Elias Plagianos and Jackie Martling

Artists, actors, and filmmakers came together to celebrate and support up-and-comers in the industry this past week at the 22nd Annual Long Island International Film Expo (LIIFE) at the historic Bellmore Movies.

Approximately 400 films were entered and around only 180 were hand chosen to be screened. These incoming filmmakers as well as the seasoned returning attendees were offered a variety of panels, screenings and networking opportunities to help them break into the film world. 

“There are so many people who are part of this community that have helped me become who I am as a filmmaker,” said 10-year expo attendee and past winner Elias Plagianos. “You find your group and you grow with them, as I have grown as a person so has this community and festival.”

The closing ceremony was opened by singer/songwriter Sammie Rae and Reggaetón artist Los Vegas. The ceremony was joined by celebrities including the host Kevin Brown, the stand-up comedian and actor featured in the hit TV show 30 Rock for seven seasons as well as in many other films.

“We try to be a film festival that’s really very laser focused on the filmmakers,” said Debra Markowitz, director of the Nassau County Film Commission and cofounder of LIIFE. “We want them to really get to know the industry.”

Many different awards were given out such as best director, best story, best feature film, best short film, best Long Island Film, best student film, best animation, best foreign film, best web series as well as technical categories such as best cinematography, best art direction, and best lighting. 

“It meant the world to us to sit in our home town in this theatre and feel the room around us while people reacted to our film,” said the 2019 LIIFE Award for Best Feature Film, Kenneth Frank for his film Family Obligations. “As all filmmakers know, it takes an army to do what we do.”

The expo caters to a wide range of film lovers and even has a Young Filmmakers Showcase with the youngest participant this year being only 15 years old. The winner of this showcase was LIU Post student Justin Portaro for his film Kid The Moon. 

The LIIFEtime Career Achievement Honoree was John Gallagher who has spent 40 years as a director, writer producer and educator for the film industry. Writer of the cult comedy The Deli and many others he has inspired newcomers in the field to continue to create no matter the circumstances. After being in a life altering fire that put him in a wheel chair he came back to what he loves and has made eight movies since.

“I was told I had a 10 percent chance of survival and that I wasn’t able to work anymore, a month later I got out of the hospital and I directed a feature film,” said Gallagher. “When someone says you can’t do something, you do it anyways.” 

The festival returns every year in July and offers a tight networking community to emerging filmmakers. For more info visit longislandfilm.com.

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