And the winner is…

The winner in each category — including features, shorts, animation, documentaries and student films — will be honored with a $500 award as well as an AFFY glass sculpture commemorating their achievement. The feature category winner will also receive $1,000 in Kodak film. Runners-up will be announced in each category. Awards will be announced on Saturday, Oct 29, at the Spotlight Celebration Awards Dinner presented by The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa.

Audience Favorite

Audiences will choose the films to be honored with this award in each category. Be sure to vote for your favorite!


Robby Benson

Robby Benson made his Broadway debut, starring in Zelda at age 12. Other Broadway credits include The Rothschilds and Pirates of Penzance. Starring film credits include Jeremy, Lucky Lady, Ode to Billie Joe, One on One (which he co-wrote), Ice Castles, Walk Proud, Tribute, The Chosen, Running Brave, Harry and Son, Modern Love (writer, producer, director), and the voice of Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the only animated feature ever to receive a Best Picture Academy Award Nomination. TV credits include Death Be Not Proud and Our Town. Robby has directed over 100 episodes of sitcoms, including Friends, Ellen (an entire season) and the Sabrina pilot. He has composed scores for films and has received two gold records for songwriting with Karla DeVito. A gifted teacher, Robby has been a professor in the Film and Theatre Departments at several universities during the past 15 years.

Ken Hanke

Mountain Xpress film critic Ken Hanke is a self-confessed monument to a life misspent watching movies. He traces his interest in film back to 1963 and the horror-picture publication Famous Monsters of Filmland (which is perhaps why he’s a little more sympathetic to horror movies than most reviewers). It took nearly 20 years for a friend to talk him into actually writing about movies — resulting in the book Ken Russell’s Films (Scarecrow Press, 1984). He followed this with articles for Films in Review, Scarlet Street (for which he’s also an associate editor), Video Watchdog, Alternative Cinema, etc. He’s also written the books Charlie Chan at the Movies (McFarland Publishing, 1989; reissued in paperback this year), A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series (Garland Publishing, 1991) and Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker (Renaissance Books, 1999), along with contributing essays to such books as The Fearmakers (St. Martin’s Press, 1994) and the deliciously titled The Sleaze Merchants (St, Martin’s Press, 1995). In between reviewing about 160 movies a year — and dodging brickbats hurled by occasionally dissenting readers — he’s working on Hollywood’s Other Horrors: a Studio Tour and a full-scale biography of Ken Russell, Nymphomaniacs, Nuns and Messiahs.

Don Mancini

Don Mancini created the Child’s Play franchise, the phenomenally successful series of horror movies featuring “Chucky,” the killer doll. Mancini wrote the screenplay for all five films in the series, and made his directorial debut with the latest, 2004’s Seed of Chucky. Among his other credits is the Fitting Punishment episode of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. His screenplays in development include two adventure fantasies, Atlas and The Dog Who Cried Wolf, for legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis. Mancini was born in Boston, Mass., and grew up in Richmond, Va. After two years as an English major at Columbia University, he took a year off from school to work on the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Resuming his education, he transferred to UCLA, where he was accepted in the school’s prestigious film program, and where he conceived the screenplay for the original Child’s Play in 1988. Currently, Mancini is developing a TV series, Kill Switch, which he created for Touchstone Television and ABC.

Joanne Pankow

Joanne Pankow is an Asheville native with over 30 years of acting experience. Pankow’s feature film credits include the soon-to-be-released Loggerheads, Big Fish, 28 Days, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Hudsucker Proxy. She is the recipient of the International Television Association Silver Reel Award and can currently be seen in Junebug and 40 Shades of Blue.

Barry Sandler

Barry Sandler has written and produced numerous feature films. His work as a Hollywood screenwriter began with the story credit for Kansas City Bomber while he was a graduate student at UCLA. Subsequent screenwriting credits include The Duchess and Dirtwater Fox, The Other Side of Midnight, Making Love, Gable and Lombard, The Mirror Crack’d, Evil Under the Sun and All American Murder. He produced and wrote Crimes of Passion for director Ken Russell. He is a member of the Writers Guild West and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has taught for The American Film Institute, the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television, and UCLA. Sandler has an M.F.A. in screenwriting from UCLA. The Advocate named him one of the most influential gay artists in America in 2000. He currently teaches film at the University of Central Florida.

Angela Shelton

Angela Shelton started her career as a fashion model in Paris and New York and bridged to acting when she played the lead in Gavin O’Connor’s first film, Comfortably Numb. She first brought her own life story to the screen with Tumbleweeds, which she co-wrote and produced with Mr. O’Connor. The film earned Gavin the filmmaker’s trophy at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, and the lead actress, Janet McTeer, an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe win. Shelton make her directorial debut, the documentary Searching for Angela Shelton, by driving around the country to record her meetings with other Angela Sheltons in America. Her goal was to survey women in America; the project led her to confront her abusive father on Father’s Day. The documentary started a grassroots movement comprised of survivors and humanitarian organizations around the world who are breaking the silence about the epidemic of abuse. Shelton recently partnered with Lifetime TV to increase awareness and change laws regarding the widespread problem of violence against women. Searching for Angela Shelton won Best Documentary at the 2004 Asheville Film Festival.

Larry Toppman

Lawrence Toppman has been The Charlotte Observer‘s film critic for 18 years and a film critic at other publications since 1977. One of his first reviews at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Press was of Star Wars; he praised it but feared it would quickly be forgotten. (That was his last box-office prediction.) Since joining The Observer in 1980, he has also written about theater, classical music, dance and visual arts. He has appeared in more than 50 stage productions, most of them with Opera Carolina in Charlotte, which gives him tremendous sympathy for actors but virtually none for directors.


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