Sarasota Military Academy students win Sarasota Film Festival’s inaugural ‘Comedy Appreciation’ award

The Fate of the Oklahoma Riders produced by a team of 2019 graduates and juniors

These are the winning Sarasota Military Academy students. Image courtesy Sarasota Military Academy

Students of the Sarasota Military Academy, a local, public charter school, recently learned they received an inaugural award from the 2020 Sarasota Film Festival, the school has announced.

A film the cadets submitted to the festival — The Fate of the Oklahoma Riders — won the newly established Comedy Appreciation category during the festival’s virtual competition, a news release explains.

Traditionally, the festival featured among its categories one called All Ages and another called High School +; this year, the film festival judges and staff added two additional categories: Courage in Storytelling, “highlighting the filmmakers tackling social issues,” and Comedy Appreciation, which was designed to showcase filmmakers focusing on humorous endeavors, the release adds.

The recipients of the Comedy Appreciation honors were Layla Howard and Abel Martinez for a film titled Sorry ’Bout Your Luck and the team from Sarasota Military Academy (SMA), the release notes.

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

The Sarasota Military Academy students’ film was made during the 2019 school year, through the International Baccalaureate (IB) Film Program and the Academy’s Film Club, taught by Hellen Harvey, the Academy’s IB film and media instructor, the release says.

The team of filmmakers comprised 2019 SMA graduates Evan Schulz, Emily Haywood, Emma Fabec, Heidi Iwansky, Nicole McKenna and Jacob Meyer, along with 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,” said Col. Christina Bowman, executive director of the Sarasota Military Academy, in the release. “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,” she added in the release.

“The Comedy Appreciation category shows the community that we can always find light and joy, even and especially throughout this uncertain time,” Bowman pointed out.

Another SMA team, 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, the release notes. “Filming was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release adds, “but students submitted the film to highlight the local nonprofit, volunteers and vital services in the community.”

To learn more and to view a list of films and winners of the 2020 Sarasota Film Festival, visit

1 thought on “Sarasota Military Academy students win Sarasota Film Festival’s inaugural ‘Comedy Appreciation’ award”

  1. Fabulous acknowledgement for the hard work and artistic talents of the students and teacher. Congratulations all around.

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