Waco’s Deep in the Heart Film Festival Announces Award Winners for 2021 Festival


Waco’s Deep in the Heart Film Festival today announced the award winners for the 5th edition of the film festival which concluded it’s in-person presentations on Sunday with an entertaining Awards Brunch hosted by the Dr. Pepper Museum. The awards haul was led by Chris White’s Electric Jesus (Best Narrative Feature Film), Kevin Smokler and Christopher Boone’s Vinyl Nation (Best Documentary Feature). Top individual awards were given to Outlaw’s Buckle’s Brett Bentman (Best Director), and Electric Jesus’ Brian Baumgartner (Best Performance).

This year’s edition of the popular film festival featured a return to in-theater screenings and in-person events as part of a hybrid approach to the film festival. Deep in the Heart Film Festival’s celebrated lineup of themed short film programs once again were a highlight, along with the return of the film festival’s Filmmaker Game Night, readings of competition screenplays, parties, and Opening Night red carpet entrances.

Co-Founders and Co-Directors Louis Hunter and Samuel Thomas, said, “While the Deep in the Heart Film Festival has gained national notoriety the last couple of years, we are very much a community-based event that thrives on the personal connection built between our filmmakers and our local film fans. There was a lot of anticipation to getting back to seeing these films on the big screen and having those conversations on film in a physical space once again.” Hunter and Thomas added, “Our award-winning films this year emphasized that connection from person-to-person in a variety of entertaining and creative ways. Out of a wonderful lineup, they were are very deserving of being singled out for these awards.”

Leading the award winners in the short film categories were; Justin Giddings and Ryan Welsh’s It’s Okay, which took the prize for Best Short Film; Samantha Ireland’s Wolves Inside, which garnered the Best Texas Short Film award; Zeke Farrow’s Megan’s Shift, which won Best U.S. Short Film; Iván Sainz-Pardo’s Faces, which was named Best Foreign Short Film; and Alexander Rosales’ Tejano Night, which won Best Student Short Film. Short films cited with Special Jury Awards included; Beth (Director: Ava Bounds); Falling Sparrow (Director: Justin Wang Powell); Fraser Syndrome & Me (Director: Kyle Anne Grendys); and Manos de Oro (Hands of Gold) (Director: Merced Elizondo).

Film awards by genre in the Short Film category went to; Lauren Noll’s Honor for Best Drama Short; Nancy Sullivan’s Masterclass, which took Best Comedy Short; and Ricky Rhodes’ Not Just Another Day, which was named Best Documentary Short. Sage Mears and Aaron Pagniano’s Transfer was named Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Short; Matthew and Nathaniel Barber’s No One Is Coming scared up the award for Best Horror/Thriller Short; Becca Roth’s The Book of Ruth received the award for Best Family Short; and Gregory Kasunich won Best Music Video for Sophie Strauss’ “Dog Fight.”

Filmmaking craft awards were given to; Sharon Arteaga for Best Director – Short Film for When You Clean a Stranger’s Home; Margaret Cho won Best Performance – Short Film (Drama) for her role in Koreatown Ghost Story; and Keith Powell won Best Performance – Short Film (Comedy) for his work in In White Places. Best Cinematography – Short Film went to Aaron Youngblood (Exactly as They Are), Best Editing – Short Film was given to Summer Spiro for It’s Okay, and Best Screenplay – Short Film went to Phillip Musumeci for How to End a Conversation. Paulina Manseau’s “Kiki” was cited as the Best Unproduced Screenplay. while Alycya Magaña received an Honorable Mention for their script “El Vals” (The Waltz”).

Deep in the Heart Film Festival’s virtual presentation continues through July 31. Following the conclusion of those screenings, the film festival will announce their Audience Awards. For more information on tickets and the Deep in the Heart Film Festival, please go to: https://www.deepintheheartff.com/.


2021 Deep in the Heart Film Festival Filmmaker Award Winners


Feature Film Awards

Best Feature Film (Narrative)
Electric Jesus
Director: Chris White

Best Feature Film (Documentary)
Vinyl Nation
Directors: Kevin Smokler, Christopher Boone

Best Director – Feature Film
Brett Bentman (Outlaw’s Buckle)

Best Performance – Feature Film
Brian Baumgartner (Electric Jesus)

Short Film Awards

Best Short Film
It’s Okay
Directors: Justin Giddings, Ryan Welsh

Best Texas Short Film
Wolves Inside
Director: Samantha Ireland

Best United States Short Film
Megan’s Shift
Director: Zeke Farrow

Best Foreign Short Film
Director: Iván Sainz-Pardo

Best Student Short Film
Tejano Night
Director: Alexander Rosales

Special Jury Award – Short Films
Beth (Director: Ava Bounds)
Falling Sparrow (Director: Justin Wang Powell)
Fraser Syndrome & Me (Director: Kyle Anne Grendys)
Manos de Oro (Hands of Gold) (Director: Merced Elizondo)

Short Film Awards by Genre

Best Drama Short
Director: Lauren Noll

Best Comedy Short
Director: Nancy Sullivan

Best Documentary Short
Not Just Another Day
Director: Ricky Rhodes

Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Short
Directors: Sage Mears, Aaron Pagniano

Best Horror/Thriller Short
No One Is Coming
Directors: Matthew Barber, Nathaniel Barber

Best Family Short
The Book of Ruth
Director: Becca Roth

Best Music Video
“Dog Fight”
Artist: Sophie Strauss
Director: Gregory Kasunich

Short Film Craft Awards

Best Director – Short Film
Sharon Arteaga (When You Clean a Stranger’s Home)

Best Performance – Short Film (Drama)
Margaret Cho (Koreatown Ghost Story)

Best Performance – Short Film (Comedy)
Keith Powell (In White Places)

Best Cinematography – Short Film
Aaron Youngblood (Exactly as They Are)

Best Editing – Short Film
Summer Spiro (It’s Okay)

Best Screenplay – Short Film
Phillip Musumeci (How to End a Conversation)

Screenplay Competition

Best Unproduced Screenplay – First Place
“Kiki” (Writer: Paulina Manseau)

Best Unproduced Screenplay – Honorable Mention
“El Vals” (The Waltz”) (Writer: Alycya Magaña)


Written By
More from Dev Shapiro
  Fantastic Fest is proud to announce its second wave of programming,...
Read More
0 replies on “Waco’s Deep in the Heart Film Festival Announces Award Winners for 2021 Festival”