Silver Springs Film Festival Announces New 2017 Event and Return in 2018

Where we’ve been...

     Four years ago we began with an idea that started a journey that would awaken a movement within our community. The idea was a world-class film festival in a beautiful spot that took its place in cinematic history more than a century ago – the festival, Silver Springs International, is our invitation to the world to come to this place we call home and share our common visions, our diversity and our hopes and dreams for the future of cinema in Ocala, Silver Springs, Marion County, Florida. With the help of filmmakers from more than 20 states and nearly 30 countries, artists and audiences from around the world and a vibrant, supportive community, we made the idea a reality.

Why we’re here...

     The original plan for the festival was a three-year plan, and within that plan we accomplished more than we had ever imagined possible -  perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “We are a victim of our success?” Thanks to all of you, we have changed that. Thanks to you, “We are a product of success!” Under the guidance of the Ocala Film Foundation and our shared sponsors, we have  gifted back nearly $50,000 to local media arts students and teachers through scholarships and classroom grants through our Dream2Screen program and our Fresh Squeezed series and awards have showcased some the best Florida-made  independent films and supported Florida filmmakers through cash incentives to continue making their films in the Sunshine State.

We are thrilled to have earned the support of the City of Ocala and Marion County and numerous businesses throughout our region and we take this trust very seriously. In order to continue the growth of our festival and play an integral part in growing our community and its cultural impact on our region we are taking 2017 off – well, sort of…

2017 – The Next Big Thing at SSIFF: Jump/Cut!

     From its inception there have been plans for additional film series, events and even niche festivals that we will be nurturing and adding to our line-up. Among these events is our Jump/Cut Film Challenge, which the Ocala Film Foundation and the SSIFF will roll out in March 2017, before we return in 2018 with all of the great films and events that have distinguished us among festivals. This gives us an opportunity to expand our programming, while working with our local leaders and business people to update our business plan and integrate it into the collective vision for our community’s greatest good. We are so excited to share the next chapter…

The Festival Grows…

     The Jump/Cut Film Challenge is designed to dovetail with the festival, starting in 2018, expanding the SSIFF’s programming to nearly two full weeks and creating greater opportunities for our community to interact with the filmmaking community at large. Jump/Cut is modeled on other successful filmmaking challenges with a few twists of our own. We will pair teams of filmmakers with “mentors” from the industry for two days of workshops that lead into the challenge which takes filmmakers on a 72 hour filmmaking adventure in Florida’s “Kingdom of the Sun”! Ocala, Silver Springs, Marion County, FL will work together to open its doors wide - from our famed Silver Springs (the world’s greatest water stage) to our rolling acres of breathtaking landscapes, our beautiful Victorian historic district to our vibrant art-loving downtown with its town square and lovingly restored Historic Marion Theatre. The event culminates in a screening of the Jump/Cut films at the Marion Theatre and an after-party with numerous awards, including a cash prize for the Fresh Squeezed Award for Best Film. And we will continue our commitment to the community with the presentation of our 2017 Dream2Screen Scholarship and Classroom Grant recipients.

     We will be announcing all the details for this incredible event in the next few weeks – so keep your eye on our website and social media pages for your chance to get in on the action and be a part of 2017 Jump/Cut Film Challenge! Filmmaking doesn’t get fresher than this!

      Then make plans to join us in 2018 when the full festival returns with all of the great films and events that have distinguished us among festivals, along with the Jump/Cut Film Challenge.


Wilton F. Martin Communicators of the Year 2016 Institutional Winner

The Wilton F. Martin Communicators of the Year Award was announced at the Conducting Communications Excellence Image Awards Gala on April 19, 2016.

2016 Institutional Winner,
Nominated by Toni James, APR, CPRC

The Silver Springs International Film Festival (SSIFF) is one of the largest cultural events in our community’s growing arts and entertainment landscape, and this community, itself, is the very reason the organization is here. It has inspired and mobilized civic leaders, citizens and business owners.

