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Creating the Florida Suite film

The Florida Suite was shot at the 12-acre Mullet Hill Grove in Scottsmoor, Florida.  Andrew Graham is the grovesman who lives and works here.  Five years ago he was taking care of not only his grove, but also his three dogs and his mother, Pauline.  She was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and Graham brought her to live with him, believing the greatest gift he could give her was to let her end her days in the beauty, peace, and safety of the grove. 


As a visitor to the grove, I witnessed the love, sacrifice, and joy of Graham's life and was so moved by what I saw, I wanted to honor it on film.  Struggling to find the right mode to tell this story, I happened upon Frederick Delius' four-movement tone poem: the Florida Suite.  I knew right away that this lyrical expression of Florida in music was the perfect structure for the film I envisioned. 


In the spring of 2011, we began to work on the Florida Suite.  It was a threadbare production:  I had little money and worked full time as a library director.  Our equipment was minimal, but sufficient, and I was blessed to have good freinds who helped out in a multitude of ways.  My primary collaborators were Joyce Wilden, producer; Melinda Lohr, sound recording; and Andrew Graham who agreed to allow us to film his life in the grove.  Filming days were long, as we had to drive 40 miles to reach the grove well before dawn to shoot his daily walk with the dogs at daybreak.  It was a labor of love that took two years to complete. 


Now the Florida Suite is finished and has a life of its own.  I wish it well, and hope that you enjoy it and are refreshed by its gentle rhythms.  I am left with the happy memories: the warmth of pre-dawn black coffee with a dollop of whiskey; the scent of orange blossoms;  the taste of fresh grapefruit for breakfast; birdsong and wind; and the loving dedication of my collaborators. 

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