Our judges consist of highly qualified and motivated content creators. With many years of experience in the industry, they have the "eye" to recognize talent across both the art and film genres.

Jimmy Andrews

Festival Founder and Submissions Manager

    Jimmy is a former journalist turned filmmaker with 8 feature films and multiple shorts under his direction. He is the CEO of our parent company Vanilla Palm Films.

Candyce Weir

Actress, Producer, Director

    A Canadian-born actress with a long list of film and TV credits. The Best Actress category is named in her honor.

    Candyce lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a managing partner in Vanilla Palm Films.

Sonya Peña

Actress, Voice Talent

    Sonya is an actress and voiceover talent based in the Dominican Republic. Sonya was 6 years old when she first performed a song and 8 years old when she first stepped into acting.
    Today, Sonya is known for her appearances in short films, feature films, TV shows and radio. She speaks several languages including English, Japanese and Portuguese.

Festival Executive Staff

Karen Boyd

National Film Festival Coordinator ~ USA

   Beginning May 15, 2022, Karen will oversee all film festivals under the Vanilla Palm Films umbrella. Her time with the Hot Springs (Arkansas) International Film Festival is invaluable to our search for cities that deserve a top tier film festival and art competition.

   In 2022-23, we expect to begin festivals in Florida, Texas and Washington so stay tuned for those individual city announcements.

 Contact: 661.304.2636 or karen@vanillapalmfilms.com

Melissa Ballard-Graben

Executive Producer of Acquisitions ~ Vanilla Palm Films

    Melissa oversees all investor relations connected with short, feature, documentary and commercial film production associated with Vanilla Palm Films that include equity funding and producer credits.

     Melissa has spent years organizing events in California and working with large corporations to launch their enterprises.

     If you, or your organization, want to help fund a percentage of a particular film production in exchange for equity or producer credit please contact her at melissa@vanillapalmfilms.com.


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