Move over Oscars, here’s Fort Yachtie Da Film Fest
DOUGLAS JORDAN l Waterfront Times
In the Fort Yachtie Da Film Festival, crewmembers submit five-minute videos that they’ve written, directed and starred in themselves. This year’s awards ceremony and festival takes place Saturday, Nov. 16 at Fort Lauderdale’s Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St.
Kelly Esser has no plans to chuck his career in the yacht industry, move to Hollywood and become a movie director. Still, the captain of the 130-foot Mary Alice II enjoys getting behind the camera.
And as he has each year since 2008, Esser will submit a short film this month to the Fort Yachtie Da Film Festival, a yearly event created and sponsored by Crew Unlimited and C U Yacht Charters, and the only cinematography competition dedicated exclusively to the luxury yacht industry.
“It’s a whole lot of fun,” Esser, 32, said, “And it’s a healthy competition among peers in the industry, with a wide variety of subject matter. You never know what you’re going to be up against.”
Ami G. Ira, president and owner of Crew Unlimited, came up with the idea to do a film festival for yachties in 2007. Touring Cinema Paradiso as a venue for the company’s yearly Client Appreciation Party, the presence of the big screen sparked inspiration.
“We were discussing what we could project on the screen and my receptionist suggested a photography contest. But because it’s a movie screen, I suggested a video contest instead.”
So, in 2008, Ira began promoting it to her company’s yacht crewmembers. The first year saw only nine videos, Ira said.
“It started out rather humble, but it’s grown into quite a big thing, and everybody has a good time coming up with their films. The awards ceremony is always a hit.”
Last year, there were 36 films entered. The overall winner, “Interior Girl,” produced and directed by Maruschka “Mish” Marchio, is a full-on music video parodying Madonna’s “Material Girl” video. Members of the crew are shown cleaning the interior of their charter yacht, singing and dancing while extolling the virtues of a clean interior, friendly guests and the yachtie life in general.
A sample of the lyrics: “Some guests come play, some are insane, that’s alright with me. I just do the best I can, and then I let them be. Because we are living in an interior world, and I am an interior girl.”
The films can be up to five minutes long and compete in seven categories: Best Original Screenplay, Production Quality, Yachtie Lifestyle, Best Female Actor, Best Male Actor, Comedy and Action. Yacht crewmembers write, direct, star in and film the videos, then upload them to the event’s website by Oct. 15. Viewers can watch online, read about the producers and actors, and rate the videos.
Producers can win $500 in cash plus the signature hand-beaten stainless steel “Oscar Fish” trophy in each category. The producer with the highest number of total votes wins the Best Overall large “Oscar Fish” trophy, plus $1,000 cash and a $500 travel voucher.
Esser said he and his crew are always filming during charters, anyway, which made it easier for him to put together his award-winning film, “The Good Life.”
“We’ve got cameras going a lot of the time,” he said. “We film a lot of video for our guests, and what you end up getting is a lot of good footage that shows the lifestyle. That’s what we used to create ‘The Good Life.’”
The awards ceremony emulates the Academy Awards’ Oscar celebration, where guests attend — many dressed in formal attire — to watch the nominees on the big screen. Winners take home cash and prizes, as well as a stainless steel fish trophy.
“It’s a thoroughly enjoyable, light-hearted occasion,” said Herb Magney, who served as emcee for the ceremony in 2010 and will also host this year’s event. “And it’s a huge social event.”
Magney, who captains the 145-foot yacht, At Last, likens his role to a circus ringmaster.
“It’s a little wild, but it’s a wonderful forum for creativity, and a great example of how a business such as Crew Unlimited can work to build a community,” Magney said. “I’m always thrilled to be a part of it, and Ami’s just been completely inspirational in this whole thing.”
As emcee, Magney isn’t eligible for an award, but he’s bringing a film of his own anyway.
His film is called “Boys and Their Toys,” and includes footage of his 3-and-a-half-year-old son playing with his friends and their remote-control vehicles, he said. “Of course, I intersperse that with footage of grown men with their boats and electronics, so you get the idea. We never really grow out of our toys.”
Entries can be “silly or serious,” as long as they tell a story or just show what yacht crew life is all about.
The deadline for video submissions is Oct. 15, with online voting starting 9 a.m. on Oct. 16, and ending at 11 p.m. Nov. 1, to allow for editing and final film production for the awards ceremony presentation.
