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Ilene Safron


Ilene Safron is a videographer and photographer.

She is president and owner of Main Sail Video Productions, Inc., which she founded in 1989. Whether it is designing digital art and motion graphics, producing television commercials, promotional videos and documentaries, or “going live” on social media, Main Sail is a recognized leader in the video production industry. Since its inception, Main Sail has received many national and international awards and distinctions, including a Suncoast Emmy, Addy Award, Communicator Award and Telly Award. Not surprisingly, Main Sail’s client list includes such prestigious concerns as NBC Nightly News, CBS Sunday Morning, PBS, E! Entertainment and New England Sports Network/FOX Sports, as well as a host of Fortune 500 companies.

A native of a small tourist town in the Catskill Mountains by the name of Ellenville, Ilene started taking pictures seriously and producing documentaries while she was still in high school. From there, she went on to earn a degree in environmental biology from the University of Connecticut. Her main focus (Ilene’s pun) was bio-photography.

After graduation, Ilene landed a job at ABC Network News in New York. One of her first assignments was carrying around Barbara Walter’s mink coat. But ultimately, her formidable photography skills transported her around the world. Among her favorite assignments were the Winter Olympics in Calgary and the Summer Games in both Beijing and London.

In 2018, Safron ventured boldly into the realm of locally-based documentaries with Mullet & Mangroves, a 30-minute film narrated by Bob Hite (WFLA-TV Channel 8’s main news anchor for more than three decades) that depicts Cayo Costa through the eyes of the present-day descendants of the island’s pioneering fishing families. But many Southwest Florida residents and visitors know Ilene as the creative force behind Fort Myers, City of Palms – A Contemporary Portrait, a beautifully lensed coffee table book that features her images coupled with lyrical commentary by Amy Bennett Williams.

Her involvement in the project was somewhat circuitous though. Mayor Randy Henderson got the idea of doing a coffee table book promoting Fort Myers while attending the United States Conference of Mayors. That’s where he also met representatives of publisher HPN Books. Because they are based in San Antonio, Texas, they asked the mayor to recommend someone locally who could assist with site selection and set up shoots. One name came immediately to mind. When HPN discovered Ilene’s credentials, they engaged her to do the photography for them. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

But there’s more. Through their participation in the project, Mayor Henderson, Ilene and Amy Bennett Williams take their place with enlightened civic leaders William H. Towles, Harvie Heitman and Mayor R.C. Matson.

Towles, Heitman and Matson banded together in 1914 to commission 7,000 copies of a booklet promoting Lee County and the City of Fort Myers to the outside world. The 32-page brochure featured a “vividly written, and at the same time truthful description of the attractions and advantages of the beautiful and fertile county of Lee” interspersed with numerous hand-drawn illustrations.

“Altogether it is one of the most carefully prepared and most reliable and beautiful of the many booklets that have been issued by Florida towns and cities,” professed the Fort Myers Press on January 29, 1914, “it will be the means of much good to the county in making known its various advantages.”

Back then, Lee County and the City of Fort Myers were each required to pass a half a mill tax to create a budget for the publication of the booklets and advertise “the beauties, attractions and opportunities” of both the county and the city. Today, we are indebted to three dozen sponsors who are identified in the book. But the effect is the same. Thanks to the vision of Mayor Randy Henderson, the prose of Amy Bennett Williams and the aesthetic eye of Ilene Safron Whitesman for capturing the moment, Fort Myers, City of Palms – A Contemporary Portrait will be a means of much good to Fort Myers in making known its various modern-day advantages.

Since completing the book, Ilene has written and directed two new documentaries. The first was A Tale of Two Halrims, which debuted at the 9th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival. The second is Preservation Forever, a 10-minute film that looks back at the history of preserving the Edison & Ford Winter Estates through the eyes of Sam Galloway, Jr., which is making its debut on the lawn outside The Mangoes during the 11th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival.

January 25, 2019; revised May 11, 2021.



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