Designer Gary Burge, yborfilmfestival.com

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Web designer Gary Burge — the techie behind Ybor Festival of the Moving Image's excellent website — used to be a workaholic. A decade ago, Burge was employed by online service CompuServe as director of strategic technologies when he suffered a heart attack while working in his office at 7 a.m. on the day after Christmas. He survived, but the experience proved life-altering.

"I started working a lot less, for one thing," he tells me by phone from his Tampa home. "I started looking at my life and deciding what was important to me." One of the important things turned out to be a long lost girlfriend named Judi Jetson (yes, really and legally) who was living in Florida at the time. Soon, Burge and CompuServe parted ways — Burge with a healthy "golden parachute" — and the estranged lovebirds reunited in the Sunshine State, sharing a sailboat for a home and living the good life.

Though he's back on land these days, the lessons of a decade ago loom large for Burge. "I decided ... post heart attack that I was going to scale back and do things that were really more important to me and more important to the people I knew. So, I sort of devoted the last 10 years to working with people that ordinarily wouldn't have the budget or the means to [hire] someone with my experience."

One of those lucky people was Ybor City impresario David Audet. The pair met shortly before Audet launched the YFMI, became fast friends, and Burge has been doing the website ever since. What's it like working with the Ybor Festival?

"It's a lot of interesting and crazy people. It's amazing the talent that's out there that you never hear about. One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that it gives people that 10 years ago would never have had an opportunity to become noticed [the chance] to do a film, post it on YouTube and become an overnight sensation. It's amazing and a wonderful thing."

Burge offers this advice to aspiring Web designers out there: Keep it simple and to the point. "For businesses now, your website is your brochure, your business card, your yellow page listing, your message. It's everything. You can't waste people's time when they come to it."

Burge continues to work with nonprofits, small businesses and "cool people doing interesting things" — exactly the type of people who normally can't afford someone with his skills. He sticks mostly to arts organizations (including Florida Craftsmen Gallery, with which he has a 10-year relationship), and he calls the work "very rewarding in the personal sense." But surely there is something he misses from his corporate days?

"Vendorware," he tells me. "I had closets full of hats and t-shirts from software vendors and Microsoft."

To hear the complete interview, check out the Reel Projections podcast at cltampa.com/movies.

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