Written by Whitney Willett, Medical Editor

A side by side comparison can help you decide if this money saving option is really your best value.

A side by side comparison can help you decide if this money saving option is really your best value.

If you’ve ever endured a high school economics class, you were undoubtedly taught a few standard rules to live by when it comes to your personal budget. Many of us were taught that your rent/mortgage should only be 30% of your income, and that you should keep at least six months worth of living expenses in your savings account. One thing you weren’t likely taught was how much of your budget should be allocated to your health care. Even if you were given some guidance there, the health care landscape has changed so much in recent years that those guidelines are probably out-of-date in today’s world. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the cost of health care for every American in 2016 was $10,345 per person.

This cost is projected to increase by 5.8% by 2025. Taking these numbers into consideration, it’s easy to understand why folks are trying to pinch pennies wherever they can.

One way that some folks are trying to cut down on health care spending is trying over-the-counter options in lieu of turning to the professionals. Once upon a time, if you wanted a flu shot, you needed a doctor’s appointment. Now, most pharmacies offer the vaccine at little or no cost, and it is administered by a pharmacist. An increasingly popular way to skip the specialist and save on medical expenses is to use foot mapping kiosks to find orthotics for your shoes. If you aren’t familiar with orthotics, they are an insert that goes inside your shoe.

Orthotics are meant to provide better support than the generic inserts that come in your shoe. They help ensure pressure is more evenly distributed on your feet, that the arch of your foot is properly supported and can help alleviate foot pain and fatigue, knee pain, and lower back pain. The foot mapping machines claim that they can analyze your feet and recommend a “custom” orthotic that is right for you at no cost. A no cost analysis for a custom orthotic that can help reduce foot, knee and back pain sounds great, but is it too good to be true? If you think orthotics could benefit you, you’ve probably formulated a few questions: How do the foot mapping machines work? How does their analysis differ from the ones done by a specialist? If you end up with incorrect orthotics, can they be harmful? So, let’s compare.

What do foot mapping machines do?

The foot mapping kiosks you find at big-box stores and pharmacies are not unlike some of the equipment you find in a podiatrist’s office. They have sensors that measure which areas of your feet are taking more pressure. It also makes an evaluation of your arch. The machine asks you to stand on each foot and several other things to complete it’s evaluation. Within a few minutes, the machine suggests one of up to fourteen types of orthotics, ranging in price from $29.99 to $50 per pair. This is advertised as “custom” orthotics. The foot mapping is done at no cost on this self-service machine. The investment of time is about 3 minutes.

What foot mapping machines don’t do:

Because the machines can only really measure pressure, they don’t take into account things like gait (how you walk), biomechanics (how your foot moves), or if the needs of one foot are different than the other. If your needs do not match the available types of orthotics, the machine simply suggests whichever is closest. Therefore, accuracy cannot be measured and cannot be guaranteed.

What does a podiatrist do?

When you make an appointment with a podiatrist to be evaluated for orthotics, you will likely start with a foot mapping machine as well to assess stress, strain and pressure. Most doctors use more advanced equipment than the self-service kiosks. You will get a full exam of your feet: muscles, connective tissue and joints. The podiatrist will give a full biomechanical evaluation and gait analysis. Most podiatrist will then cast each foot, ensuring that the orthotics are truly customized specifically to each of your feet. An appointment start to finish can take up to an hour of your time. The cost for the evaluation varies widely depending on your insurance benefits. The cost of getting orthotics from a doctor may be fully or partially covered through your insurance. Out of pocket cost for this type of custom orthotics can be several hundred dollars.

