Sarasota Academy Students Win Sarasota Film Festival Comedy Category

Students from Sarasota Military Academy, a local, public charter school, recently learned they have received an inaugural award from the 2020 Sarasota Film Festival. The cadets submitted a film titled, “The Fate of the Oklahoma Riders,” and won the newly-established “Comedy Appreciation” category during the festival’s virtual competition.

Traditionally, categories include “All Ages” and the “High School +” category; this year, the film festival judges and staff added two additional categories: “Courage in Storytelling,” highlighting the filmmakers tackling social issues, and “Comedy Appreciation,” showcasing filmmakers with humorous endeavors.

The recipients of the “Comedy Appreciation” categories were Layla Howard and Abel Martinez, for a film titled, “Sorry ‘Bout Your Luck,” and a team from Sarasota Military Academy with “The Fate of the Oklahoma Riders.”

“A sincere congratulations to the award-winning students at the Sarasota Military Academy for their creative and humorous film. It was a delight to our audiences, and we look forward to more shorts from the bright young minds of this school,” said Mark Famiglio, Co-Founder and President of the Sarasota Film Festival.

The film by students from Sarasota Military Academy was made during the 2019 school year, through the IB Film Program and the Academy’s Film Club, taught by SMA-CPT Hellen Harvey, Sarasota Military Academy IB Film and Media Instructor. The team of filmmakers included 2019 SMA graduates Evan Schulz, Emily Haywood, Emma Fabec, Heidi Iwansky, Nicole McKenna, Jacob Meyer, juniors Alison McKenna, Michael Burton and Anthony Habas. 

“Our cadets are so incredibly gifted and we enjoy seeing the films they create for the festival each year. We are so grateful that festival staff created a way for the films to be showcased, adapting to ensure that our cadets and all participants had an opportunity to share their work,” said SMA-COL Christina Bowman, Sarasota Military Academy Executive Director. “The “Comedy Appreciation” category shows the community that we can always find light and joy, even and especially throughout this uncertain time. Congratulations to our SMA filmmakers, and thank you to the Sarasota Film Festival staff for their creative and heartfelt commitment to local art.”

Another team from SMA, consisting of seniors Noah Fischer, Noah Neitlich, Ashley Ortiz and Aeryn Sachs, produced a documentary film about the Resurrection House, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves as a resource center to the homeless of Sarasota County. Filming was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but students submitted the film to highlight the local nonprofit, volunteers and vital services in the community. 

Sarasota Film Festival Judges include Sarasota Judge Charles Williams, MTV’s “Siesta Key” producer Gary Kompothecras and SFF creative producer and film critic Joe Neumaier. To learn more and to view a list of films and winners of the 2020 Sarasota Film Festival, visit

About Sarasota Film Festival
Held annually in Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota Film Festival emphasizes the best in cinema alongside exciting programs and events, with more than 200 films screened each year including features, documentaries, shorts, and kid-friendly picks. Entering our 22nd year, we’re proud to bring the best new and established independent filmmakers to our Festival with local and kid-friendly programs that showcase our idyllic Gulf Coast community. The festival is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization and also offers a year-round educational program, which reaches thousands of local students through classic film showcases, film contests, summer camps and instructional workshops. To learn more, visit

About Sarasota Military Academy
Founded in 2002, Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) is a public charter school, college preparatory academy and an accredited IB Diploma and Middle Years Programme (MYP) School with two campuses located in Sarasota, Florida. Combining extraordinary academics with the highest military principles of camaraderie, focus, leadership, integrity, compassion, poise, honor and respect, SMA’s mission is to graduate young men and women who will confidently define their personal and unique goals for success in a multi-cultural and globalized world. Sarasota Military Academy High School is located at 801 N. Orange Avenue and Sarasota Military Academy Prep Middle School is located at 3101 Bethel Lane. To learn more about SMA, visit


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s