BEST OVERALL FILM
Frank Calo is an independent producer and director whose film The Believer, starring Ryan Gosling and Billy Zane, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. That film won at many festivals that year, including The Berlin Film Festival. It was shown nationwide and had a great box office run. His film Here & There with Cyndi Lauper and David Thornton won the Best New York Narrative In World Competition 2009 at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival in NYC and had its official New York premier played to audiences domestically and overseas. Calo has worked with Robert De Niro (Godsend), Demi Moore, Mike Myers, Shelly Winters, Marlon Brando, and many more. His film The Cookout, distributed by Lionsgate, with Queen Latifah also had a great box office run. He also worked for two years with The Motion Picture Bond Company under Robert Bordiga, as a producer working on films throughout the tri-state area. He was one of the few and only directors who studied privately under Mr. Elia Kazan.
CO-JUDGE FOR BEST HUMAN RIGHTS + DIGNITY
Dr. Samuel Waymon joins the Tryon International Film Festival as a distinguished judge for the Human Rights & Dignity performance category in the 2024 season. An inspiration in the music realm, Sam enriches the festival with his vast experience and distinctive perspective.
With a career spanning decades, Sam has left an indelible mark as a pianist, composer, singer, and performer. He is celebrated for his pioneering approach to the piano, seamlessly blending diverse musical genres. As the brother of the iconic Nina Simone, Sam co-authored many of her chart-topping songs and served as her manager, confidante, and organist for the initial 25 years of her illustrious career. He has graced the stage with legendary artists such as Miles Davis, Odetta, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Quincy Jones, Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman, and Max Roach.
Beyond his musical feats, Sam has made notable contributions to the film industry as a composer and actor. He composed music for Jonathan Demme's Academy Award-winning film "Philadelphia" and appeared in "Weeds" alongside Nick Nolte. His work in Bill Gunn's "Ganja & Hess" garnered acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival and is enshrined in the Museum of Modern Art's Library Archives. Recently, his composition "You've Got to Learn" was featured in Spike Lee's "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus."
Sam Waymon's extensive background in music and film, coupled with his profound understanding of human rights and dignity, adds immense value to the judging panel of the Tryon International Film Festival 2024.
BEST FULL LENGTH FEATURE FILM
Kevin Bernhardt has had more than 30 very different screenplays resulting in produced films. They range from commercial action to critically and spiritually acclaimed. In the past five years, as a writer he has had four films shot with budgets up to $30 million with casts including Michael Caine, Orlando Bloom, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, and Ben Foster. In addition to those, Bernhardt’s work has resulted in films with Academy Award winners and nominees, including Donald Sutherland, John Lithgow, Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, and Dennis Hopper. Other prestigious notables include Kevin Bacon, Matthew Goode, Patrick Swayze, Chris Rock, Roy Scheider, Lesley Ann Warren, Charlie Sheen, Dolph Lundgren, Peter Weller, Jennifer Beals, Tom Berenger, and Wesley Snipes. While building a career as a writer Bernhardt supported himself as an actor, with multi year contract/lead roles on General Hospital and Dynasty, followed by numerous leads in films such as Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Most recently, he has a supporting role opposite Michael Caine and Ben Foster in Medieval, which will be released theatrically in the U.S. in September 2022. But screenwriting remains his passion. He is presently co-writing a screenplay with Academy Award winner John Cleese.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Calo is a bicoastal actor, MoCap performer, and voice actress who spent her childhood on film and television sets with her parents. She began acting at the age of seven, and has since enthusiastically followed her passion. She studied and performed with theaters such as the moscow Art Theatre Company, New York Stage and Film, as well as with acclaimed international director, Adolf Shapiro. In the voice over realm, she has worked on a myriad of animated series, anime, films, and video games. She can be heard as Salene Crow in Wasteland 3: The Battle of Steeltown, Cheng Chen in the popular mobile game, Seven Knights 2, Stella Loussier in Gundam Seed: Destiny, Pokemon, and more.
BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY FILM
Clay Johnson is a veteran documentary producer and winner of the prestigious Alfred I. duPont Columbia University Award for journalism, the national Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and eight Emmy awards. Johnson is a contributing producer for PBS NC and the former documentary producer at Capitol Broadcasting Co. where he produced dozens of documentaries including a series on the James Jordan murder that was distributed by Amazon. He also taught television journalism as an adjunct faculty member at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. In his work for PBS NC Johnson produced a nationally distributed documentary on teaching and currently produces segments for its weekly magazine show “North Carolina Weekend”.
BEST STUDENT FILM
Steven Esteb is a versatile filmmaker who has worked as an actor and a Hollywood screenwriter, and director of commercials, music videos, documentaries, and features. His film Hate Crime won both Best Feature and Human Right & Dignity categories in the 2016 Tryon International Film Festival. Other films include Dirty Politics, a dark comedy starring Judd Nelson, Beau Bridges, and Howard Hesseman; and Baller Blockin, a rap film for Universal starring Lil Wayne that hit #1 on the Billboard charts in DVD and video sales eventually going quadruple platinum. Esteb has been represented by top agencies like ICM and Paradigm as a screenwriter and has worked as a script doctor, coach, and screenwriting teacher. He is currently teaching film and screenwriting at Loyola University in New Orleans. He lived and worked at an AIDS hospice for two years while making the feature length documentary Living With… A Film About Love and AIDS. It premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and traveled the world, contributing to the opening of new AIDS hospices, his proudest accomplishment. Esteb studied film production in the graduate program at Boston University and has a degree in political science. He now lives in rural Louisiana, his adopted home, with his wife and two children.
