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The 2016 Indie Memphis Film Festival presented by Duncan-Williams, Inc., announced their filmmaker awards during a celebratory ceremony at the Circuit Playhouse (51 Cooper Street) on Saturday night (November 5), and their Audience Awards at the Halloran Centre at the Orpheum (225 S. Main Street) last night. Deb Shoval’s AWOL won the jury award (and a $1000 cash prize) for Best Narrative Feature, Maisie Crow’s JACKSON took home the jury award (and $1000 courtesy of Classic American Hardwoods) for Best Documentary Feature, and Madsen Minax’s KAIROS DIRT & THE ERRANT VACUUM received the nod (and a $1000 cash prize) as Best Hometowner Feature.

Shoval’s AWOL, and Crow’s JACKSON also took home the Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature, and Best Documentary Feature, respectively, while Alma Har’el’s LOVETRUE doubled up on the Jury Award and the Audience Award for Best Departures Feature. Kathy Lofton’s I AM A CAREGIVER received the Audience Award for Best Hometowner Feature.

The festival’s coveted $10,000 IndieGrants awards went to Dan Baker, for his film project, DYSPHORIA, and Rachel M. Taylor for her film project, SOLUS, with each receiving $10,000 cash-equivalent rentals from Firefly Grip & Electric, LensRentals, and Music + Arts Studio. $500 IndieGrants winners were Stephanie Watkins, for her film project GIRLSLIKEME, and Christopher Tracy, for his film project, SOPHIE. The winners were selected from applications by 40 filmmakers living in Tennessee’s Shelby County, Mississippi’s DeSoto County, or Arkansas’s Crittenden County.

Indie Memphis executive director Ryan Watt, said, “The 19th edition of Indie Memphis delivered on our “Film For All” message to expand our audience as they packed the theaters that spanned across the city. We received such positive feedback on the program of films which made the award decisions very difficult for the jury. Equally challenging for the jury was choosing the Hometowner winners from the impressive field, proving again that Memphis is on the rise with a wealth of talent in our filmmaking community.”

In addition to Shoval’s award for AWOL, Musa Syeed’s AWOL took two prizes in the Narrative Feature category, including the Duncan-Williams, Inc. Scriptwriting Award (and a cash prize for $1000) for Syeed’s script, and a Special Jury Prize for Best Duo for the performances in the film of Barkhad Abdirahman and Ayla the dog.

Along with Crow’s nod for JACKSON, a Special Jury Award for Emotional Honesty went to Cecilia Aldarondo’s MEMORIES OF A PENTINENT HEART in the Documentary Feature category.

The Hometowner category, which includes films made by Memphis-area filmmakers, was led by Minax’s KAIROS DIRT & THE ERRANT VACUUM as Best Feature Film. The Best Hometowner Short Film winners were Graham Uhelski & Daniel Ray Hamby’s DOPPLEGÄNGER (Best Narrative Short), and Laura Jean Hocking & Melissa Anderson Sweazy’s A.J. (Best Documentary Short). The filmmakers for both films received cash prizes of $500, along with their award. Special Jury Awards went to Kevin Brooks for his work on KEEP PUSHING, and Gabrielle Goble for her performance in TEETH.

In the Sounds and Departures categories, Patrick Sheehan’s GIP took the award for Best Sounds Feature, and top music video nods went to Paavo Hanninen’s “Dance Square” by Video Age for Best Sounds Music Video, and Ben Siler & Company’s “Memphis Beach” by Chakerine for Best Hometowner Music Video. Har’el’s LOVETRUE won Best Departures Feature, while Brian Ratigan’s A STONE’S THROW AWAY was named Best Departures Short. Ryan and Tyler Betschart’s PUDDING received a Special Jury Prize in the category. The poster for the film, ARE WE NOT CATS, won the award for Best Poster Design.

