My husband and I moved from San Francisco to Guerneville in 2008, escaping city life and looking for a change of pace. Enticed by its natural beauty and proximity to the Russian River, we had blinders on to the fact that the small town had been hit hard by the recession, and all the empty storefronts made it feel like a ghost town. However, in the space of 3 years Main Street was entirely transformed, thanks to four new businesses that opened up. We were able to get a decent meal in town! And decent coffee! And a boutique cocktail! We then found out the businesses were all owned by the same person: Crista Luedtke. We approached her and asked if we could follow her around with a camera, to find out what made her tick, and to see what she would do next.
Over the next two years, she let us film her ups and downs. She told us about coming out as a gay woman, about her first marriage that failed because of her ambition, about her personal financial risks, and the storms that flooded the river and severely damaged her hotel. We also learned that some local residents were resistant to the changes she brought about. During the time we filmed, she embarked on a new project that proved more challenging than she ever could have anticipated. She ultimately questioned whether this was the life she truly wanted for herself.
The notion of ‘empire’ took on new meaning, causing us to ask: How much do each of us sacrifice as we build our own empires? We found her story truly compelling and we hope you do too.
- Jessica Congdon