Ocala Film Foundation, Silver Springs International Film Festival and now, the Friends of the Fest, were created to support the educational goals of the region’s media arts students and teachers, to further the community’s efforts to preserve and maintain the lovingly restored Historic Marion Theatre and to shine a spotlight on the cinematic legacy of the Ocala, Silver Springs, Marion County, Florida region.

The Silver Springs International Film Festival is dedicated to leading our community in creative and cultural discovery through the medium of motion pictures. They seek to discover and encourage independent artists worldwide and to build a bridge between these artists and their audiences – locally and abroad. By increasing awareness, accessibility, and a broader appreciation of the cinematic arts within the community, they endeavor to support the educational, cultural, and economic well-being of our region.

Continue reading article

A festival of films and friendships

Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 2:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 2:29 p.m.

Something special happened on the downtown streets of Ocala recently. The Silver Springs International Film Festival was a success for many reasons, however, the best part of the seven-day event was the most surprising. I knew the films would be outstanding, unique and informative. And Saturday's awards dinner al fresco was nothing short of extraordinary. Yet I did not expect the festival to resonate on such an intimate level.

Let's start with Tim Walker. An accomplished animator who worked on cartoons including "The Flintstones," "Scooby Doo," "Winnie the Pooh" and "Aladdin," Walker creates timeless art. But it was his personal story that captivated the festival crowd. For more than 50 years, Walker drew cartoons with his right hand. Then he was diagnosed with Lateral Parkinson's, a disease that would first attack his ability to use his right hand. So he learned to draw with his left, creating animations he credits as some of his best ever.

Continue reading at the Ocala Star Banner

Third annual Silver Springs International Film Festival rolls into downtown Ocala this week

Published: Sunday, April 3, 2016 at 4:13 p.m.

Each year, it starts with a classic flick filmed in Marion County.

After a toast from locals John Travolta and Kelly Preston, the first Silver Springs International Film Festival kicked off with "Creature From the Black Lagoon" in 2014. The following spring, the Oscar-winning "Cross Creek" got things rolling.

This year it will be Elvis Presley's "Follow That Dream" -- the "Funniest, Happiest, Dreamiest Motion Picture" of 1962, according to its original movie poster.

The musical-comedy will screen Tuesday night at the Marion Theatre, setting a fun tone and sparking memories of that summer the King of Rock 'n' Roll tromped through downtown Ocala and mingled with local extras. Then after the film festival's sock hop on the downtown square celebrates cinema in Marion County, SSIFF is set to bring us the world with about 100 festival-approved films over four days.

Continue reading at the Ocala Star Banner

'Follow That Dream' kicks off 2016 Silver Springs International Film Festival

Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 5:38 p.m.

The dream was already there.  It just needed some wine to bring it into focus. 

"Greg (Thompson) was in town to direct a show at Ocala Civic Theatre, and we were talking about the arts in Ocala over a couple of bottles," recalled Laurie Zink, who would become CEO of the Ocala Film Foundation.

Eventually their talk late that night turned to film festivals. All the pieces were in place: a renovated historic movie theater, a revitalized downtown, a community willing to try new things. "I always thought we should be doing this here," Thompson said.

Continue reading at the Ocala Star Banner


Silver Springs International Film Festival 2016

Silver Springs International Film Festival 2016: Bigger and Better Than Ever

By Cynthia McFarland - Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Growth. It’s how we measure progress, whether it’s an infant, a town’s population or a stock portfolio.

For the Silver Springs International Film Festival, an event just in its third year, growth is occurring by the proverbial “leaps and bounds.” At the inaugural event in 2014, 3,000 tickets were sold for the three-day festival. A year later, the 2015 event was extended to five days and nearly 5,000 tickets were purchased. Now in 2016, response and film entries have grown the festival to seven days, from April 4 to 10. Continue reading the article from Ocala Style


Big Screens, Big Causes

Celebrities support heartfelt causes at the Silver Springs Film Festival

By Cynthia McFarland - Tuesday, March 01, 2016

What’s not to love about having a great time for worthy causes?

