Kristy Andersen

Kristy Andersen is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work is centric to Florida, where she has worked for more than 40 years. The documentary, Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun, is her legacy film, the seminal story of the pioneering Florida anthropologist, and author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” It was awarded grants from the NEA, NEH, Ford Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Black Programming Consortium, humanities councils in eight states, and many others. The blockbuster film, praised by critics across America, was one of only five included in PBS’ American Masters 2008 series, winning the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction series. Andersen’s first documentary, BAY BOTTOM BLUES, explored the demise of Tampa Bay after losing most of its seagrasses and mangroves, and was nominated for an Emmy. It was followed by SEA TURTLES’ LAST DANCE about the endangered kemps’ ridley sea turtle, and was broadcast nationwide on PBS, winning a Southeastern Region EMMY for Writing. After years of producing and writing and working with film crews, Andersen has made the switch from film to digital. She bought a camera and is now filming and editing her own work, relying on her past experiences from filmmaking classes at the University of Florida, and as a news editor at various Tampa Bay television stations. Recent grants from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs have been awarded to her on-going work. SNOWBIRD is about Jack Kerouac’s tumultuous eleven intermittent years living in the Sunshine State, from when On The Road was published in 1957 while he lived in Orlando, to his death in St. Petersburg in 1969. Another film, GROWING UP POSITIVE, follows the lives of seven HIV positive young adults who as infants were born with HIV. It has been awarded support from USF and USFSP, and the Florida Department of State. Andersen’s work has been screened at The Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the New York Public Library, among many others, and is used at many universities across the nation. Her corporate clients include Ulele Restaurant, Visit Florida, Tampa Electric Company, and WNET-NY. She recently completed a Masters in Arts and Letters in Florida Studies from the University of South Florida St Petersburg. Andersen lives in a restored 110-year-old settlers home in Historic Uptown, the oldest established neighborhood in St. Petersburg.


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Your First Film…

Friends and Family

Filmmaking is a collaborative event. The credits at the end of a film are a roster of every person or entity that has contributed to the making of that film.

And yet sometimes filmmaking seems more like a solitary adventure. There are plenty of opportunities for you to reach out so be sure to take advantage of them.

Go to film festivals, go to the movies, watch TV. While it’s true that there are few original ideas out there, it helps to know what your competition is so you’re not just replicating something that already exists. There’s a reason why you will not see two BlackKlansman movies released by two different directors. The market will not bear it up and distributors will just be competing against each other.

Do not think that someone will “steal your idea.” Ideas are not copyrightable. It is hard enough to have an idea and pursue your dream, no one is going to want to take on your idea. They have their own. But on the other hand, if you’re working with copyrighted materials, be sure to move to get the rights before someone else gets them.

Collaborate. Find some mentors. Is there someone you know and admire who might be willing to help you, to join your team? Find a way to meet them, pitch your project and ask if you can attach them to it, if even as a consultant. You can send a query to someone’s agent. If you have IMDB pro, that information is often available. If you’re a screenwriter, enter your screenplay in competitions. Industry experts will give you their critiques and you will benefit from professional advice.

Attend filmmaking how-to events such as the Independent Feature Film Market in NY. You will hear success stories, you will hear stories of woe, and you will begin to think of your film as a real entity competing in the world of films.

If you can move ahead and start filming, go for it. Don’t think of the film as your big chance – think of it as your first step in a long career.

Good luck in the world of filmmaking!


Jack Kerouac: Snowbird

My Work-In-Progress

I hesitate to talk about my current work because sometimes these projects take a long time. It can jinx them to even talk about them!

But here goes…

Jack Kerouac moved to Florida from New York, first to various neighborhoods in Orlando in December of 1956, and then finally to St. Petersburg, where he died in 1969. During those thirteen years, he was in and out of the country, going to France, Tangiers, Canada, and Mexico. He also owned houses in Northport, Long Island, and Cape Cod, and he lived in a house in Lowell, MA.

He moved to Florida because his ailing mother wanted to live somewhere warm. He had promised his father, upon his deathbed, that he would take care of his mother. This became a life-long task for Jack Kerouac, since he did not live long, dying at 47 years of age.

I have been able to find and interview people in St. Petersburg who knew Jack while he lived here. One of them was very close to him, and spent many nights drinking and talking. Another group of people hung out at a bar here that they described as “the West End Cafe” of Florida, where Kerouac would be among those who would recite poetry.

I will attempt to place Kerouac within the context of the on-going themes of that generation. The Beat generation had a strong focus on the numbness and displacement felt after the bombings during World War II. As the years passed, the hippies became the prevalent counter-culture. Kerouac despised the hippies for their cult-like adherence to long hair, bell bottoms, and other “uniforms,” and their anti-war and anti-American sentiment.

I will look closely at the differences in Greenwich Village and New York, compared to Florida which itself was undergoing a strong shift in political power that affected the social order of life here.

And that’s about all I feel comfortable telling you. I hope to be able to get back to work on that film soon.


Jump At The Sun

“You Might Not Land on the Sun…

…but at least you’ll get off the ground,” Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her 1941 autobiography, Dust Tracks On A Road.

No one knew more about jumping at the sun than Zora. Her life had been a roller-coaster of ups and downs.

She was the first African-American woman to graduate from Barnard College. She was a known folklorist by the time she wrote the book.

She helped Alan Lomax do fieldwork among black folks in the South. She was given crews to document religious culture in Beaufort, South Carolina,  through financing by Margaret Mead. She had won literary and race awards for her writing.

But it was never easy and even up until a very short time before her death, she struggled even after having a stroke to get her final novel published. Sadly, it never happened as it was not the caliber of her previous strong work.

My film Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun took me eighteen years to produce.  By the end of that time, I had raised more than $1 million in grant and co-producing funds from NEA, NEH, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), WNET-NY/PBS, Ford Foundation, National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs (FDCA), and Humanities Councils in AL, SC, NC, TN, NY, MD, LA, and Washington, DC.

I was in the hole about $80,000, an amount that was compensated to me within two years through DVD sales and fees for appearances. Today, I continue to sell the film through online and DVD sales, earning $4000/year if I’m fortunate.

I started fundraising through a state grant from the FDCA. Then I went to humanities councils in every state Zora lived. So few knew she had even been there. Next I got an NEH Development Grant. I recall the next grants were from NEA, CPB, and NBPC. Finishing funds came from NEA, NEH, WNET and Ford Foundation. Ford Foundation would not release funds until there was a fine cut.

I must have applied to NEH at least four times before it funded me, and that happened only after I had the local state grants. I know I applied to NEA at least twice.

Once those funds were in line then the rest came quickly – except for WNET-NY. If you have to wait to be included in a PBS station’s yearly schedule, you can be cast aside repeatedly – over multiple years.

My advice:

  • Have more than one project on-going – a big one and a few lesser ones;
  • Find creative work – filming, editing, writing, grant-writing, etc – to keep your skills sharpened;
  • Spend your down time doing the things that you can’t do when you’re so busy;
  • Never lose sight of the benefits that come spiritually from your friends and family, and take comfort in them.

And my last piece of advice – of course – Jump at the Sun.

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