Volunteer Spotlight: Gibby Free

Screen Shot 2017 02 14 at 4.33.26 PMLast year, Gibby Free and her little brother Renton came into the SFF offices to volunteer. They volunteered in the Hollywood 20 in the Theater department and were amazing. I recently received an email from Gibby.

Hi Marlene,

Long time no talk! I was just emailing to let you know that I was just accepted into my dream school: Northeastern University, with a Dean's Scholarship. I'm going to be moving up to Boston during the fall of 2017, and I'm beyond excited. The reason why I'm telling you this is because...I actually wrote my essay about the Sarasota Film Festival...

Please enjoy the essay and the interview of this talented young woman below. Thank you Gibby for sharing your essay with us and for all of your hard work. SFF and Northeastern are lucky to have you!

Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

     One of the largest factors contributing to the social strife in this country is a generational divide. People born fifty years ago typically have radically different values compared to the values of people born twenty years ago. Even the most innocuous of interactions can turn sour when filtered through these differences of opinion.This is especially true in my hometown of Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota is nationally known for its senior population, with approximately 34% of citizens of the county being over the age of 65. The majority of the seniors who live here are retired, and the majority of the younger people who live here comprise the working class. Sarasota has been called 'Circus City' for its ties to the Ringling Brothers Circus, but a weekend stroll downtown showcases a different kind of circus entirely.

     As someone who is just a short bike ride away from downtown Sarasota, I have had plenty of opportunity to witness the social tensions in my town first-hand. Going to the movies, you have to hold your tongue as seniors snap at children who talk during trailers. Shopping at the grocery store, you have to listen to seniors berate their teen cashier for not honoring a two year old coupon.Walking across the street, you have feign remorse towards belligerent senior drivers who seem to think that they always have the right-of-way. I found it emotionally and morally trying to cope with these annoyances on a day-to-day basis. By the time I was fifteen years old, I fit the stereotype perfectly. I was a young person living in Sarasota who unapologetically resented old people.

     Entering into the Sarasota Film Festival as a teen volunteer, I didn't think that this mindset would be an issue. After all, I reasoned, what place do old people have in independent filmmaking? The moment I walked into the volunteer orientation, I realized that I had made a terrible miscalculation. More than half of the people in the room looked twice the age of my own parents. I began to think that I made a mistake by opting to volunteer for this event, and I wasn't looking forward to working shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of bigoted, entitled, callous old people. However, as the festival progressed, I learned that my impression was ill-formed. These individuals were funny, kind, and they shared wisdom with me that can only be obtained with "experience". I made numerous friends, and many of them had been volunteering for longer than I had been born.

     The time that I shared with my fellow volunteers showed me that commonality, forced or otherwise, is key to cooperation between different generations. In the months that followed the festival, I realized that this principle didn't just apply to relations between people of different ages. Even when I was interacting with kids who were my age, I was exercising more patience. Sure, maybe these teenagers in the public library are being inconsiderate and loud, but having an issue with someone's behavior doesn't justify having an issue with someone as a person, and it definitely doesn't justify developing a prejudice against that type of person.

     By establishing a common ground between myself and others, I'm able to have constructive dialogue that couldn't have existed otherwise. Through this dialogue, both sides are able to see a certain level of growth. Although I have had some less-than-pleasant encounters in this city, I am grateful for the experience and knowledge that living in Sarasota has given me. I have seen differences pull people together, and I have seen them violently tear people apart. During this next stage of my life, I know that I will run into individuals of profoundly different backgrounds from my own. I look forward to learning as much as I can from them, while also being content in knowing that I have the tools to bridge any gaps that may exist between us.



Congratulations on getting accepted to your dream school, Northeastern University! How do you feel? What are you most excited about with your next big chapter?

I'm both nervous and excited to start college in such a big city. It's going to be a big change, but I think I'll be able to handle it. I'm most excited to meeet new people and live in a new place. I've lived in Florida for most of my life, and so I'm basically jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire with this school. Northeastern is located right in the middle of the city, so I'm really going to be in the thick of it.  Boston is a huge city and there's always something to do, and it's very different from anywhere that I've lived before.

As you mentioned in your essay, by having constructive dialogue, both sides are able to see a certain level of growth. What advice do you have in accomplishing constructive dialogue?

I think that the most important thing is to make sure that it is actually a dialogue, meaning it's two-sided. It's important to listen just as much as you speak. That doesn't mean that you have to agree or even respect what the other person is saying, but I think it's really important to at least understand why some people think or act in the way that they do. Understanding is the first step toward making things better.

I'm glad the Volunteer Kick-Off didn't scare you away from volunteering last year. But I was slightly afraid that I would never see you and your brother again after making you two come early one morning for me to throw popcorn at your faces for the Volunteer video.  Are you coming back to volunteer before you move to Boston? If so, what are you looking forward to?

Both my brother and I are going to be coming back to volunteer this year! I won't be moving to Boston until the later summer or early fall. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with volunteers that I made friends with last year, as well as being able to welcome any first year volunteers. I'm also looking forward to being able to watch some of the movies being shown at the Festival this year!

Why is independent filmmaking important to you?

Independent filmmaking is important to me because independent films often tell stories that you just don't see in blockbusters. Although entertaining people is good, I think that there's something to be said for giving people a perspective that they may not have even thought about before. Independent film does a lot of things, but most of all I think that it is able to give a voice to the voiceless. It is able to take risks that films backed by major studios can't usually afford to take.

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