Festival awards (chosen by the Indie Memphis programming staff) included; GREEN/IS/GOLD director Ryon Baxter receiving the Craig Brewer Emerging Filmmaker Award (given to a first-time filmmaker that exemplifies the DIY spirit), I AM THE BLUES director Daniel Cross named as this year’s Soul of Southern Film Award recipient (which celebrates Indie Memphis’s origins as “The Soul of Southern Film”), and MA director Celia Rowlson-Hall receiving the Ron Tibbett Excellence in Filmmaking Award, which honors the memory of Indie Memphis’s friend and mentor, who was an award-winning filmmaker, as well as the founder/director of Indie Memphis.

The film festival’s Indie Award, given to a crew member that has impressed the Indie Memphis staff with the breadth and scope of their work behind the camera on numerous films, was Sarah Fleming, who served on crews for several films in the festival this year. The Indie Memphis Vision Award, given to someone that has made a permanent impact on the legacy of the Indie Memphis Film Festival, was presented to the Commercial Appeal’s John Beifuss. Beifuss, who has been Memphis’s preeminent film journalist and critic for many years was cited for the dedicated coverage of the film festival as well as independent film locally, giving the art of filmmaking an unwavering presence in the press due to his efforts.

Additional Audience Awards were received by Daniel Cross’s I AM THE BLUES for Best Sounds Feature, Fredric Lehne’s SHY GUYS for Best Narrative Short Film, and Amy Nicholson’s PICKLE for Best Documentary Short Film. Sam Bank’s THE WRONG END OF THE STICK won the Audience Award for Best Departures Short Film, Laura Jean Hocking and C. Scott McCoy’s HOW TO SKIN A CAT took home the same honor for Best Hometowner Narrative Short Film, and Jared Biunno’s THE RUGBY BOYS OF VENICE got the nod for Best Hometowner Documentary Short Film. Megan Leonard’s Music Video for Eric Blood’s song “Chase the Clouds” got the Audience Award for Best Sounds Music Video, and Ryan Earl Parker’s music video for Tina Harris’s song, “Don’t You Smile Say Yeah” received the prize for Best Hometowner Music Video. ARE WE NOT CATS scored its second win by also taking the Audience Award for Best Poster.

The awards ceremony for the jury awards was hosted by Alex Blagg, the Emmy-winning co-creator and Executive Producer of @midnight with Chris Hardwick, who entertained the audience with an ongoing mock-campaign to “Make Memphis Corporate Again,” having fun with the idea that Indie Memphis has gone too far in turning the city “indie”. The Audience Awards were announced by Executive Director Ryan Watt during the closing night reception at the Halloran Centre at the Orpheum (225 S. Main Street) on Monday, November 8. 

The 2016 Indie Memphis Film Festival Filmmaker Awards:

Narrative Features:

Best Narrative Feature: AWOL (Director: Deb Shoval) – $1,000

Duncan-Williams, Inc. Scriptwriting Award: A STRAY (Director and Screenwriter: Musa Syeed) – $1,000

Narrative Special Jury Prize for Best Duo: Barkhad Abdirahman and Ayla the dog (A STRAY)



Best Documentary: JACKSON (Director: Maisie Crow) – $1,000

Documentary Special Jury Award for Emotional Honesty: MEMORIES OF A PENTINENT HEART (Director: Cecilia Aldarondo)



Best Narrative Short: SUN VALLEY (Director: Brian Paison) – $500

Narrative Short Special Jury Prize: SHY GUYS (Director: Frederic Lehne)

Best Documentary: GOOD WHITE PEOPLE (Directors: Erick Stoll, Jared Welling-Cann) – $500

Documentary Shorts Special Jury Prize: IN THIS WORLD (Director: Kelly Creedon)

Best After Dark Short: CANARY (Director: Marie Schlingmann)


Hometowner Awards:

Best Hometowner Feature: KAIROS DIRT & THE ERRANT VACUUM (Director: Madsen Minax) – $1,000

