Eric Raddatz may be Southwest Florida’s most beloved impresario. He’s also one of the hardest working dudes around. His day job is Presentation Editor at Florida Weekly, a highly successful newspaper serving six markets across south Florida, where he’s responsible for everything from front page composition to the overall graphic design of the publication. He’s good at it too, having won numerous awards for his work.
But Eric Raddatz is also all about film, film and more film. He’s founder and host of T.G.I.M. (Thank God for Indie Mondays), a monthly event held at the Sydney & Berne Davis Art Center that features short indies and lively debate, mixed in with a dash of music and fun. Plus he’s founder and executive director of the Fort Myers Film Festival, three days that bring upwards of 70 indie films to six venues across Southwest Florida (and winner of a Chrysalis Award for local tourism impact). This year’s Festival is April 7-10.
Each issue, “Take Five” poses five questions to a community personality that have not previously been shared. Here, Eric Raddatz dishes on the art scene in Southwest Florida and why he’s so passionate about moving our arts needle forward.
- What feeds your passion for the arts?
I feel like the arts are a healing of sorts, and my gratification comes from the introduction and satisfaction we bring to people. The arts unify us in ways that bring us together positively, and by having a culture that understands the importance of the arts, you’re going to have a more caring community, a more intelligent community, one sensitive to all people.
- If someone hasn’t attended T.G.I.M., what should they expect?
An embracing of short independent films they can’t find anywhere else, with a focus on local films, and then a discussion that raises an intellectualism of the value of film on various levels, with a crowd that’s intensely wonderful and often involved in the creative arts community. Or in other words, short indie films, fun and wonderful people.
- Talk about your baby, the Fort Myers Film Festival.
I look at the major national film festivals and where they were at when they were six years old. We’re a smaller film festival, but our programming is on par with any in the United States. The filmmakers that come here are from around the world, and many of them comment that this is one of if not their favorite festival because they love the programming, the people, the weather and the venues. The quality of the films we’re playing, Fort Myers is ahead of the curve, not behind it. I’m very happy with my baby.
- What’s the state of the creative arts community here?
There are silver linings that just about any day of the week, you can go to a play, a performance, a concert in our area — it’s out there, just a little harder to find or a longer drive. We’re seeing it grow, and there are a lot of talented artists in our market, but we have a ways to go to really be vibrant and vital.
- What’s your long term plan for taking over the world?
The Beatles said: “All you need is love.” While it may be a cliché answer, the kind of love that goes into what I’m doing is I believe contagious, and the best way to take over the world is with kindness and love. If I make a small contribution to help others appreciate the arts and they gain from that, that’s a pretty good way to take over the world.
Story by John Sprecher | Photography by Jerry Smith