More than 100 films competed from Oct. 10 to 12 in the South Bay festival, which received special support from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition to the films selected for awards, the festival honored Morton (TV’s “Scandal,” “The Brother from Another Planet,” “Speed” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) for his contributions to filmmaking. Director John Sayles (“Lone Star,” “Casa de los babys”) wrote a laudatory introduction for Morton.
“I’d like to dedicate this award to my teachers at Hofstra University, who taught me to make choices,” Morton said upon receiving the award. “The fact that you guys have decided to honor and celebrate those choices is incredibly humbling and enormously gratifying.”
Earlier this year, Morton won a Primetime Emmy and an NAACP Image Award and was nominated for a Critics’ Choice TV Award for his role as Rowan Pope, a CIA bigwig and father to Washington, D.C., fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) on the hit TV drama series “Scandal.” “This has been an amazing year,” Morton said, calling Sunscreen West’s Lifetime Achievement Award a “wonderful, incredible gift.”
Festival co-founder Tony Armer said that Morton’s career personifies a dedication to excellence in his craft that is all too rare today. “We wanted to recognize not only his talent, but also the hard work and perseverance that goes into a career like his,” Armer said.
In addition to honoring Morton, Armer and festival co-founder Robert Enriquez presented seven films with awards, including “Hoovey,” an inspirational family drama starring Patrick Warburton, Lauren Holley and Cody Linley. Directed by Sean McNamara (“Soul Surfer”), the film has been picked up for distribution by EchoLight Studios and will be in theaters early next year.
“That is something every film festival hopes for, and we were extremely happy to see it happen here,” Enriquez said. “With so many wonderful films submitted in competition this year, we were very pleased to recognize some really great work here.”
The festival’s winners are as follows:
Best Feature Film”Hoovey” (directed by Sean McNamara)
Best Feature Documentary”The Human Experiment” (narrated by Sean Penn. Directed by Don Hardy Jr. and Dana Nachman)
Best DirectorGaston Gallo (“Gato negro“)
Best Animated Film”Treasure Nest” (directed by Joy Tien, Allison Botkin and Mike Bourbeau)
Best Short Film”The Coin” (directed by Fabien Martorell)
Best Short Documentary”Drill, Spill, Repeat?” (directed by Courtney Owen and Claire Douglass)
Best Spanish-Language Film”Gato negro” (directed by Gaston Gallo)
The films at this year’s festival featured a “Who’s Who” of top-notch onscreen, directing, and producing talent, including: Sean Penn, Ed Asner, Christopher Lloyd, Cathy Moriarty, Russell Brand, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Gael Garcia Bernal, William Devane, Tommy Chong, Howie Mandel, Sally Field, Cliff Robertson, Gregory Harrison, Raul Esparza, Vanessa Williams, James Darren, Sean Stone and Alysia Reiner.
Throughout the weekend, there were compelling workshops on important aspects of the business, including specialty acting for action and adventure films; screenwriting for film and for television; film and television directing; music sourcing and licensing; acting; talent representation; how to get your film made; and film distribution. The festival also featured a pitch session during which participants had the opportunity to pitch a panel of industry professionals led by Mitchell Bell, Marvel Studios‘ vice president of physical production.