There is an obvious distinction between what you get with a foot mapping evaluation for orthotics versus the comprehensive analysis and true customization you get from a professional. You may now be wondering how the orthotics compare. If you read the numerous reviews of over-the-counter orthotics, you’ll find many people sing there praises. But how do they stack up against their medical grade counterparts? In a side by side comparison, the most obvious difference is in firmness and flexibility. The over-the-counter orthotics are quite a bit less firm and substantially more flexible. Industry experts say you do not want flexible orthotics and they should be firm enough that they do not collapse or compress easily under a persons body weight. Basically, if you can manipulate their shape with your hands, they likely won’t be of much benefit. Because medical grade orthotics are made with considerations to many more factors affecting your feet, they are much firmer and may not be as comfortable initially. Keep in mind that longevity should be a consideration in determining the value of a product. Over-the-counter orthotics can wear out very quickly, while most medical grade orthotics last years. Lastly, it is important to note that buying over-the-counter orthotics is a gamble. And industry professions say improper orthotics can potentially cause an increase in wear and tear, as well as arthritis.

Although over-the-counter orthotics may save you money in the short run, they fall short of expectations in many areas. They are not truly custom, are not usually firm enough to provide substantial benefit, wear out much more quickly, and may potentially exacerbate problems. Though they may come through for you if using them is your only option, it seems in the long haul you get more “bang for your buck” by seeing a professional.

written by Brody Barcode
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer

An Accidental Zombie Named Ted. Cast and Crew Anne Welles’ film, An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted), breathes life back into Ocala’s entertainment district.

Anne Welles’ film, An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted), breathes life back into Ocala’s entertainment district.

Historically, Ocala/Silver Springs, Florida has been considered a hub for shooting Hollywood movies – dating back to silent films. However, over the course of the last sixty years, the idea of shooting a full length feature Hollywood film in Marion County has been somewhat left in the pre-Technicolor black and white past. However, that all changed when independent filmmaker Anne Welles flew in from L.A., along with cast and crew, to shoot her full length comedy/horror feature, An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted).”Ocala Magazine had the privilege of being invited to sit down with Welles, along with a majority of the cast and crew members both on and off set, initiating Q&As, while making some fantastic new acquaintances. It was through this experience I not only found out An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted) was filmed entirely in Marion County, but how the film and the process has positively ignited this community.

B.B. (Brody Barcode): So Anne, tell OM readers a little bit about yourself?
A.W. (Anne Welles): I’ve been in the movie business now for about twenty years and I’ve been making films since around 2004. Before that I was a therapist and stay at home mom.

B.B.: How did you find out about Ocala?
A.W.: I came [to Ocala] for the Silver Springs International Film Festival a couple of years ago – for one of my short films. I completely fell in love with the town and I was really impressed by the festival itself. It was really very special and different, in part, because of the way they treated the filmmakers. At that time I started considering whether I’d be able to do this film here in Ocala. Last year, after coming again to the film festival, I decided I would try exploring the idea of making An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted) here.

B.B.: What was it that finally sealed the deal for you to say, “Yep, I’m filming this movie in Ocala?”A.W.: Yeah, so it was several things. One, we were able to raise some of our funds here. Two, we had lots of great locations for shooting and people who were willing to let us film in their homes and neighborhoods – a welcoming town that was willing to help us out with food and lodging. Three, the proximity we had to film-schools and Orlando. Places where we could get the resources we’d need – like for instance renting equipment.

B.B.: I got a chance to speak to a couple of people in town that were able to volunteer, as well as work as extras on your film. They told me you had mentored them during the Silver Springs International (Jump/Cut) Film festival just this March.
A.W.: So yeah, I was already down here preparing for this film and was asked if I’d mind being a mentor for Jump/Cut. It was perfect timing because I ended up meeting a lot of those people that are now on set. I mentored them and then reached back out to see if any of them would want to get on-set experience. Most of them took advantage of that as production assistants, behind the scenes videographers/photographers, background extras and volunteers. Although, we did cast Brittany Taylor Visser – who’s a local girl now living in L.A., as well as Anthony Gilardi, a local actor who’s also now in L.A. We also cast Cole Mruz, son of local business owner, Sheri Mruz.

B.B.: Do you feel like the local support from all of the actors and volunteers made a positive effect on your films budget?
A.W.: Immensely!