CO-JUDGE FOR BEST HUMAN RIGHTS + DIGNITY
Homayra Sellier is the founder of Innocence In Danger (IID), is an international child protection organization, operating in nine countries (France, United Kingdom, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, United States of America, Austria, Iran, and Morocco). Because Sellier is multilingual — fluent in Spanish, French, English, and Farsi — she selects all films submitted to TRIFF’s Human Rights and Dignity category. She has devoted her life to human rights issues. Throughout the years, Sellier’s organization has utilized television documentaries, billboard campaigns, and other media platforms to help raise awareness on human abuse. A number of the French, Swiss, and German films and visual works that she and her offices have been involved with have been nominated for the Prix Olivier Debouzy, one of France’s most prestigious awards, and short films/spots at Cannes Film Festival. Sellier was the primary inspiration for Illegitimate Advantage, a 2016 novel written by Kirk Gollwitzer, the cofounder of TRIFF. They are now actively working together to adapt the novel into a major motion picture.
ERIKA ARLEE + KRISTI RAY
BEST SHORT FILM
Erika is a writer, director, and co-founder of the award-winning production company, Honey Head Films. Her debut feature film, A Song For Imogene, is a gritty, Southern drama that tells the story of a female musician who, after fleeing an abusive relationship, ends up back in her hometown where she reconciles with her past in order to reclaim her future. The film is Erika’s homage to the landscape of the American South – a place that raised her as an independent filmmaker and creative entrepreneur. Her multi-talented approach to cinema marks her directorial style, which focuses on finding unique ways to tell authentic, character-driven stories. Erika’s current works in development include a post-apocalyptic thriller, a dark comedy, and a psychological cult drama.
Kristi Ray is a multi-hyphenate creative who’s been making waves in the independent film scene for the past fifteen years. She began her acting career onstage at just six years old, starring in her first feature film 12 years later. Classically trained at Lee Strasberg in NYC, her work as a leading lady gravitates toward dynamic characters and strong, compelling, female-centric stories. Kristi Ray has won several awards for her work in cinema, including Best Actress in a Feature, Best Supporting Actress, Outstanding Performer of the Year along with many other nominations. With small-town roots and an insatiable desire for growth, she has lived and worked in all seven of America’s major production hubs; eventually settling in the burgeoning film city of Wilmington, NC. A fearless Libra and self-made entrepreneur, in 2016 she co-founded Honey Head Films – an award winning, female owned production house with a mission-driven approach to narrative filmmaking. As a creative producer and actress she is intentionally moving the needle forward for marginalized voices in cinema – both in front of and behind the lens. She stars in a number of features including the latest Honey Head narrative, A Song For Imogene, which boasts a 100% above-the-line female team and exceptional crew made up of 70% women. In addition to a full time career in film, Kristi Ray is a programmer and judge for multiple festivals and continues to push the boundaries for high quality, female-centric stories.
ECOHARMONY CINÉ AWARD
Inducted into the New York Business Hall of Fame, Adam Nelson is an award-winning communications professional highly regarded for original thinking, imaginative ideas & a unique hands-on approach. As Founder & CEO of WORKHOUSE, which celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year, Nelson has been recognized for outstanding creative while receiving the industry's highest honors, including the 2023 MarCom Career Achievement Award, 2023 Netty Lifetime Achievement Award, 2023 Best in Biz “Marketing Director of the Year,” Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Silver Anvil Award, PR News' Platinum PR "Wow" Award, Bulldog Reporter Silver Medal Award and PR Daily/ Dow Jones PR Campaign of the Year. Appointed as the “Class Clown of Creative Communications” by Los Angeles Magazine, Workhouse's impressive roster of clients has included Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola, Matthew Modine, International Emmy Awards, The Charlie Chaplin Estate, The Anthony Quinn Estate, David LaChapelle, Interview Magazine, Galeries Lafayette, Porsche, Ford Motor Company, Virgin, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. For more information, visit workhousepr.com
THE AWE PROJECT - COLLEGE AWARD
Jazelle is an actor at heart, a digital marketer by trade, and an entrepreneur by nature. during her acting years, she taught herself marketing to promote herself as an actor. this was when she was recruited for Columbia University’s pilot digital marketing boot camp. with the analytic skills to match her artistic brain, she ran marketing for some of the biggest acting schools in NYC, finally building Creative Meets Marketing.
THE AWE PROJECT - HIGH SCHOOL AWARD
Justin Myrick is a SAG-AFTRA TV and Film actor who has pivoted to doing visual effects for companies such as Marvel, Target, Nike, Indeed, AT&T, AutoZone, a Temu Super Bowl commercial, Meta, Cricket Wireless and more.
Mentioned in Adage.com for his work on the Nike World Cup ad that stars Mbappé and Ronaldinho.
CEO of Justin Myrick Media, LLC.