Mark your calendars for April 4 through 10 and the return of the Silver Springs International Film Festival.

Starting Wednesday, April 6, four full days of screenings begin, with the City of Ocala excited to be the festival’s premier sponsor. Tickets start at just $10 with discounts for seniors and students. You’ll find a complete schedule, descriptions of events and pricing information at the SSIFF website.Continue reading the article from Healthy Living


Follow That Dream

Follow that dream with the 3rd Annual Silver Springs International Film Festival,
featuring a 50's theme, Elvis impersonators and many more surprises

By John Sotomayor

Encouraged by his church, 15 year-old film student Alex Moy followed his dream of producing movies by entering his student project into the first annual Silver Springs International Film Festival. He wasn't sure what it was all about or what to expect. Since then, Moy won numerous prestigious film awards, earned a scholarship to the Manhattan Film Institute for summer coaching and training, opened his own production studio, ThatsHowItsDone Productions, and recently joined the SSIFF as a board member.

"The SSIFF made my dream into a reality," said Moy.

Now SSIFF board members are continuing to make other's dreams come true by putting on an even bigger, grander film festival with unstoppable momentum.

The growth has been astonishing.

"In year one, we had 11 filmmakers attend the film festival," said Laurie Zink, SSIFF Executive Director. "In year two, we had 67. They came with entourages from all over the country... all over the world. In year three, our submissions have increased substantially, so we are expecting that number to increase."

The impact is undeniable

Consider that in the first year, the film festival drew eight or nine submissions from U.S. filmmakers. A respectable number. "Well last year, that number went up and this year," said Zink, who paused for dramatic effect, "we had 85 submissions - just from U.S. filmmakers."

SSIFF also increased their international submissions. Together, 23 countries, including Russia, China, India, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, and 11 U.S. states submitted over 100 independent films. Last year nearly 4,000 people attended. This year, those numbers are also expected to go up.

That kind of growth doesn't go unnoticed by film industry insiders and the establishment.

Speaking of last year's event, Miguel Ali, the director / producer of "Confessions of a Womanizer" said, "I've attended many film festivals and can honestly attest that few film festivals are as well run or as much fun as the Silver Springs Int'l Film Festival. No film festival has a better connection with its host city..." Ali added, "Words cannot describe how impressed I was with the number of local businesses came out to support the exhibiting movies and the filmmakers who were showing them. Such participation made for a delightful experience that I'll never forget."

One benefit is anyone who wins an award at SSIFF can be recognized on the International Movie Data Base (IMDB). This is an honor that many festivals have yet to achieve.

In its first year, SSIFF was held over a three-day period. In its second year, five days. This year, SSIFF will take place over seven days - from April 4-10. That means more films, seminars, events and parties for festivalgoers to enjoy.

"You create your own experience," continued Zink. "You can attend any combination - it is up to you."

Here is what you can expect.

Opening night

Each year, SSIFF has kicked off opening night with a theme surrounding a movie filmed in Marion County. First year, it was Creature from the Black Lagoon. Second year, it was Cross Creek. This year, the theme is Follow that Dream.

Filmed the summer of 1961 in Citrus, Marion and Levy Counties, primarily in Inverness, Ocala, Inglis, and Yankeetown, Follow that Dream was based on the 1959 novel, Pioneer, Go Home! by Richard P. Powell.

Opening night will feature several activities wrapped around the theme: a Sock Hop on the Square, Elvis impersonators and an antique car show. Film screenings begin on Wednesday, April 6, shown daily from 1-9pm, with the last block ending at 11 pm, screened primarily at the Historic Marion Theatre. Seminars being opening night. Every night, a special activity will take place. For more specifics, visit The website will be updated often, so please check it regularly.

The films

There are many wonderful films included this year. Here are some of the highlights.

