For the filmmakers, actors, producers and writers behind the 85 films screened at the Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival this past week, there were only winners.
An awards ceremony to honor the best of the films took place Sunday at the Gull Wing, but programming director Kyle Thompson pointed out that the 85 films were selected from more than 700 entries – a victory in itself.
The award for best feature went to “Marvelous and the Black Hole” and the best short film went to “The Lioness.” Other awards included best performance in a feature film, which went to Karen Grassle (“Little House on a Prairie”), for her role as the matriarch of a family who is dealing with Alzheimer’s in “Not to Forget.” Rachel Boyd won best actress in a short film for her role in “Break Any Spell,” which is about a teenage girl who uses live-action role-plying to cope and escape from her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
For Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy served as master of ceremonies at the awards ceremony held at Gull Wing. Murphy credited Janeen Paulauskis for her work in putting the festival together for the last 16 years, calling her the “Hardest working girl in showbiz.”‘
Paulauskis thanked the festival’s “Many sponsors, volunteers, the Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival team and patrons for making this another successful year.”
The Star Achievement Award went to Greg Hollimon, who starred in the film “In Search of Weeping Jim.” With a booming voice, he accepted the award and joked that it was his first award since 1969 when he finished in second place in the spelling bee. “I was cheated because I knew how to spell Czeckoslovakia,” he said. Hollimon’s career includes a stint on “Second City,” where he worked with comedic actors Tim Meadows, Steven Carell and Stephen Colbert.
On Colbert, Hollimon said “The only mistake he ever made was not making me the announcer on Late Night.”
Hollimon, who played a small, but key role in the film “The Fugitive” during the house raid scene confrontation with Tommy Lee Jones, said he is looking into making a movie with Curt Curtis locally.
Holliman said he made “In Search of Weeping Jim” during the pandemic with director Mike Houlihan. “It’s a nice little movie,” Houlihan. He said he has worked with Houlihan “Off and on for 20 years. He knew me when I first became an actor with Second City in Chicago so it was cool to be back. We did a movie called Tapioca which is about homelessness, “ Hollimon said. “It was quite an experience to be homeless and people think you are really homeless.”
Janel Tanna was awarded the “Rising Star Award” for her performance in the short film “Intervention.”
She is looking forward to her next two films, where she will co-star with Tray Chaney in “Black Poetry,” a story by Stewart Thomas and directed by David Patrick Wilson. She also will be appearing in “A Journey Told” a biopic by Rick Galvin, directed by Elisabeth White.
Julia Silverman, who made her film debut in the 1988 film “Working Girl” with Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith, produced the film “Intervention.” She also acted in the movie alongside Tanna, who she had worked with before. Silverman said she believed the story behind “Intervention” was important in exploring the issues of opioid addiction and mother / daughter relationships. “It shows a very heartfelt mother / daughter relationship. Even when there is a challenge, that the love is stronger than you think it’s going to be. That can lead to a positive thing, “ Silverman said.
The award for best film short went to “The Lioness,” which was made in Florida. Sara Oliva, who lives in Orlando, wrote, directed and starred in the movie. “I am thrilled and shocked. What a wonderful surprise, “ she said.
The film is based around a domestic violence situation and focuses on a mother and her young child. “It was inspired by my time at a safe house, a domestic violence shelter,” Oliva said. “It’s a testament to these brave women, these warriors,” she said.
Jan Fleming has been assisting at the festival for several years, coordinating volunteers and securing donated prepared food and drinks from “Our generous island restaurants,” for the filmmaker roundtables and meet and greets, she said. “I wanted to get involved in something different. I was amazed that our little seven-mile island hosted such an impressive international festival. Janeen Paulauskis had a vision 16 years ago and ran with it. Thanks to the Beach Theater, we can offer a class event, “ Fleming said.
“What an incredible week we had for the 16th annual Fort Myers Beach Film Festival,” Paulauskis said. “Our paradise island welcomed over 100 filmmakers from across the globe and we were excited to see so many familiar faces coming to see the films.”