History Lesson

The Short Film Spare Me Reveals Sarasota's History as a Sundown Town

Local film student and director Will Mauricette touches on the history of racism in Sarasota through a father-son relationship in his latest film.

By Kim Doleatto March 3, 2023

Local actors Dave Pitts and Michael Kinsey in Spare Me.

After he found out none of his college professors knew what a sundown town was, burgeoning movie director Will Mauricette knew his short film, Spare Me, could deliver a balance of education and entertainment.

In fact, the 26-year-old Maurciette, a junior film student at Ringling College of Art and Design, says he doesn’t expect most people to know what a sundown town is—much less that Sarasota once was one.

Enforced by local laws, intimidation and violence, sundown towns are white neighborhoods whose residents ensure Black people leave town before the sun goes down or face discrimination, threats of violence and, in many cases, death. The term came from public road signs that indicated as much. "Some sundown towns still exist," says Mauricette.

The setting of the eight-minute Spare Me is Sarasota in 1931, and the story is centered around a father-son relationship and a flat tire. 

Will Mauricette on the set of Spare Me.

Some of that story comes from Mauricette's own experience. His father wasn't initially supportive of his son’s desire to pursue a career in the arts, but came around once he saw his talent gain traction. One of the Mauricette's previous films, Monopoly Money, was featured at the 2022 Sarasota Film Festival after it won first place at the annual Visions of the Black Experience Film Festival in late January 2022. Mauricette was awarded a $1,500 scholarship.

Mauricette credits his father for teaching him how to ride a bike, shake a person’s hand and change a tire. The film is inspired by an old picture of them working on Mauricette’s first car.

“I wanted to make a love letter to Pops. When I looked at that picture, the idea came,” he says. "I know I didn't live in that era, but I know my history. When my teachers didn’t know what sundown towns were, I felt it was part of my duty to teach it with my film."

Originally from Haiti, Mauricette, who grew up in Bradenton, is the only Black student in his program. He says his professors have been “super supportive and helpful.”

Even strangers were supportive. The film had a $700 budget  that “was mostly used for food and lunch," Mauricette says. "Getting the film done depended on asking for favors." One of the main challenges was getting the setting right with a period-appropriate car. He says he checked out the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, among other sources, with no luck—but found what he needed at a chance encounter at a red light on Tamiami Trail.

“This man was driving a brown 1931 Hudson. He was like an old-style gangster–very cool,” Mauricette says.

After making a quick U-turn, he pulled up next to Alphonso Roundtree, the driver of the antique vehicle, and shared a brief synopsis of what he needed through the car window before the light turned green. Roundtree obliged after the two pulled over and introduced themselves.

Jim Strickland of Strickland Ranch in Myakka also gave Mauricette permission to shoot the film on his property. Period-appropriate clothes and props came from West Coast Black Theatre Troupe.

Film poster for Spare Me.

Spare Me is slated to be finished in roughly a month, and Mauricette plans on sending it out to film festivals and studios in search of more opportunities in his field. His future plans are to attend the University of Southern California for graduate school. 

Follow Spare Me on Instagram or Facebook to see the final cut. A film screening will take place on Monday, May 1, at Ringling College of Art and Design at 7 p.m. To learn more about local Black history, book a Newtown Alive trolley ride here.

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