SSIFF has partnered with the Appleton Museum of Art to jointly showcase the work of James "Tim" Walker, one of the world's most-renowned animators. A graduate of the prestigious Chouinard Art Institute, now known as CalArts - California Institute of the Arts, thanks to Walt and Roy Disney, Walker's artistic hand has been seen in hundreds of productions as an animator, and as a director and producer for Disney Studios, Hanna-Barbera, and Warner Bros. They include: Scrooge McDuck, Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweety, The Flintstones, and Batman and Superman.

SSIFF will present his documentary film, The Brotherhood of the Popcorn, a heartwarming, nostalgic tale about a group of senior citizens who met on Saturdays for 35 years to watch classic Hollywood films. They talk about their lives and the world around them, demonstrating personal struggles and triumphs that are as fascinating as the movies they love. The film also explores film preservation, film projectors and silent films.

Eight years ago, Tim was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He wrote a book called Drawings from the Left, a memoir of how his life changed having to learn how to draw using his left hand to continue his career. He also courageously battled alcoholism, which he chronicled in his second book, Shaken, Not Broken, due out Spring 2016. He will speak on his personal struggles and achievements in his Q&A, immediately following the screening.

SSIFF partnership with EQUUS Film Festival which will contribute major equine films via SSIFF Horse Blocks throughout the festival, such as Unbranded. It is film about four cowboys, students at Texas A&M, who decided before they married and settled down, they needed to have an adventure. The adopted 16 mustangs and broke them over a two-and-a-half-year period. They rode the horses 3,000 miles - from Mexico to the Canadian border, through the Rocky Mountains. It is an incredible film that takes the audience on a frontier journey unlike anything ever experienced before in cinematography.

One of the greatest character actors of our lifetime, Joe Pantoliano (AKA Joey "The Pants") of films like Goonies, Memento and The Matrix, and the TV show The Sopranos, will screen his film, Canvas, a dissertation on schizophrenia made in Florida. It will be followed by a reception with Q&A. The following day, Goonies will be screened for children and families, of which Pantoliano will attend as well for a meet & greet.

Pantoliano is known for his foundation called No Kidding, Me Too! focusing on mental illness and substance abuse. SSIFF will screen his documentary film also by the same title of his foundation No Kidding, Me Too! Friday afternoon, also followed by a Q&A.

Polyfaces is a film from New Zealand regarding a farm in Virginia called Polyface Farms. The owner, Joe Salatin, has been featured on the cover of TIME magazine as "the world's most innovative farmer."

The filmmakers lived on the farm for three years to make the documentary, which tells the story of how this farm operates. People come from all over the world just to observe. They do a way of farming that feeds 2,000 families in the area and supplies 600 restaurants in Washington, DC. The do so without any combine tractors. They rotate all crops and fields and allow the animals to do all the work. The success is knowing the right combination of rotation, and which species of animals to use for maximum nutrients in the soil.

Farmers in Central Florida are planning a series of special events around it.

"Outside of our own community, we have gotten a wellspring of support," said Zink. "To have many significant industry individuals step up and say, 'I cannot wait to come to your film festival' is tremendous. With so much outside support, I sincerely hope our local community will step up and participate, and must for us to be able to continue."

"We would love to have filmmakers come back to the area to film new projects locally," added Zink. "They can see what was done before and what are the options." That drives economic growth for the community.

To see the complete film catalogue or to purchase tickets, visit


Most don't realize this, but for the past 13 years, Marion County media production students submit more entries and win more awards than any other county in Florida. They beat other schools with better resources. SSIFF desired step in and provide them with even better resources to compete with bigger cities and to provide local students with face time with these film industry people.

Among them is Tony Spiridakis, an acclaimed writer, director, actor and producer who graduated from Yale Film School and is the founder of the Manhattan Film Institute.

"Education was our initial reason for starting this film festival," said Zink. "We want to support our kids in our community who obviously have a love and talent for the industry."

During the first annual event, actress Wendy Makkena from TV show NCIS and movies like Sister Act participated. Two girls in the front row hung on her every word. They want to act, so they asked her where they should start, what they should do. She gave them insightful and valuable information they could not have received anywhere else.