B.B.: So how did An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted) come about?
A.W.: So originally, I was trying to come up with an idea for a film that was marketable. So I thought, ‘Well, I should probably do something with zombies in it because they’re popular.’ And then I thought, ‘Zombies are expensive.’ [laughing] So then I thought, ‘What could I do with one zombie?’ And so I started to think about how that might happen and what that would look like. I tend to like a positive underlying message in my films – partly because of my background as a therapist and also as a mother. An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted) is a story about coming to terms with who you are. Ted is in denial about being a zombie. And to me, it’s sort of a metaphor for being in denial about whatever it is that’s going on with you.

B.B.: As far as a film release goes, are you planning to come back to Ocala to do a movie premier?A.W.: Yes! We’re planning to do a red carpet premier here in town, in association with the Silver Springs Film Festival. We’re hoping to do that in the fall and, when we do, we’re hoping to do that at the Marion Theatre.

B.B.: Looking back at this overall experience, would you consider shooting another full length feature film in Ocala?
A.W.: 100 percent! In fact, part of my goal is to be able to create a team that does this on a regular basis so at the end of this, we can all look at each other and go, “What’s next?” Based on our experience here in Ocala, it’d be my first choice.

Prior to sitting down with Anne Welles, I was able to catch-up with the 2017 Silver Springs International (Jump/Cut) Film Festival winner, Jake Jacobowitz. He states, “The film’s director, Anne Welles was one of our four mentors from the Jump/Cut contest. She invited us to the set to see the process at work. This whole experience has been extremely educational and inspirational.”I was also able to speak with Ocala independent actress/writer/filmmaker, Darian Mosley who states, “As a participant of the 2016 Silver Springs International Film Fest, I had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of filmmaker Anne Welles. Having her as one of the mentors for the Jump/Cut film challenge earlier this year was a great chance to learn more about professional filmmaking, as she offered many valuable bits of wisdom. When she invited myself and some of the other local production groups to be part of AAZNT the excitement level among Ocala’s creative community got amped! Experiencing the production process and working with such a large and well organized crew was very enlightening for me personally and I’m excited to put some of what I learned into practice!”

Following my Q&A with Anne Welles, Ocala Magazine’s Brody Barcode interviewed Ocala native and actress, Brittany Taylor Visser.

B.B.: So Brittany, tell us a little bit about yourself?
B.T.V.: So, I’m Brittany Taylor Visser, an actress from Los Angeles. I actually grew up in Ocala. I started acting at the Ocala Civic Theatre when I was seven years old and did shows there every year until I graduated from high school. I was in the IB Program at Vanguard (Go Knights!) I also sang with an opera company in Orlando throughout middle and high school, so I was performing around Central Florida all of the time. I went on to earn my BFA in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University and then I moved to NYC where I continued to study acting and perform in off-Broadway shows, independent film, on TV and in commercials. I lived there up until last summer, when I packed up my Prius and drove across the country to move to Los Angeles!

B.B.: How did you find out about the film and what was it about it that grasped your attention, compelling you to sign on?
B.T.V.: I found out about the film when I was referred to Anne by a mutual friend, Greg Thompson. He actually directed me in several shows at the OCT when I was growing up, including Pirates of Penzance and Cats as well as a short film he wrote and directed and filmed in Ocala, Swimming to the Moon. Thompson told me he had a friend, Anne Welles, who was producing a film and he asked me to put an audition on tape. This was 2 or 3 years ago, so I had been in contact with Anne for awhile. Then, I came home for the first Silver Springs International Film Festival, where Anne had a short film screening. I met her in person and we hit it off! I thought her script was so quirky and adorable and I loved the message of acceptance at the core of the film – acceptance of yourself and others. We stayed in touch as she developed the script, cast it and got funding. It was inspiring to watch her vision come to life and I wanted to be a part of it. We need more women in film, especially behind the camera, and I wanted to support her.

B.B.: How does work in NYC/L.A. differ from Ocala?
B.T.V.: In NYC and LA, you don’t get the same sense of community rallying together to support one project. In both cities, there are shoots going on all the time, all over the place.

B.B.: What were your thoughts on seeing how the Ocala entertainment scene came together in support of Anne’s film?

B.T.V.: To see so many people donating their time and resources, opening their homes and then getting so excited about the project and wanting to be involved – it’s a very special thing you would only get in a smaller community. It’s definitely inspired me to come back home if I ever wanted to film my own project!

