SARASOTA -- Just before Lili Taylor came bounding down the stairs from the balcony, a Sarasota Film Festival official joked that the festival had to find a balance.
Last year, the Festival featured "In Conversation With Frank Langella" in a high school auditorium. There were 1,000 seats and 150 people showed up.
This year, he said, "In Conversation With Lili Taylor" was in a space that held 150 people, and 1,000 people wanted tickets.
The John C. Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theater was full Friday as Taylor, the indie movie queen who has in recent years moved into more mainstream films and television, charmed the audience with stories about her life and career for almost an hour and a half.
Taylor chatted with Michael Dunaway, the film editor for Paste Magazine.
She talked about her upbringing in suburban Chicago, where she hung out with future independent movie stars John Cusack, Aidan Quinn and Jeremy Piven, whose parents were her first acting teachers.
There were anecdotes, one about the time she got two speeding tickets in one day driving Johnny Depp's Porsche, and one about getting kicked out of college when she mouthed off to a teacher.
There were reminiscences about her films, from "Mystic Pizza" through "I Shot Andy Warhol" and her two films with Robert Altman, whom she called "a benevolent puppetmaster."
There was a discussion about starting to work in television, on "Six Feet Under." Until then, she said, the independent film world looked down on TV.
"It was just about that time that we were starting to figure out that a TV is just an object," she said, "and that what's on it is the same as what's in films."
And there were fascinating, if esoteric, discussions of her approach to acting. It's when she can envision her character performing mundane tasks that she knows she has understands that character's psyche.
"If I can't see her eating cereal in the morning, then I know I don't have it yet," she said.
Taylor is at the festival primarily because of her new film, "The Cold Lands." She had just seen it for the first time, the previous evening at the festival.
"I was very, very, very, very moved," she said. "It's not a blockbuster, it's not connect-the-dots. It's doesn't have the kind of pace we're used to. It's slower and that's what makes it work."
"The Cold Land" will screen again at 7:15 this evening (Saturday, April 13) at the Regal Cinema Hollywood 20 at 993 Main St. Sarasota.
The festival wraps up Sunday. The biggest events remaining are the Filmmaker awards and the closing night film at 6 p.m. this evening (Saturday, April 13) at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. The closing film is "Frances Ha," written and directed by Noah Baumbach, who's best know for "The Squid and the Whale."
But there are also plenty more film screenings. For a complete schedule and more information, visit www.sarasotafilmfestival.com or call 941-364-9514.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411. ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.