Film Society screening May 19

Documentary Explores the Sawdust Family

Artist Michael Brindley interviewed last summer by filmmakers of “Collecting Dust,” being screened next week at the Laguna Beach Film Society.

The Laguna Beach Film Society will screen “Collecting Dust,” a feature documentary film that looks inside the Sawdust Art Festival, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 19, at South Coast Cinemas.

“Collecting Dust” takes viewers on an intimate journey with Sawdust artists, employees, and visitors last summer, which promoters describe it as “an uplifting yet bittersweet film about how a community of 200 artists struggles to get along and stay afloat during a poor economy.”

Co-directed by Rich Costales and Kailee McGee, the film is said to show that although the Sawdust Festival continues to be a non-juried show, some people wonder if it has lost its free, quirky Laguna spirit and turned into an art supermarket.

The documentary focuses on four Sawdust artists: 17-year exhibitor Greg Thorne, a turquoise jeweler and antique collector; 40-year exhibitor Douglas Miller, a prolific acrylic painter and musician; 20-year exhibitor Sandra Weir, a watercolorist who got married on the grounds in the ‘90s; and first-time exhibitor Mira Lisa Schiratis, a mixed-media painter who dreamed of exhibiting at the Sawdust as a young girl. The film also follows Jeff and Gail Mitzner, art collectors who have patronized the festival for more than 30 years, and includes a wide-variety of interviews from current and past Sawdust exhibitors and employees.

McGee, a Laguna Beach resident, wanted to capture the dysfunctional inner workings of the artist-run festival because she worked at Sawdust for 10 years. Her first job was selling oil paintings at the Sawdust when she was just 7 years old. “I was paid in Beanie Babies at first,” she said. “The Sawdust Festival helped me realize I am an artist.”

Costales, a newcomer to Laguna, brought fresh eyes to the project. Living with the Sawdust artists day to day while we filmed showed me how special the festival truly is,” he said.

Rich Costales and Kailee McGee will be in attendance at the screening, along with artists from the film.

“Collecting Dust” will be submitted to film festivals around the world, and Costales and McGee hope their film not only helps continue the success of the Sawdust Festival but also provides insight into why it still opens every summer after all of these years. “Many of these artists will do this festival each summer until they die,” said McGee. “They don’t want to, or can’t, retire. Artists have fallen in love at the Sawdust, had babies at the Sawdust, and also had divorces at the Sawdust. It truly is a crazy family of 200.”

Tickets for the film only are $15 at the door. For an additional $5, moviegoers can join the LBFS members before the film at 6 p.m. for hors d’oeuvres and wine at the Wells Fargo Bank Community Room, 260 Ocean Avenue. The event is free to members.

The Laguna Beach Film Society welcomes new members. To join, contact JoAnne Story at 494-8971, ext. 201, or [email protected].

For more information about the film and to see a teaser, visit http://www.collectingdustmovie.com.

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  1. Diane Leonard

    Great article on a great movie project — I know it will be a huge success and will open the doors for many more documentaries to come from these two talented people.

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