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Fort Myers Beach Film Festival will feature sequel to last year's audience award winner

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Sep 6, 2021

Nicole Goeden and Seth Hale embrace in the independent short film "Awakening," the sequel to last year's Fort Myers Beach Film Festival audience award winner "Master Servant" from Minnesota filmmaker Julie Koehnen. / Photo provided

One year after winning the people’s choice award for her short film “Master Servant,” Minnesota filmmaker Julie Koehnen is back with her follow-up to that one with “Awakening,” set to play at the Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival Saturday, Sept. 18.

The film, set in the Gilded Age amid the mansions of St. Paul, tackles the subject of a woman’s individuality in the 19th century during a time of female repression.

Koehnen brings back two of the leading actors from “Master Servant” in Nicole Goeden and Seth Hale. Paul Bees and Dawson Ehlke are among the other actors returning in supporting roles.

The production had to overcome the restrictions of the pandemic during filming last year.

Koehnen said she is “very excited” to have the sequel being shown this year, “I have a lot of respect for this festival,” she said. “It’s great as a filmmaker to feel appreciated.”

Her short film “Master Servant” won a number of awards at film festivals last year, and was also recognized for its score. Koehnen brought back composer Francisco “Pancho” Burgos-Goizueta for the score. “He elevates my films,” Koehnen said.

The movie was able to be made in part with financing from a $10,000 Minnesota arts grant which covered about one-third of the cost. She raised additional funds through the Independent Filmmaker Project. Costs were kept down by using costumes from local seamstresses and gaining access to a mansion on Summit Avenue that had five pianos. The James J. Hill mansion had been the setting for “Master Servant” though it wasn’t available for the filming of “Awakening.”

Koehnen began production in March of last year right as the pandemic began sweeping through the nation. After shutting things down, she re-started production in July and completed filming in August amid social distancing precautions and a smaller set, following Screen Actors Guild guidelines. “We realized we had to shoot pretty quickly,” Koehnen said. On top of that, the film’s star – Nicole Goeden, was pregnant. Koehnen said Goeden gives an “amazing performance.”

At 14 minutes long, “Awakening” clocks in at about two minutes longer than “Master Servant” did. It’s a love story about two people in love but with different attitudes and plans for their future. “He is very traditional” and wants children, Koehnen said. The character played by Goeden would rather spend her life going to art galleries and feels independent enough to go out to eat without being accompanied by a male family member.

Koehnen said she was attracted to the setting of “Awakening” in the Gilded Age because she wanted to tell the story of America’s own “Downtown Abbey” and the dynamics between “capitalists and labor” during a time when great wealth was accumulated without labor laws or income taxes.

Koehnen’s next film will be a feature-length production titled “A Slip of the Knot,” which she described as a psychological thriller about a married couple.

The Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival is set to run from Tuesday, Sept. 14 to Sunday, Sept. 19 at the Beach Theater on Estero Boulevard.