For long-time cinephiles on the Gulf Coast, Gill Holland will always be one of the steady handsthat helped produce the Sarasota French Film Festival in the mid-‘90s. To residents of Kentucky, he’s ‘Mayor of NuLu,’ the man who helped bring Louisville’s redevelopment prospects into focus.

Holland today works out of an office in The Anchor Building, a former Boys and Girls Club in Portland, a Louisville suburb. It’s here that he plans a $24-million renovation of a blighted neighborhood and investors have been lining up to participate based on the work he has achieved elsewhere in the metropolitan area. But Holland’s story doesn’t start in bricks and mortar but in reels and film. The aspiring producer while still in his late 20s started working in the French Film Office, a New York-based quasi-government institute supporting the dissemination of French film abroad, along with representing the Cannes Film Festival’s U.S. presence. The job included programming festivals throughout the country, including the Sarasota French Film Festival. Each year from 1993 through 1995, Holland visited Sarasota at minimum for the period surrounding the festival. “We would come down and spend about two weeks of prep, then be there for four or five days for the festival itself,” he said. 

But eventually Holland moved on, becoming a film producer. So did the festival itself. The Sarasota French Film Festival closed shop in 1996, but did lay the groundwork for the still-successful Sarasota Film Festival. Since then, Holland and the new festival have crossed paths again, most recently when the documentary Maidentrip, on which Holland served as executive producer, was chosen for the SFF programming line-up in 2013. That gave the chance for his name to scroll on a Florida movie screen even though Holland did not visit here with the film.

But while he never left the film world behind, Holland’s biggest credits in recent years have been as a developer. After moving to Louisville with his wife Augusta, a Kentucky native, the two elected to enter the real estate business. “Movies are intellectual property and real estate, of course, is real property, but it’s really the same methodology,” he said of the move. “An architect is like the director. The developer is the producer.” 

Since Augusta earned her degree in urban planning, fixing up neighborhoods seemed a draw for the upstart redevelopment team. The two purchased a dilapidated structure that would be dubbed The Green Building, making the purchase just before the recession struck. While that made for a more stressful endeavor, it also gave the opportunity to truly change the entire East Market neighborhood. After a $13-million project headed by the Hollands revitalized the area, newly dubbed ‘New Louisville’ or ‘NuLu,’ Holland suddenly became the talk of the town. The Atlantic called him the New Louisville Godfather. Lousiville magazine called him the ‘Mayor of NuLu.’

As he works on The Anchor Building, hope is high again. That’s part of why a Sarasota delegation of business leaders spoke with the developer during a recent intercity visit to Louisville. But if Holland comes down to Sarasota, it may well be again thanks to the film world, as producer for four separate films being submitted for festival consideration this year. “I haven’t been to Sarasota myself for a decade,” he said, “so I’m due.”