Each registered voter may select only one winner for each category, and may vote only once.
Winners will be determined by a panel of judges, sponsors and by online voters, weighted equally three ways. The highest average points will determine the winner. Videos are judged on creativity, content, production quality and entertainment value.
Magney said a big payoff is the showings at Cinema Paradiso.
“It’s great that you can watch the videos online, either on the film festival site or on YouTube, but nothing compares to seeing them on that huge screen,” Magney said. “It’s really kind of awe-inspiring.”
This year’s event starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Fort Lauderdale’s Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St. The venue is also home to the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Tickets are $35. For more information, visit www.fortyachtieda.com .
Party atmosphere permeates Columbus Day Regatta
ARNOLD MARKOWITZ l Waterfront Times Columnist
Many long years ago, when the Old Gray Mare was all that she used to be, an annual October sailing regatta on southern Biscayne Bay began attracting floating audiences so large and rambunctious that the audiences themselves attracted even larger, more rambunctious audiences.
Hell, raised on every Columbus Day weekend, subsided for a year and rose again. Once that part of the bay became Biscayne National Park, something had to give, didn’t it?
It hasn’t given yet — even though regatta organizers in 2006 complied with a National Park Service request to re-route the sailing race out of park waters.
Race? What race? It’s not certain if the thousands of carousers noticed. They were having such a good time drinking, drugging and dumping stuff in the bay so revolting that you might drown a guest for dumping it in your pool. They ran aground and rafted up by the hundreds over shallow grass flats that were trying to nurture the bottom end of the marine food chain.
“Please don’t do that,” park rangers kept asking them, but they kept doing that.
This year, maybe they’d better stop. The park, repeating its recent policy for the weekend, is imposing a rule limiting raftups to five boats and proclaiming “zero tolerance” for violations.
It’s also publicly asking boaters to consider not going to the park on a weekend that’s sure to be crowded and likely to be hazardous. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway running right down the middle, that’s about as close as Biscayne can get to turning boaters away.
Biscayne’s new superintendent, Brian Carlstrom, will experience his first Columbus Day weekend there. He issued a statement that appears to fall between categories of invitation and admonition:
“We welcome visitors to come and enjoy a weekend boating responsibly in the park. However, boating, alcohol, and crowded conditions characteristic of the Columbus Day Weekend gatherings are a dangerous combination that threatens public safety.”
Rangers, supplemented by boat-patrolling officers from just about every local, state and federal enforcement agency that has a boat, will pay particular attention to rafting, too-loud music and “illegal commercial activities,” the park’s announcement says.
The seven party houses of Stiltsville, on the flats south of Key Biscayne, will be off limits except to those already authorized to use them.
The assemblage of non-park law enforcement has been going on for a long time. They help rangers enforce special Columbus Day weekend rules every year. They arrest people, issue tickets and investigate accidents — including six deaths in the last 10 years, by Biscayne’s scorecard. Last year, arrests and other violations exceeded 200.
There might have been more. Patrollers have complained in the past that that they see laws being violated as they cruise around the perimeters of vast raftups, but they can’t get through the crowds to write tickets and make arrests.
One year, suggestions were made for rangers, disguised as partiers on unmarked boats, to infiltrate, mingle with the throngs and catch people abandoning inhibitions to commit offenses. Then, by leaping from boat to boat, they could lead their prisoners out of the mass.
Rangers replied something like this:
“No. We’re afraid.”
They can be bolder this year if the five-boat rafting limit can be enforced effectively.
“With zero tolerance enforcement in place, fines in excess of $5,000 and up to six months jail time, the price is high for failure to boat responsibly and abide by laws and regulations in the park,” said Wayne Rybeck, the park’s incident commander. The risk and liability associated with operating a boat and partying in a national park are substantial.”
He suggested that boaters appoint designated skippers to stay sober, watch out for swimmers and drunks, and admonish their crews not to jettison trash. They shouldn’t run their boats at night.
Biscayne’s experience with the five-boat rafting limit could be reflected in a revised general management plan, tentatively planned for public release in November.
Two years ago, a plan to designate a few small zones for limited rafting caught an uproar of public objection and rejection. That idea and other proposed restrictions including no-fishing zones were so unpopular that the management plan was withdrawn for revision. It’s almost ready for re-release.
