a not so still life

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Last night I attended the world premiere of a documentary feature film entitled “Ginny Ruffner – A Not So Still Life”. It debuted at SIFF – the Seattle International Film Festival – which, I am told, is the largest in the country. Ruffner has enjoyed a long and exceptionally fruitful career as a painter, sculptor, and artist who works in painted glass. Her work was among the first chosen for the Ste. Michelle Artist Series wines (back in 1993) and has also been featured in an Absolut campaign (Absolut Ruffner).

But what is most remarkable about Ruffner, and what is captured so movingly in the film, is her absolute dedication to her art. From an early age, we learn from her parents and siblings, she had made a promise to herself that she would always have a studio. If I have a studio, she explained, I will feel guilty not using it.

She set out to make art any way she could, taking a series of seemingly menial jobs and turning them into opportunities to create. This maps exactly to so many of the very best new wineries, at least here in Washington. Yes, there are a number of well-funded start-ups, where plenty of money is available. And no doubt some of them will succeed as a result (but not all of them). Nonetheless, it is far more difficult, and ultimately, I sincerely believe, more rewarding, to bootstrap yourself up from zero simply by virtue of hard work and the attitude that “I am going to do this no matter what.”

I’ve seen quite a few such start-ups make it all the way to financial and critical success, and you will find their stories in the next edition of my book, “Washington Wines & Wineries: the Essential Guide” which will be published by the University of California Press in September. These are wineries that walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The word passion turns up on 99 press releases out of 100 (along with 'terrior' I’m sorry to say), and that has certainly de-valued it. But it does not mean that passion has ceased to exist. Passion is there palpably when you see a winemaker rolling up his or her sleeves and doing the cold, boring, janitorial work that occupies much of the job. It’s there when a pump breaks late at night and it’s the third week of crush and somehow you figure out how to fix it. It’s there when the grapes you’ve coddled for a year or two or three get frozen out and you must start over.

The Ginny Ruffner story has its own twists and turns, some tragic, some hilarious. But it is above all inspirational. Anyone with a “passion” for starting a winery would be well advised to see it, and use it as a touchstone to really understand what it takes to prevail in the wake of extraordinarily difficult and impossibly challenging circumstances.

It screens at SIFF this Friday and Saturday, and is a ShadowCatcher Entertainment production. Full disclosure: the director, principal photographer, and co-editor is my very talented wife, Karen Stanton (aka Mrs. G).

SIFF screening
Ginny Ruffner
ShadowCatcher Entertainment


Anonymous said...

Great plug!,great support. Going to get lucky tonight..........

PaulG said...

I feel lucky every day of my life.

Anonymous said...

Great film of a great woman. Brava Brava!

Jacquie Stephens said...

You have a beautiful way with words...looking forward to reading your book and seeing the film. Thank you!

PaulG said...

Thank you Jacquie. More screenings coming up, and so far, very positive comments from everyone - including those in the film, friends and family, and most importantly, Ginny herself.

PaulG said...

SIFF - the Seattle International Film Festival – wrapped up today (Sunday) with its Golden Space Needle Awards ceremony. I am extremely pleased and proud to say that the Audience Award for Best Documentary went to "Ginny Ruffner - A Not So Still Life" – directed, shot and co-edited by Karen Stanton-Gregutt. This is Karen's first feature film, after a lifetime of work doing commercials and short corporate films. Amazing to see the tremendous response it is generating.

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