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.
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 springsfilmfest.com. The website will be updated often, so please check it regularly.
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 springsfilmfest.com.
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 springsfilmfest.com.
"It is amazing to watch when even one person - like Alex Moy - get inspired to follow their dreams," said Zink.