Steve Robitaille

Steve Robitaille, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, grew up on the lore of Herman Melville and the city’s storied whaling tradition. He later moved to Miami, studied journalism at the University of Florida, and earned a Masters and PhD in English. Dr. Robitaille taught English and Media Studies for 25 years at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. He’s a retired English professor and Emmy Award-winning documentary producer. He and his wife, Julie, live in Gainesville, Florida and spend their summers in a remote fishing village in Nova Scotia. They have two sons, Jean Paul and Jordan.

Over the span of three decades, Robitaille produced a series of public television documentaries on the arts and environment. His films featured readings and interviews with such noted authors as Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Richard Eberhart, National Book Award winner, Peter Matthiessen, novelist and editorial writer, Carl Hiaasen, and many others.

Seven Ways to Kill the Suwannee, Robitaille’s 1982 documentary, shot over 12 months from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico, examined serious threats to the historic river, earned a record-sized audience and influenced the adoption of a model flood plain ordinance for the Suwannee.  His series, Expedition Florida, produced with the Florida Museum of Natural History, won 11 Emmy Awards. The series features an expedition into the Fakahatchee Strand with photographers Clyde Butcher and Jeff Ripple to photograph the illusive ghost orchid. In another segment, cameras follow author and naturalist, Peter Matthiessen, to film the rare birth of whooping crane chick in Kissimmee, Florida. Matthiessen also appears in Archie Carr: In Praise of Wild Florida. Carr’s book, The Windward Road, is considered a classic of natural history writing and influenced Matthiessen in the writing of his novel, Far Tortuga. Also appearing in the film are author, Russell Hoban, whose reading of Carr inspired the writing of his novel Turtle Diary and the film by the same name starring Ben Kingsley and Glenda Jackson. The film features commentary by Senator Bob Graham, one of many Carr students who went on to become influential environmental stewards. In Praise of Wild Florida focuses on Carr’s prolific writings about Natural Florida and contributed to the publishing of Archie Carr: A Naturalist in Eden, published by Yale University Press.

In the mid-1980s, Robitaille filmed Ask Your Sister to Dance, a cultural exchange between a group of Gainesville-based cloggers and audiences in five cities in the Soviet Union. He returned to Russia in 2003 with the internationally renowned Cuban choreographer, Albert Alonso, to film a Bolshoi Ballet production of his acclaimed Carmen. The 1986 film, Spontaneous Mind, chronicles the residency of beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, photographer, Robert Frank and drummer, Elvin Jones at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. The three artists engage with their respective students and reminisce about the the time they spent with writer, Jack Kerouac, in Daytona Beach in the 1950s.

Old Friends, features scenes from David Mamet’s play, The Duck Variations, as performed before elderly audiences in Miami Beach and Jacksonville. The film captures the reactions of the elders to Mamet’s two old characters sitting on a park bench, projecting their fears and vulnerabilities onto ducks in the wild. Old Friends inspired the production of a series of films that explore the relationship of aging and creativity. Eberhart at Eighty, documents a 1984 University of Florida Writer’s Festival held on the occasion of Richard Eberhart’s 80th birthday.

Eberhart reads from his poems on life, aging and mortality. Joining Eberhart to pay tribute are poets Donald Hall and Jay Parini, and noted critic, Cleanth Brooks. The film series, Writing in the Upward Years, features poets Richard Eberhart and May Sarton reading poems spanning their youth to what Eberhart positively characterizes as “the upward years.” In their interviews, Eberhart and Sarton look back on pivotal moments in their lives that shaped their work and inspired creativity into older age.