The luxurious Infinity Room at Pala Casino, Spa and Resort was the setting for the 2013 Fallbrook International Film Festival Gala awards dinner on April 7. In its fifth year, the festival is shining brighter than ever. A team of chefs served a lavish buffet dinner to guests then the festival honored its finest.
Festival co-directors Heidi Minga and Ronald Shattuck were in attendance with their spouses Rich Minga, Fallbrook Film Factory board member and Hollywood stuntman; and Susana Shattuck, Film Festival finance director. The Minga’s daughter, Christiana, Film Festival Social Media Director, also enjoyed the evening.
Emcee for the night was personable Corey Eubanks, son of television’s prolific Bob Eubanks. The younger Eubanks is equally prolific in the entertainment industry, but as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. Starting in the early eighties with the Dukes of Hazzard and Sting II, Eubanks has also dabbled in acting, writing and directing.
Three special awards were granted, including the Career Achievement Award that went to David Hasselhoff, who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as, “The Most Watched TV Star in the World.” Hasselhoff has had many starring roles in both films and television including the two extremely popular television series “Baywatch” and “Knight Rider.” Hasselhoff, affectionately called “The Hoff,” has enjoyed a successful career as a pop music singer; and is also a dedicated philanthropist.
He is also a “nice guy” according to Barbara Taylor of Fallbrook who was given that information by her friend, the late H. John Penner who worked as director of photography for the popular television show “Knight Rider.”
In true entertainer form, Hasselhoff entered the room singing, and sang his way to the stage. A commanding presence, the six-foot-four Hasselhoff graciously accepted his award. “Life is about imagination,” he noted, “if you believe it you’ll live it.” Hasselhoff then told the audience he was thankful for the award, how he enjoyed being with and that he would like to return for future film festivals.
Legendary stunt and second unit director Terry Leonard received the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by stuntman Alex Daniels, who was the stunt double for David Hasselhoff in the television series “Baywatch.” Leonard’s career is impressive with work on 125 films. He received a Stuntman Award in 1985 for the “Most Spectacular Stunt (Feature Film)” for jumping out of a car and into a rushing waterfall on “Romancing the Stone.” He also performed the “hand walk” stunt under the truck in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” When I asked him how he felt when he was under the truck he replied with a chuckle, “I kept my eyes closed,” then he added, “No, I just had to concentrate.”
The Patron of the Arts award is given each year to an individual in the Fallbrook area who has made a difference in the local art community. The 2013 honoree, lauded for making the greatest contribution, is Jerri Patchett, director of Fallbrook Arts, Inc. She is highly regarded for her worthwhile efforts in various community projects.
Thirteen awards were granted from a field of 65 films. The film selection was an arduous process led by Shirley Duke, film submission coordinator.
The film, “Shuffle,” written, directed and produced by Kurt Kuenne, was honored with the Frank Capra Award. The award itself is set in bronze and fashioned by talented local sculptor Leo Romero, and was presented to Kuenne by Frank Capra, III, who serves as honorary chair of the Fallbrook International Film Festival.
“Shuffle” is a suspenseful film with heart. The main character, a man named Lovell Milo, is convincingly played by T.J. Thyne, who is well-known as Dr. Jack Hodgins on the popular television show “Bones.” In “Shuffle,” Milo was destined to repeat portions of his life until he figured out clues which would eventually lead him to save the life of another. The title “Shuffle” is well-chosen because different days of Milo’s life are shuffled each time he falls asleep.
Tahnee Gehm of Fallbrook took the Best Animated Short honors with her film, “Can We Be Happy Now.” Gehm was raised in Fallbrook and holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the California Arts Institute.
A somber moment in a night teeming with excitement was when a moving film tribute to director David Ellis was presented. Ellis, an honorary board member of the Fallbrook International Film Festival, as well as the 2011 recipient of the FIFF Spotlight Tribute Award, passed away while on location in South Africa. He began his directing career with the 1996 Disney film “Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco,” and is probably best-known for the more recent film, “Snakes on a Plane.” Members of the Ellis family, including daughters and grandchildren, were present for the tribute.
All in all, it was a night to savor; and as Margaret “Peggy” Cannon-Callahan of Fallbrook, commented, “This was the best film festival yet!” She should know. Cannon-Callahan worked as the personal assistant to film star George Hamilton and has attended her fair share of galas and award ceremonies. She is also the widow of actor James Callahan, who played hundreds of roles over the years and is best known for the television show “Charles in Charge.” I agree with Peggy, this was the best one yet. But, I am convinced that, with the efforts of the dedicated volunteers, as well as the support of Frank Capra, III…and the possible return of “The Hoff” — the best is yet to come.