Best Hometowner Narrative Short: DOPPLEGANGER (Directors: Graham Uhelski & Daniel Ray Hamby) – $500

Hometowner Special Jury Award: TEETH, Gabrielle Goble for Acting

Best Hometowner Documentary Short: A.J. (Directors: Laura Jean Hocking & Melissa Anderson Sweazy) – $500

Hometowner Special Jury Award: KEEP PUSHING (Director: Kevin Brooks)


IndieGrants $10,000 Package Winners:


SOLUS: Rachel M. Taylor


IndieGrants $500 Winners:

GIRLSLIKEME: Stephanie Watkins

SOPHIE: Christopher Tracy



Best Hometowner Music Video: Chakerine: “Memphis Beach” (Director: Ben Siler & Co)

Best Sounds Music Video: Video Age: “Dance Square” (Director: Paavo Hanninen)

Best Sounds Feature: GIP (Director: Patrick Sheehan)



Best Departures Feature: LOVETRUE (Director: Alma Har’el)

Best Departures Short: A STONE’S THROW AWAY (Director: Bran Ratigan)

Departures Special Jury Prize: PUDDING (Directors: Ryan Betschart, Tyler Betschart)


Best Poster Design:




Craig Brewer Emerging Filmmaker Award:

Ryon Baxter for GREEN/IS/GOLD


Soul of Southern Film Award:


Director: Daniel Cross


Ron Tibbett Excellence in Filmmaking Award:


Director: Celia Rowlson-Hall


The Indie Award:

Sarah Fleming


Vision Award:

John Beifuss


Audience Awards

Narrative Feature:


Director: Deb Shoval


Documentary Feature:


Director: Maisie Crow


Narrative Short Film:


Director: Fredric Lehne


Documentary Short Film:


Director: Amy Nicholson


Departures Feature:


Director: Alma Har’el


Departures Short Film:


Director: Sam Bank


Sounds Feature:


Director: Daniel Cross


Sounds Music Video:

“Chase the Clouds” by Eric Blood

Director: Megan Leonard


Hometowner Feature:


Director: Kathy Lofton


Hometowner Narrative Short Film:


Directors: Laura Jean Hocking, C. Scott McCoy


Hometowner Documentary Short Film:


Director: Jared Biunno


Hometowner Music Video:

“Don’t You Smile Say Yeah” by Tina Harris

Director: Ryan Earl Parker


Best Poster:



The 2016 Indie Memphis Jury Members:


Narrative Features Competition

James Faust (Dallas Film Society, Artistic Director)

Larry Karaszewski (The People vs OJ Simpson)

Amy Nicholson (MTV News, Chief Film Critic)


Documentary Features Competition

Erik Jambor (BendFilm, Programmer)

Jaie Laplante (Miami International Film Festival, Director)

Alison Willmore (BuzzFeed, Film Critic)


Hometowner Competition

Eliza Hajkova (SAGindie, Manager of Development)

Shrihari Sathe (It Felt Like Love, Producer)

Ted Speaker (Funny Bunny, Producer)


Short Film Competition

Adam Donaghey (Zero Trans Fat Production, Producer)

Shaka King (Newlyweeds: Writer, Director, Producer)

Alicia Van Couvering (Drinking Buddies, Producer)


Sounds Competition

Leah Giblin (Cinereach, Grants Manager)

Matt Grady (Factory 25, Distributor)

Aaron Hillis (Indiegogo, Manager of Film & Creative Outreach)


Departures Competition

Skizz Cyzyk (Film Festival Careerist)

Kent Osborne (Adventure Time, Writer)

Farihah Zaman (Field of Vision, Critic & Filmmaker)


IndieGrants Competition

Charles Judson (TERMINUS Film & Gaming)

Austin Nauart (SXSW, Film Conference Programmer)

Molly O’Keefe (Tribeca Film Institute, Director of Scripted Programs)