood filmmaker, another to an American governor. Luc Century is a glass artist who helped in etching names on the Vietnam War Memorial. He has other glasswork sprinkled around the country. Jim Sprankle is recognized for his world-class wood carvings, Myra Roberts’s vintage art is so popular Robert Rauschenberg purchased one, Charlie Brown’s Gyotaku fish prints are recognized for the authenticity and beauty of the historic style, Katie Gardenia’s fabric art is edgy and collectible, and Pam Boynton’s sailor valentine artwork has been featured on stamps.

As the Pfeifers and Carter worked together, new documentary ideas emerged. Two more are in process: One is simply titled “Katie!” and focuses on the life and times of local legend Katie Gardenia, who will soon be moving to North Carolina. The second film will be entitled “Sanibel Before the Causeway” and will premiere in November.

“And,” Mary Ellen Pfeifer said, “next year’s big documentary event has already been planned for March of 2016.”