Local, near-local artists make way to Film Fest

Courtesy photo. Matthew Balzer, Bill Sage at the 2021 Catalina Film Festival - Friday Red Carpet at the Avalon Casino on September 24, 2021 in Avalon.

Event also kicks off young musician’s anti-bullying campaign

With more than 200 films highlighting the Catalina Film Festival, Hollywood arrived in Avalon to celebrate filmmaking, walk the red carpet and enjoy the island.

Dotted with some big names in movies, the festival also kept its local vibe with movies like “Rosie” as part of the lineup. The short film “Rosie” shows just some of the impacts that Rosie Cadman had on the community of Catalina. Singer/songwriter Presley Aronson, son of Jeff Aronson debuted his latest music video for his single, Background, which promotes his personal campaign on anti-bullying with stand4kind.com. Based on some of his personal experiences as a child, Aronson, is set to embark on national anti-bullying campaign with his song.

Aronson is the son of Catalina Island Medical Center Foundation Chair Jeff Aronson, so Presley has a long-standing connection to the island. His first music video have used the island as a location for shooting. “She’s All Mine,” released in July 2020, followed by the music video in December 2020, showcased much of Catalina Island.

The festival itself featured dozens of short films, including student films and documentaries. The feature film that took home the Best Feature (U.S) “The Catch” starred Bill Gage an actor with more than 120 acting credits to his name. The story follows a troubled woman’s return to her hometown in coastal Maine.

When her plan to rob local drug runners with her ex-boyfriend goes awry, she is caught in a tough spot and puts even more pressure on her lobster fisherman father. An award of excellence for U.S. Feature went to Voodoo Macmeth. Voodoo Macbeth also won awards for best Actor for its star Jewell Wilson Bridges and Best Director for Agazi Desta, et al.

Garnering an Award of Excellence for US Feature Directors was long-time Los Angeles-based acting coach Michelle Danner. Danner moved into directing and brought her latest feature, “The Runner” to the festival

“I loved the Catalina Film Festival! Ron and his team were incredible. It was filled with talent, generosity, passion and I was very grateful to win the award of excellence for best director for ‘The Runner,’” Danner said.

Danner turned to directing in 2006, when she made the romantic comedy “How to Go Out on a Date in Queens” with Jason Alexander. Some of her other films have starred the likes of Paul Sorvino, who was cast in her suspense thriller “Bad Impulse.”

“The Runner” was sparked by a news report about the fate of a teen who agreed to go turn informant for a drug ring. That led to a treatment she wrote for the film, which eventually came to fruition.

“I’m very attracted to socially relevant stories, and see this as a way to tell a story about what happens with some of these kids who fall through the cracks,” Danner said.

On a more personal level, one short film in the festival, “Gus and Chloe” was written by Gregory Gibson, a former Production/Graphic Artist for the company the owns The Catalina Islander. The 14-minute short peeks into the life of an unassuming single father living in Hong Kong, who is a murderous psychopath by night.