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SBIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. SBIFF is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place each year in February. Over the past 30 years the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums. We bring the best of independent and international cinema to Santa Barbara, and we continue to expand our year-round operation to include a wide range of educational programming, fulfilling our mission to engage, enrich and inspire our community through film.

In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for our program expansion. This marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center focused on the art of film and is an incredible opportunity to expand our mission of educational outreach. Particularly important to SBIFF is making available high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Our programs and reach are more robust than ever before.


GO ON AND BE BRAVE - SBIFF with subject focus: Andrea Lytle and filmmakers Miriam McSpadden and Brian Beckman


Santa Barbara film festival 2023

With subject focus: Andrea Lytle and filmmakers Miriam McSpadden and Brian Beckman

By Emmanuel Itier

Q: Let us know about the genesis of this project and what you had in mind to achieve with it?


Andrea: This is inspired by my story. I have ALS and I’m the first woman who completed 50 marathons in 50 states.


Miriam: I used to direct short and 4 years ago I did one about Andrea. She was already running to inspire other people and show them what their bodies can do in spite of the limitations. She was also raising money for ALS. After this experience she reached out to me and ask me what I thought about the idea she just mentioned, to run 50 marathons in 50 states! She was asking me if this could be a “good story”! So, of course I accepted the challenge. We knew little about ALS at this time and it was a process to get educated about it. We wanted to raise awareness about the disease. And they are so many young and young individual getting this horrible condition.  


Brian: Andrea is the most courageous and ambitious person I have ever met. She is so inspiring.


Andrea: I’m just crazy!


Q: Tell me about the many challenges you faced making this Doc?


Brian: The biggest challenge was to follow Andrea during her races and among thousands of other people racing as well. How do we get permission to get cameras and follow her, how do we find her as we can film her the entire time, and so on. How do we hit the marks when she struggles and when she is victorious? And we had to do this all over the country. This was a gigantic task to achieve. We really had to scale down the scope of our equipment to make it to the courses she was running. We ended up running alongside her for portions of the races. Sometimes I run up to six miles with my camera in my hand. This was such a physical challenge.


Miriam: yes, we became runners to stay close to her and catch all of her various emotional moments. We had to be there to bare witness to this amazing journey. Also, we had to have a plan B because of Andrea’s disease. Even so it is fairly stable, there could be bad surprises. But Andrea was brave enough to tell us we needed to tell the truth and to film no matter what her condition was going to be. As a filmmaker we had to let go of control, of directing and let’s see what comes next. We had to trust the process and the story. Also, Andrea didn’t want us to intervene unless her life was going to get in danger. She wanted to show the truth, the whole truth and the struggle you have to face in a world that is not always equipped to deal with people with ALS.


Andrea: For me the devastating moment was when Covid cancelled all races around the country for a long while. We had started before the pandemic and during the first two years of it, we simply couldn’t find a race to film. This wait was really challenging for me.


Q: What is the message of the film?


Brian: We have a character in this film, Megan, who lost her husband to ALS and for her this film is a love letter to life. It is just that. The message is that we have to embrace life fully no matter how much time you have left or not. It’s also about living life on your own terms, at its fullest.


Andrea: I hope people get inspired and have a greater appreciation for the life they have, with or without having a disease. It’s all about raising awareness and to live your life with full hope and positivity.


Q: What does this film festival means to you?


Miriam: We are honored and thrilled. California has embraced our movie and we couldn’t dream but for such a Premiere screening here in Santa Barbara. This is a festival that has such a legitimacy, and we hope the audience embraces our movie. I hope Andrea’s journey will inspire the entire community.


Brian: I really hope her story motivates people who think they have limitations to go beyond them and try to do what they really want to do with their lives. And of course, we hope we will see a cure for this terrible disease, 100% fatal, one day. It’s really all about the impact that film can create and the change that can come with it.



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The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has star wattage and a wealth of premieres in a Mediterrean-style city by the sea.

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