"The filmmakers ultimately want their films to be seen... and they want feedback," said SSIFF board member, Angie Lewis. Audiences are invited to share their thoughts and even criticism - the filmmakers want to learn what they can do better. "Where else could you have a platform to impact movie creation like that?" she asked.

SSIFF does not charge students for submissions and seminars are free. For seminar schedule, visit

"It is amazing to watch when even one person - like Alex Moy - get inspired to follow their dreams," said Zink.

Dusting off the red carpet for third Silver Springs International Film Festival

The Marion Theatre will host the third Silver Springs International Film Festival in April.
Bruce Ackerman/Star-Banner

By Rick Allen
Staff Writer
Published: Monday, October 12, 2015 at 8:49 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 12, 2015 at 8:49 a.m.

What's up for the third Silver Springs International Film Festival?

“It'll be bigger and better than the last one,” said Gerald Ergle, chairman of the presenting Ocala Film Foundation.

For instance:

• It'll be longer: The 2016 festival will run seven days, April 4-10. “Screening blocks will start later in the day and end earlier,” said festival Executive Director Laurie Zink. In 2014, the festival was only three days.

And that will make time for more seminars and classes, parties and schmoozing with attending filmmakers.

• There will be an anime/animation presence; the Appleton Museum will host a “World of Imagination” animation exhibit in the spring that overlaps, and festival guest Emmy Award-winning animation director James T. Walker will be involved in both.

• It'll have more students and student films: This festival is awarding a $1,000 cash prize for the top student-made entry. Plus, the entry fee is waived for all Marion County students and their teachers, and students do not have to go through the FilmFreeway entry website for adult-produced films.

“They hand-deliver their films to us,” said Festival Director Greg Thompson. “Just go on our website, fill out the form and bring us the film." One of the underlying purposes of the festival is to encourage Marion County students to pursue filmmaking and its associated arts; earlier this year, the foundation presented a grant to Lake Weir High School and provided a couple of scholarships.

• The festival will be recognized: Thompson recently reported that “after countless pleas and encouragement, IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase) has relented and is officially acknowledging the festival. This means that our festival awards will be acknowledged and legitimized on the database — a big deal for our winners.

“This puts us in a totally different light in going after better films. This is a big step forward.”

The deadline for submitting films is Nov. 1, with a late deadline of Dec. 1. Zink said they are encouraging student and locally produced films.

One thing the festival hasn't wrapped in two years is settling on a name for the ice blue miniature simulacrum presented to festival winners. “We are trusting that the right name will find its way to us when the time is right,” Thompson said of the award.

The statuette resembles the statues in the springhead at Silver Springs; the famed staues were placed there for a 1967 “I Spy” episode and later were seen in a James Bond film. They have become iconic symbols of moviemaking in the depths of Marion County.

Film entries have been coming in for about a month now, and selection judges soon will be previewing them to determine which 80 or so will be shown at the Marion Theatre during an expanded festival.

The festival also is good for business; according to a review of SSIFF2, the 56 area merchants who participated this year saw revenues jump 67 percent to 177 percent during the four days. The average general admission ticket holder spent about $1,000 on tickets, food, merchandise and accommodations.

“We love it,” said Shannon Roth of Shannon Roth Collections on the downtown square. “It's one of the best things to happen downtown.”

Most businesses are planning to immerse themselves in the 2016 festival. They expect to schedule activities in and around downtown each night. “We want to bring back the feel of the first year,” Roth said.

But organizers do plan to draw more of outlying Marion County into play. Zink said the are planning events and excursions around the county — much like land adventures offered by cruise lines.

“It's important for the filmmakers to see our area,” she added. “We want to re-establish Marion County as a place to come back to film.”

A decade ago, the county was a rising force in moviemaking, as was Florida. But incentives were stripped from strapped budgets — and out-of-state filmmakers looked elsewhere.

Various tracking tables show Florida today trails Louisiana, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Connecticut, Michigan, even Canada as preferred sites for shooting movies. In 2006, Florida ranked third, according to the Florida Film Commission.