Film Crew:
Anne Welles: Writer/Director
Christopher Peuler: Executive Producer
Colleen Hard: Line Producer
Cinematographer: Aitor Uribarri
Cameron McKendry (playing Ted)
Akari Endo (playing his love interest, Livia)
Kane Hodder (Jason, Friday the Thirteenth movies)
Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story)
Gary Anthony Williams (The Boondocks)
Tanya Chisolm (Big Time Rush)
Sandi McCree(The Wire)
Chris Attoh (Nollywood Star)
Tim Brennen (Mad Men)
Korin Bukowsi (The Voice)
David Kallaway (Logan)
Local Actors:
Brittany Taylor Visser
Anthony Gilardi
Cole Mruz

Written by Kelli Fuqua Hart, editor – in – chief
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer

The taste of local flavor is mouth-watering.

The taste of local flavor is mouth-watering.

If you have ever enjoyed a glass of their spicy Twisted Sun Golden Rum or a sweet sip of their Island Grove Blueberry Vodka, you should know you have just tasted a locally developed and locally distilled product made from all-natural, locally grown ingredients. Every FishHawk Spirits product uses some ingredient that is grown in Florida – a step that is important to its owners.

Matthew Bagdanovich risked his entire life savings to make the FishHawk Spirits a reality. Alongside co-owners Jim Brady and Chris Howard, Bagdanovish erected, operates and has put this unique artisinal distillery on the map.

With 50 states and over 3,000 counties to choose from in selecting a location for this distillery, why Marion County? Bagdanovish answers that question with two solid answers, “Location and water.”

FishHawk’s distillery sits on a secluded 3.5-acre farm in Dunnellon, of which only 1.25-acres are currently developed. Long, dirt roads lead visitors to this primitive, yet beautiful venue where they can see the entire distilling process in action. “Fortunately, Marion County wants agriculture to work,” explains Bagdanovish, “so they were both instrumental and helpful in streamlining the permitting process and opening our doors.”

FishHawks’s second not-so-secret formula is its water source. The farm sits on some of the purest water found in the US. Because it contains no iron or trace of calcium, it is, as Bagdanovich describes, “Classic whiskey maker’s water.” To help put into perspective just how great this water is we can compare it to water bottling plants. These plants use reverse osmosis filters to get total dissolve solids in their water down to 200 or 300 parts per million. The water FishHawk uses begins at 115 parts per million, naturally.

FishHawk opened for business in 2011, but its owners never anticipated visitors. Today, more and more curious passerbys stop in for a tour of the farm and to explore the inner-workings of the distillery. Ocala Magazine was lucky enough to get a private tour that literally showed the Fishhawk process from the pluck of a fresh blueberry to the clink of fully filled and labeled glass bottles as they are packaged for shipping.

The process is tedious, specific and yet exciting for Bagdanovich’s team. Even as he spoke on the processes of yeast nutrients, Diammonium Phosphate and fermentation, Bagdanovish’s face lit up with enthusiasm and passion for his product. He walked us through his distillery with pride explaining every detail of grain and how alpha amylase and beta amylase is created. Who knew how critical and captivating tiny kernels of corn were to the process of distilling, yet here they were making the magical malt FishHawk products depend on!

The smokey smell of oak and cherry deliciously filled the air as Bagdanovich roasted his malt. Smoke is a big part of FishHawk’s flavor process. The grain binds to compounds that form in the smoke. “When we get ready to grind the grain,” explains Bagdanovich, “it still has that smokey flavor. When we mash it, the smokey flavor is still there. Even as the clear whisky runs out of the still, it still contains a hint of smokey flavor. That is a big, big step for our products in terms of flavor.”

Throughout the tour, Bagdanovich kept reiterating the importance of using local ingredients. “We do business with our neighbors,” he boasted. FishHawk’s blueberry vodka is made from 100% blueberries from Island Grove. Everything in its bottle grew and was fermented within 25-miles of the distillery. Bagdanovich uses corn from Meeks’ Farm, oats from his good friend Ricky and local citrus from varying groves. His Silver Queen Whiskey is made from Silver Queen Corn he grows himself. Even the lumber he used to build his remarkable new tasting porch was all milled by a neighbor using local trees.

