And the winners are …
Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival hands out awards
Even COVID-19 couldn’t stop the power of cinema at the Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival.
Though forced to stream the movies from more than 100 filmmakers online due to the pandemic, executive director Janeen Paulauskis said the festival was a success.
“Though virtually, we were so grateful to host the 14th Annual Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival. The Festival has become such a cherished event in the Fort Myers Beach community. Our volunteers, patrons and sponsors continue to support and celebrate independent film whether our filmmakers are based locally, state-wide or globally. We’re already planning and looking forward to our 15th year in April 2021,” Paulauskis said.
Taking the top prize in the festival for best feature was the independent film “Two Ways Home.” Directed by Ron Vignone, the movie focuses on a single mother’s mental health, family struggles and her relationship with her young daughter. The movie, endorsed by the National Alliance on Mental Health, earned a Rising Star Award for actress Rylie Behr.
Filmed in Iowa, the movie stars actress Tanna Frederick, who also co-produced the film. Frederick said the movie was inspired by her own life, growing up as “a little bit of a tomboy” in Iowa with a grandfather who had seven daughters and never had a son. “He was extremely disappointed he didn’t have any boys,” Frederick said. “I grew up with tough women.”
Frederick said her aunts were so strong almost to the point of “where they lost their femininity.” Interestingly, Frederick said many of her relatives live in Fort Myers.
Frederick called Behr’s performance “absolutely phenomenal.” The movie also stars Tom Bower (“Die Hard 2,” “Georgia,” “Raising Cain), whom she also praised.
Frederick said her character shows strength and resilience as she deals with a bi-polar disorder. “It’s a feel-good movie,” Frederick said. “If there every is a time to be looking at where we are at internally with our mental health, this movie is such a beautiful conduit.”
Frederick is currently shooting a film based on Marlon Brando with actor Richard Dreyfuss and Billy Zane (as Brando). Frederick’s current projects include “South of Hope Street” with Michael Madsen and the announced “Asleep at the Wheel” with Burt Young.
Frederick said working with Dreyfuss has been “a treat.” She said he and her ex-husband director and screenwriter Henry Jaglom (her ex-husband) are old friends. Frederick has appeared in a number of Jaglom’s films. Jaglom is known for having directed Jack Nicholson in “A Safe Place” and directed Orson Welles in his last film role “Someone to Love.”
Best Performance in a Feature
Ivy Meehan, a Texas-based actress, was given the award for best performance in a feature film for her role in “A Room Full of Nothing.”
The role was a challenge for Meehan, who had just given birth to twins three months prior to filming. “I was going through a lot emotionally,” she said. The role was one she couldn’t pass up as it was her first starring role in a feature film.
The film was written by her co-star Duncan Coe. Coe co-directed the movie Elena Weinberg. The three have been based in Austin, Texas and have been friends for about eight years. They worked together previously on the web series “#ATown,” which Meehan also produced.
“We weren’t getting a ton of work in Austin so we wanted to write ourselves out of that,” Meehan explained.
The movie concentrates on the relationship between Coe and Meehan and one’s stated desire to be free of other people, and how that wish is granted. Meehan plays an artist who spends a lot of time painting alone. “I did a lot of research on fine art,” Meehan said. “I researched collage artists.”
It was a role Meehan had to stretch for as she didn’t have a background as an artist, but rather is a sports enthusiast who played golf competitively at Northwood University and does radio commentary for local football games. “I’m still waiting for the female version of Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore.”
Meehan said she was disappointed the festival didn’t go as planned. “It was one of the ones we were really looking forward to coming to,” she said. “We planned a long weekend getaway. It would have been the best scenery.”
Meehan cited actresses Laura Linney, Meryl Streep, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett as inspirations. She admired golfer Annika Sorenstam growing up. Meehan also said she was inspired by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Best local film went to “Her Place,” a short directed by Sarasota’s Kathryn Parks.
List of winners:
Best Local Film: “Her Place” by director Kathryn Parks
Best Student Film: “Father by Law” by Maria De Sanctis
Rising Star Award: Rylie Behr for “Two Ways Home”
Star Achievement Award: Brenden Hubbard for “The Helping Hand”
Best Performance in a Short Film: Janel Tanna for “Intervention”
Best Performance in a Feature Film: Ivy Meehan for “A Room Full of Nothing”
Best International Short Film: “Sacred Hair”
Best Live Action Short: “Invitation”
Best Short Documentary: “In the Middle”
Best Documentary: “When all that’s left is love”
People Choice Award: “A Room Full of Nothing” (tie) and “Master Servant”
Best Picture: “Two Ways Home”
Best Feature Screenplay: “The Path”
Best Short Screenplay: “Downballot”
Best Florida Made Screenplay: “Bird’s Eye”