Disfluency directed by Anna Baumgarten
Disfluency directed by Anna Baumgarten

Anna Baumgarten’s Disfluency won Best Narrative Feature and Thaddeus D. Matula’s Into The Spotlight won Best Documentary Feature at Waco’s Deep in the Heart Film Festival 7th edition.

Alexander Jeffery was a two-time winner, taking Best Director, Feature film for his documentary You Have No Idea, as well as winning Best Family Short for his film Addie and the Lightning Bugs. Johanna Putnam won Best Performance for her role in Shudderbugs.

Deep in the Heart FF also presented its Made Deep in the Heart Screenplay Grant for the second year. This year’s grant was awarded to Ben Tedesco for his script “Obit,” which now shoot in Waco thanks to real production assistance including up to 4 nights of complimentary hotel stay provided by the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau for pre-production scouting or during the production, up to $2,500 in actual dollar-to-dollar rebates provided by the Deep in the Heart Film Festival, camera and lighting Packages and 5 hours of free filmmaking consultation courtesy of Vision Vehicle Studios. As he accepted his award and the prize package, Tedesco said that he wrote the script for the short specifically for the chance he might win the Made Deep in the Heart prize.

For the second consecutive year, the Deep in the Heart FF enjoyed an increase in audience numbers as the Hippodrome Theater was filled throughout the weekend. Those audiences chose Dawn Mikkelson & Keri Pickett’s documentary Finding Her Beat as their feature film Audience Award winner, and Stephen Robinson’s Trail Bossas the Audience Award winner for short film.

Films cited with Special Jury Awards due to the impact they made on the film festival’s directors and top programmers and included: Castles in the Sky (Director: Pearl Gluck), The Last Thing Lost (Director: Jake Siam), Punderneath It All (Director: Abby Hagen), and West By God (Director: Scott Lazer).

Leading the award winners in the short film categories were Dania Bdeir’s Warsha, which took the prize for Best Short Film; Bryan Poyser’s Don’t You Go Nowhere, which garnered the Best Texas Short Film award; Shaun MacLean’s Chipper, which won Best U.S. Short Film; Mike Doxford’s Non-Negotiable, which was named Best Foreign Short Film; and Ava Bounds’ Dying To Meet You, which won Best Student Short Film.

Film awards by genre in the Short Film category went to; Stephen Robinson and Eric Pham’s Home for Best Drama Short; Jason C. Brown’s Social AnnXiety, which took Best Comedy Short; and Cheryl Bookout and Cheri Gaulke’sInside the Beauty Bubble, which was named Best Documentary Short. Ben Davis’ The Jellyfish Man was named Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Short; Azwan Badruzaman’s Farmer Ed took up the award for Best Horror/Thriller Short; and Jeff Hilliard won Best Music Video for “Abandon.”

Filmmaking craft awards were given to; Logan Jackson for Best Director – Short Film for Leonetty; Matti Houghton won Best Performance – Short Film (Drama) for her role in Three; and Natalie Lynch won Best Performance – Short Film (Comedy) for his work in Social AnnXiety. Best Cinematography – Short Film went to Alex Walker (A Thousand Times A Day), Best Editing – Short Film was given to Rolfin Nyhus for Waving, Best Screenplay – Short Film went to Sharon Arteaga for In Tow, and Best Production Design went to Adam Faux for The Mountain. Honorable mention in the Screenplay Competition went to Rachel Debolski’s “Bite Marks”.

The festival recently announced that next year the event will become the Waco Independent Film Festival.

Regarding the festival’s name change, Co-Founders and Co-Directors Louis Hunter and Samuel Thomas, said, “For seven years, this film festival, our filmmakers, and this city exemplify the spirit of independence by every definition of the word. Calling ourselves, The Waco Independent Film Festival simply puts an emphatic stamp on what we are, what we celebrate, and how our filmmakers approach making their films.” Hunter and Thomas added, “Our award-winning films this year could not have been better examples of that spirit, that energy, and the specific exuberant joy that comes from creating and making film independently, then sharing it with an audience that fully appreciates it.”

The film festival announced the dates for 2024, which will take place July 18-21 and will feature the debut of the Waco Independent Film Festival.

2023 Deep in the Heart Film Festival Filmmaker Award Winners

Feature Film Awards

Best Feature Film (Narrative)
Director: Anna Baumgarten

Best Feature Film (Documentary)
Into The Spotlight
Director: Thaddeus D. Matula

Best Director – Feature Film
Alexander Jeffery (You Have No Idea)

Best Performance – Feature Film
Johanna Putnam (Shudderbugs)

Audience Awards

Feature Film
Finding Her Beat
Directors: Dawn Mikkelson & Keri Pickett

Short Film
Trail Boss
Director: Stephen Robinson

Short Film Awards

Best Short Film
Director: Dania Bdeir

Best Texas Short Film
Don’t You Go Nowhere
Director: Bryan Poyser

Best United States Short Film
Director: Shaun MacLean

Best Foreign Short Film
Director: Mike Doxford

Best Student Short Film
Dying To Meet You
Director: Ava Bounds

Short Film Awards by Genre

Best Drama Short
Directors: Stephen Robinson, Eric Pham

Best Comedy Short
Social AnnXiety
Director: Jason C. Brown

Best Documentary Short
Inside the Beauty Bubble
Directors: Cheryl Bookout, Cheri Gaulke

Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Short
The Jellyfish Man
Director: Ben Davis

Best Horror/Thriller Short
Farmer Ed
Director: Azwan Badruzaman

Best Family Short
Addie and the Lightning Bugs
Director: Alexander Jeffery

Best Music Video
Director: Jeff Hilliard

Short Film Craft Awards

Best Director – Short Film
Logan Jackson (Leonetty)

Best Performance – Short Film (Drama)
Matti Houghton (Three)

Best Performance – Short Film (Comedy)
Natalie Lynch (Social AnnXiety)

Best Cinematography – Short Film
Alex Walker (A Thousand Times A Day)

Best Editing – Short Film
Rolfin Nyhus (Waving)

Best Screenplay – Short Film
Sharon Arteaga (In Tow)

Best Production Design – Short Film
Adam Faux (The Mountain)

Special Jury Awards

Castles in the Sky (Director: Pearl Gluck)
The Last Thing Lost (Director: Jake Siam)
Punderneath It All (Director: Abby Hagen)
West By God (Director: Scott Lazer)

Screenplay Competition

Best Unproduced Screenplay – First Place
“Obit” (Writer: Ben Tedesco)

Best Unproduced Screenplay – Honorable Mention
“Bite Marks” (Writer: Rachel Debolski)

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