For more on what to expect of Columbus Day weekend in the park, see Biscayne’s website at www.nps.gov/bisc . Updates on the general management plan can be found there as well.
Trolley service to travel park to park
Homestead, the town between Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, is getting ready to take better economic advantage of its prime location by running free weekend trolley rides to both parks from January to May.
The plan is part giveaway, part marketing scheme. If it works as intended, park visitors who’ve driven a long way to Homestead can relax on an easy sightseeing ride to Biscayne — just under 10 miles — or a longer one of about 50 miles into Everglades.
In Biscayne, there’s the waterfront of southern Biscayne Bay, with guided paddling trips along the mangrove shorelines — plus the shore birds of winter and perhaps occasionally a crocodile. The Everglades ride will go as far as Royal Palm Hammock, which includes the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trail hikes, a different variety of bird life, alligators and maybe even a stray Burmese python.
Marketing and promoting have begun already, with the City Council nicknaming Homestead “Gateway to the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks.”
Some country towns use speed traps to get people to stay a while. You can get a $110 ticket at the end of the Florida Turnpike if you roll the red light at the right turn to Everglades, but you won’t know you were caught (by a camera) until the ticket arrives in the mail.
That traffic light’s in Florida City anyway, and Homestead’s civic leaders have better things in mind. The town’s public info officer, Begoñe Cazalis, explains:
“The trolley will depart from Losner Park at Historic Downtown Homestead, a colorful street with a number of buildings designated as historic properties in the National Registry.
“While visitors wait for the trolley or after their visit to the parks, they can walk up and down the street and visit one of the many restaurants and stores in the area, learn about the historic buildings with the Homestead Then and Now self-guided tour, or learn about the history of Homestead and its surrounding national parks at the Homestead Old Town Hall Museum, located right across from the trolley stop.”
Stephen Shelley, a city councilman with a deep fondness for the two parks, came up with this idea. Hard to imagine nobody ever thought of it before, but Shelley’s timing was good. The city was able to get four trolleys with federal grants, and operations are to be paid for by a half-cent county sales tax.
For South Floridians driving to the national parks, Homestead and Florida City, the smaller town next door, are mere waypoints. We stop for gas, a portable snack and coffee, and away we go.
Winter tourists drive down in droves, also with little reason to stick around.
If they’re coming south on the Florida Turnpike with Biscayne as a destination, they don’t get anywhere near downtown. If successful, the trolley plan will show the place off and they will spend money there.
Without benefit of comparative economic data, we’d bet that other than gas stations, the only Homestead area business that Everglades blesses with much business now is the virtually compulsory Robert Is Here fruit and vegetable stand, hugely popular but outside the city limits.
Next thing (and last) on the way to the park is a state prison. Move along. Nothing to see there.
Lionfish are such a nuisance that the state of Florida is organizing a three-day summit this month to encourage scientific warfare against the exotic invaders.
Lionfish, native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are popular tropicals in home aquariums. Destruction of a big one by the tidal surge of 1992 Hurricane Andrew is widely believed to have begun their occupation of waters off southeast Florida.
The Fish & Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FWC) describes the Oct 22-24 conference as “a unique opportunity for the research community, resource managers and the public to review ongoing research efforts, identify research gaps, review current management efforts and identify alternative management and control strategies and challenges.”
The summit wants research projects about lionfish biology, trends in their abundance in Florida, progress reports for ongoing removal projects regarding efforts and summaries of new and developing research.
At least six research projects will be presented in full. Others will be presented as abstracts, enabling scientists to know what colleagues are up to.
The event is scheduled at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront hotel. It’s free and open to the public, but advance registration is required.
A detailed agenda was supposed to be posted by the end of September at this website:
www.fwclionfish.eventbrite.com where registration information and other details will be added as details are settled.
Anyone interested in Florida fish and wildlife can have a good time this month in St. Petersburg, where the Fish & Wildlife Research Institute presents its 19th annual open house, MarineQuest, on Saturday, Oct. 19.
The scientific skinny on all the state’s fish wildlife is at the institute. Its scientists will be at the interactive exhibits, available to tell visitors all they need to know about their favorite game fish, the status of panthers and so on.
The address is downtown at 100 Eighth Ave. SE, and the hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.