One Florida film already submitted is the black-and-white short “1954” about, according to IMDB, “a couple of hecklers thrown out of a ghost tour, only to be offered a unique opportunity to see 'real' spirits.”

It was filmed in Tampa, and is an official selection of the Orlando Film Festival next week. “Hope you like our all-Florida cast and crew short thriller,” wrote producer Suzanne Grant on the SSIFF Facebook page.

Ocala filmmaker Bronson Mosley indicated he also plans to submit his “Yesterday Is Gone” prequel/sequel to last year's zombie-infested “What Tomorrow Brings.” Both were filmed locally with a volunteer cast and crew.

Film festivals themselves have a lot of competition. According to film writer and producer Stephen Follows, in 2013 there were “around 3,000 film festivals currently active” – defined as having been presented at least once in the previous two years.

In a report posted on his website, he said that in the previous 15 years, more than 9,700 film festivals ran at least once; 39 percent of them run only once.

The Silver Springs International Film Festival was first presented six months after his report.

“The festival is a big experience if you come and take advantage of it,” Thompson said. “This thing is moving; we just need 5,000 more people to find that out.”

Rick Allen can be reached at, 867-4154 or on Twitter @rickallen0103.


Editorial: Film festival a great opportunity

Published: Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 8:04 p.m.

With two years behind it getting established and proven, the 2016 Silver Springs International Film Festival has its sights set on a breakout year not only as a major celebration of cinema but also as key economic development and educational event for Ocala/Marion County.

Organizers of the SSIFF last week announced the third edition of the festival will run a full week for the first time, April 4-10. Already, more than 80 film entries have been received from around the world, and a number of prominent names in the film industry have indicated they will be on hand.

Add to that increased local interest in participating directly in the SSIFF — from the Appleton Museum to Silver Springs State Park to the Downtown Business Alliance — and it is clear the festival has reached unexpectedly early maturity and significance, both from within and without the community.

The all-volunteer effort is expanding to provide more time to fulfill two of its key missions.

First, the weeklong festival will allow more time for visiting filmmakers to see all of Ocala/Marion County as it myriad potential backdrops for films and other video productions.

“We want the filmmakers to get to know Ocala/Marion County,” said Gerald Ergle, a former Ocala mayor and chairman of the Ocala Film Foundation Board. SSIFF organizers are planning tours of different venues in the community, including of Silver Springs, area mining pits, our pastoral horse farms and, of course, scenic woodlands and waterways.

Second, festival organizers are passionately devoted to providing educational experiences to aspiring filmmakers and videographers here in Ocala/Marion County. By extending the week, it will allow more daytime hours for professionals to hold seminars and have hands-on interaction with both high school and college students.

“We’re trying to focus on our young people because we have so many film classes in our high schools,” Ergle told us. Toward that end, the SSIFF is putting up a $1,000 prize for the best student-produced film.

That the SSIFF has come so far, so fast is remarkable. The downtown merchants recognize its economic value. The schools and college recognize its educational value. The festival committee recognizes it potential to reignite Ocala/Marion County’s once-vibrant film industry.

The SSIFF is a wonderful cultural and business development opportunity for our community. What is now needed now, though, is more participation from movie-viewers and business sponsors. This is a unique opportunity to create, or rather, re-create a new economic driver for our community. We have so much to offer filmmakers, but we have to market what we have — and the Silver Springs International Film Festival is the vehicle through which that is being done.

The festival’s budget is $150,000, and we urge the city, the county and the Chamber and Economic Partnership to lead the way in helping festival organizers fund it.

We applaud those who have invested so much of their time — again, the SSIFF is an all-volunteer effort — to once again put Ocala/Marion County on the filmmaking map. Filmmaking part of our community’s rich heritage, now the goal should be to make it a big part of our future, too. That will take a collective effort by the arts, educational, political and economic development communities.

The SSIFF is a good, fun, wholesome event that attracts people from all over the world. It is time to take it to the next level — as a community.

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