By: Jan Engoren Contributing Writer
It was standing room only at the Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on April 5 as more than 800 people came out for the 24th annual Palm Beach Student Showcase of Films, Florida’s largest film competition and awards show.
Over its quarter-decade, the competition has awarded $1.6 million in cash and scholarships to high school and college students enrolled in film, television, graphic design and digital media courses.
The SSOF is funded by the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners through the Department of Housing & Economic Sustainability. Out of 600 submissions, 253 films were narrowed down to 32 finalists and 16 award winners.
Celebrity presenters included “Divergent” actor Chris Hayes, TV host Montel Williams and rapper Vanilla Ice.
For the 12th year, the show was emceed by actor Frank Licari, known locally for his South Florida PBS’ lifestyle series, “On the Town in The Palm Beaches,” and dedicated to actor Burt Reynolds, who passed away last year and to former county commissioner Burt Aaronson, who founded the Palm Beach International Film Festival.
Licari received a standing ovation for his energetic song tribute to Reynolds while a montage of Reynolds’s films flashed on screen.
Awards were presented in a variety of categories, including commercial, environmental and mental health PSAs, animation, documentaries, music videos and college and high school feature shorts, among others.
Amaya Cranston, 18, a senior at Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburg was a top three finalist for her high school feature short titled, “Hero.”
She was accompanied by her film teacher, Michael Pineda.
“Amaya is infinitely creative,” Pineda said. “She has the right amount and mixture of creativity with ambition and practicality, meaning, she can actually pull off what she envisions.”
Cranston, who hopes to one day be a film director has already been accepted into USC film school.
She admires supernatural filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (Sixth Sense) for his “twist endings,” and says she hopes to create films that, like Shyamalan’s, manipulate the audience’s expectations.
Boca Raton’s own Mason Pace band, all students at St. Andrews School – Alex Abbasi, 18, Mason Pace, 17, Naya Kiassou, 15 and Eryn Friedman, 17, (who starred in the music video) were one of three finalists for their music video, “Timmy and Jimmy,” also the name of their cover song on their album “Whateverland.” (Band member Cameron Markell was not in attendance.)
The band recently competed in the Future Stars Performing Arts Competition at the Mizner Park Amphitheatre and perform around the city.
Mason Pace Band won “Rising Star” and “Audience Choice” awards from the Richmond International Film Festival in 2017.
Pace, who has a Roger Daltry-esque appeal, grew up with the music of Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, all influences from his father, is now inspired by the music of San Francisco-based rock band, Primus.
Kiassou’s mother, Bessie Raptis, her aunt Vickie Raptis and friend Maria Toustsoglou were all in attendance rooting for the group.
Monteverde Academy student Molly Smith took first place in the Commercial PSA for her short film, created with an all female cast, “Rules For Girls,” competing against Cranston’s “Hero.”
“The future of film is female,” Smith said as she accepted her award.
Palm Beach Gardens student Robert Torres received the $5,000 Burt Reynolds scholarship, and Joey Aliberto of the G-Star School of the Arts won the Sara Fuller scholarship.
Jason Dobuler of Jupiter High School took first place in the Nellie and Fred Chasin Screenwriting Award category for his short screenplay, “An Odorless Ordeal.”
He thanked his teacher for “pressuring me into submitting it, even though she ‘didn’t get it,’” he said.
Julia Moran, a student at Palm Beach Gardens High School took first place for her environmental PSA, “End Plastic Pollution.”
“The environment is my generation’s future,” she said. “I decided to take a moment and make it better.”
G-Star School of the Arts student Vincent Amadeus took the first place honor for his mental health PSA, “Fallen.”
“Mental health is a big problem,” he said. “Many people suffer and I felt like awareness should be raised.”
In a montage of Reynold’s student protégés, one student recounted Burt Reynolds’s best advice to her: “The only way to make your dreams come true is to wake up and achieve them.”
For a complete list of filmmakers and awards, visit pbfilm.com/ssof. To watch the awards show live visit ThePalmBeaches.TV.