Under this newly built, rustic porch, detailed with Edison Bulb fixtures and hammered copper, Bagdanovich lined up his products and began to pour us all a sample. A woman on horseback trotted over for a taste of FishHawks delicious vodka collection. Visitors who come by way of horseback are the norm at the distillery.

Packaged in unique glass bottles, adorned with creatively designed labels, FishHawk products taste even better than they look. Watermelon Vodka was the perfect choice on such a hot day. Another gentleman at the tasting bar was complimenting the Marion 106 – a 106-proof Tangerine Brandy seasoned with blackberries and toasted American White Oak.

FishHawk products can be found in over 300 retail locations, as well as many local bars and restaurants. In 2016, FishHawk concentrated on opening two other locations – one in Gainesville and the other in Ybor City, Tampa.

So the next time you are ordering up some spirits, ask for FishHawk. Bagdanovich’s products hit their proof with precision. They contain no artificial flavors or preservatives. In fact, FishHawk products contain no chemical byproducts – such as sodium cyanide and acetone – which means virtually no hangover tomorrow.

“We aren’t looking to take a substandard product and make it palatable,” explains Bagdanovich. “We are taking a premium product and making it excellent.”

For more information on FishHawk Spirits, please visit www.fishhawkspirits.com or call 352.445.1292. OM

Written by Kelli Fuqua Hart, Editor-in-chief
Photography by Chris Wims

PAndora World of Avatar Mechanical Warrior

On December 18, 2009 James Cameron introduced the world to a film that would forever change the way we view movies. On May 27th, nearly eight years later, people from around the globe were able to enter a foreign world that will forever change the way they view reality – as only James Cameron would have it.

After five years, nine months and 22 days, veteran Jake Sully wakes from cryosleep to link to his Avatar and explore Pandora under the supervision of Dr. Grace Augustine. Anyone who saw this film recalls that moment, where Jake experiences bouts of wonder, curiosity and anticipation. This new, exciting world with all of its astonishing landscape and unparalleled ecosystem was finally a part of Jake’s reality.

Today, the World of Pandora can be a part of your reality – a place where you will be captivated by zooplantae (or planimals) that engage you through touch. One plant in particular is the Flaska Reclinata – a massive pod-like flora that glows fiery orange and pinks and sprays a mist of cool spores across the landscape when rubbed by a visiting human.

By day, you will be mesmerized by patches of worm-like plant life, gigantic vine-covered pods, neon ferns, tentacle-toting life forms, cascading waterfalls and flowing rivers, vibrant blankets of lime-green moss and the distant echoes of alien fauna playing deep inside a plush forest of natural foliage.

Visitors will explore 11-acres of remarkable detail that extends across and above the Valley of Mo’ara – home to the Na’vi and their lush flora. Human visitors trek under and up winding, vine-entangled paths through the Hallelujah Mountains where Flights of Passage on the backs on wild banshees ensue. Over 45-meters in height, these uniquely designed mountains appear to be suspended in air, the same way you recall seeing them on the Silver Screen. Every inch of alien rock is swarmed with woven vines, trickling waterfalls, extraterrestrial pods and breath-taking lifeforms.

Every intricate detail of Disney’s Pandora was thought of and drafted by a team of highly skilled and dedicated creatives who brought Canadian filmmaker, director, producer, screenwriter, innovator and inventor James Cameron’s vision to life.

“I was 19-years old and I had a dream – literally a dream,” recalls Cameron, during Pandora’s dedication ceremony on May 24th in Orlando, Florida, “of a bioluminescent forest with glowing trees and little spinning, glowing lizards. I woke up very excited and I sketched it and I painted it and I remember those images.” Years later, Cameron began writing the script for Avatar and ultimately, as the world knows, his story of a glowing world came to life on screen. “Here we are years later,” exclaims Cameron, standing in the center of Na’vi terrain, “where literally, a dream has come true all around us.”

