Eric Raddatz is out to prove the first time wasn’t a fluke.
Less than a year after putting together the successful debut of the Naples International Film Festival, and only seven months after being booted from his job as executive director, Raddatz is launching another festival — this time in Fort Myers.
Announced on Monday, the Fort Myers Film Festival will debut in March at the Sidney & Berne Davis Arts Center. Raddatz says his plan is to bring forward a festival that will entertain and enlighten as well as be a showcase for the work being produced in Southwest Florida.
“There is a lot of talent here, a lot of things are happening,” he says. “There’s a lot of potential and it’s only getting bigger.”
But Raddatz says he knows it will be difficult to reproduce the success of the Naples festival, especially in the first year. The inaugural festival ended up producing nearly $1 million in revenues throughout the city, according to its own estimates. A good portion of the buzz surrounding it was the nearly sold-out opening gala at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, which featured a screening of “The Cove.” That movie ended up winning an Oscar for best documentary.
“I’m not saying this can’t be that successful,” Raddatz says of his new venture. “But everything fell together perfectly. All the pieces just fit together.”
Raddatz says the Fort Myers festival will focus on movies and not money. He continually mentioned money throughout an interview Tuesday, both in a positive and negative lights. He says he realizes the Naples community offered a bigger financial base for an arts’ startup. But he insinuated money can corrupt the purpose of a festival.
“We are going to encourage the edge,” he says. “We are focused on great independent films.”
While showing independent films from local filmmakers and those around the world, the Fort Myers festival is also going to focus on minority films and faith-based films. Raddatz has brought Daniel Herrera, producer of “Immokalee, U.S.A,” to work with minority filmmakers and is partnering with religious satellite channel Sky Angel to bring in films about faith.
To show that the new festival isn’t trying to compete with the Naples festival, but rather fill an opening in Fort Myers, Raddatz says he’s hoping to work with some of the people who are still involved with his first festival. One person on board to help in Fort Myers is Daniel Linehan, one of the three original founders of the Naples festival with Raddatz and Rowan Samuel. Samuel has since taken over as the Naples festival’s executive director.
“I think it’s a great thing for Fort Myers,” Samuel says. “I wish those guys the best of luck.”
While saying his focus is still squarely on the Naples festival, Linehan says he couldn’t not support Raddatz in his newest venture.
“Eric is an exciting talent,” Linehan says. “Anything I can do to help him, I will.”