Choices And Chance

by Carla Reublin

WITH THE RECENT POPULARITY OF WEBSITES such as YouTube and MySpace, it seems as if everyone with a camera phone or a web-cam fancies themselves as the next Steven Spielberg. From parents filming laughing babies, to musicians promoting bands, to aspiring directors posting their short films, we are living in an age where gratification is immediate, and every image captured on film has the potential to be seen by hundreds, or even thousands of people.

There is no question that the internet is here to stay as an outlet for visual media, but as of yet, a modern day Fellini has not emerged from the eclectic stew of online videos such as ‘Chocolate Rain’, ‘Dramatic-Look Gopher’ or ‘Sneezing Pandas’. Certainly, one advantage to showing your artistic side via the internet is the anonymity and detachment. For aspiring filmmakers, it is less bruising to the ego to read critical posts written by random, faceless viewers than it is to actually witness the reaction of those seeing your work in person. It takes significantly more courage and confidence to create, organize, promote and unveil a film to a live audience.

Does this mean the end of the live independent movie venue? Is the traditional theater experience destined to go the way of the Zoopraxiscope? Unless you live in New York or Los Angeles, you would be lucky to find a theater which routinely debuts independent films, but local filmmaker Eric Raddatz is trying to change that in Southwest Florida.

Recently, Raddatz premiered Barely a Chance, a thirty minute feature film that he conceptualized, wrote, directed and starred in. The public seemed to embrace the effort, with over one hundred Fort Myers residents logging out of YouTube long enough to attend the event on June 6 at The Sidney & Berne Davis Center for the Arts, located in the historic Whitehurst Federal Building at 2301 First St. in the River District of downtown Fort Myers.

As a precursor to the premiere of Barely a Chance, audiences were first treated to the short film, Kinetoscope, by director Gerard Damiano. Kinetoscope blended turn of the century imagery of the inventions of Thomas Edison with the frenetic pacing of Madonna’s appropriately titled song, 'Ray of Light'.

Barely a Chance chronicles the story of a 30-something man holding onto his past while searching for love and meaning in his life. The film has independent grit and humor, and featured cameos by Fort Myers legend Barbara B. Mann and News-Press editorial humorist Doug MacGregor. The film garnered plenty of laughs and generally good reviews from those in attendance, who seemed charmed by the identifiable theme, clever dialog and local references set amid recognizable Southwest Florida locations.

During an interview subsequent to the premiere, Raddatz stated his opinion that art is an important fabric of our lives. “Through good times and bad, art has always served as a vehicle to heal.”

Originally from Chicago, where he worked as an art director and web editor for several daily and weekly publications, Raddatz became interested in film when he was hired as an extra in several mainstream Hollywood movies including Stuck On You, Rookie of the Year and Stir of Echoes. “When I worked as an extra, I thought: ‘I want to do this myself, because it just looked so fun.”

After many years of vacationing in Fort Myers, Raddatz took a position at the News-Press and made a permanent move to Fort Myers. Most recently, Raddatz has been working as the art director for the magazine Gulfshore Life while continuing to make films. He has an eagerness to see the Fort Myers art scene flourish. “I want to make films in Southwest Florida that entertain, educate and offer a sense of culture to this area.”

Whereas Barely a Chance is offbeat and humorous, Raddatz’s next project will take on an intensely different theme. He is currently in the process of making a film with The Coalition Against Human Trafficking. The story is about brainwashing within certain social structures and systems. “Hopefully, this film will make a difference and help people to take notice. There are things that we overlook in all societies that need attention.”

Whether he is organizing a multi-media event, working on visual layouts for Gulfshore Life or addressing social injustices, Eric Raddatz appears to have the talent, confidence and drive that has made so many other film makers successful. “One of the complaints I hear about this area is that there is not enough culture. I think that is because people are not creating. If more people were putting their stuff out there it would be good for our community. We have a great backdrop for it. I am proud to be one of those who are trying to achieve something artistically,” said Raddatz.

More information about Eric Raddatz and his current projects, including streaming video of his short films, are at www.ericraddatz.com. •

from the July-August 2008 issue

Whereas Barely a Chance is offbeat and humourous, Raddatz is currently in the process of making a film with The Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

"I want to make films in Southwest Florida that entertain, educate and offers sense of culture to this area."