Cameron is known for other blockbuster films to include Aliens, The Terminator, True Lies and the 1997 hit Titanic. His storytelling often reveals defeat of the impossible, defying the odds or simply challenging the norm. Avatar is a culmination of all three. Walt Disney famously said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Biochemical emissions from alien lifeforms set Pandora aglow and the attraction presents human visitors an entirely new experience.

Biochemical emissions from alien lifeforms set Pandora aglow and the attraction presents human visitors an entirely new experience.

Disney CEO Bob Iger agrees saying, “It’s [Walt’s] sentiment that captures the soul of our company, perfecting the optimistic spirit that truly drives everything we do.”

Iger addressed an anxious crowd of media reps, just before dedicating Pandora and inviting guests to explore the park, by saying, “Jim [Cameron] does the impossible again and again and again, merging wonderful storytelling with mind-blowing technology to create experiences no one has seen before – Avatar was definitely one of them.” Iger went on to describe Pandora as “exotic, captivating and breathtakingly beautiful” – and that’s simply an understatement.

James Cameron and his Avatar cast – Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Joel David Moore, Laz Alonso and C.C.H. Pounder – wandered the park, experiencing a world they’ve only ever known to be a movie set. Imagine Cameron’s delight soaring over Pandora on the back of a wild ikran, across rugged terrain and through the deepest parts of a totem garden – all parts of a 43-year old vision he has now witnessed as part of a 3D simulated flight in Pandora. This 4-minute ride has visitors soaring through treetops, plunging between caverns, barely escaping stampeding land beasts and ocean giants, surfing through gargantuan waves and encountering the majesty of Eywa, the Pandoran nature deity.

During the flight, riders will feel the spray of the ocean as their avatar barely misses being struck by a massive whale-like creature and will inhale a variety of scents ranging from flora-induced perfume smells to earthy grass-type smells that occur as your avatar jets through Pandora’s forest.

Cameron graciously thanked 20th Century Fox Chairman/CEO Stacey Snider, Film Vice Chairman Emma Watts, Senior Executive Vice President Victoria Rossellini, film producer Jon Landau and Joe Rohde, Veteran Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering – just some of the folks who make rides like the Flight of Passage possible. His proclaimed favorite simulators were numbers 8 and 9 (one of which happens to be the very seat I experienced my own Flight of Passage in – sitting where James Cameron sat before me – no big deal!)

C. C. H. Pounder, Avatar’s Mo’at, shopped for loved ones inside Pandora’s Windtraders and even stopped for photos with Ocala Magazine’s Director of Social Media – warning him, semi-jokingly, against interrupting a woman while she shops. Sam Worthington, who plays Jake Sully, enjoyed Pandora with his family, joking with cast-mates Zoe Saldana and Joel David Moore from time to time. Worthington, his wife Lara, and their children were seen enjoying Pandora’s other interactive experience – the Na’vi River Journey.

This slow-moving, bioluminescent boat ride features animatronics like never seen before. The Shaman of Songs’ smooth movements are so lifelike you’ll have to take a closer look to decide if it’s perhaps not a real Na’vi after all. The glowing rivers of Pandora give riders a chance to sit, soak up the AC and be captivated by the glowing, moving sights and sounds of this unfamiliar planet. The Na’vi River Journey is a sampling of what Pandora will transform into at nightfall.

Each species of alien flora takes on a new light – literally – under the moon. Crevices along suspended mountains glow like ember. Unexplored paths beneath human feet glow in the dark. Waterfalls are illuminated. Biochemical emissions from alien lifeforms set Pandora aglow and the attraction presents human visitors an entirely new experience.

Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar is now open to the public, inside the already popular Animal Kingdom Park, and its mythical creatures extend a warm, radiant welcome to all who wish to explore it. Strap on your most comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to snap a ton of colorful, vibrant selfies. The Na’vi hope to kìyevame – see you soon – and know you will be frrfeien – happy to visit.

For more information on Disney’s Pandora, please visit disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/animal-kingdom/pandora-world-of-avatar or call (407) 939.5277. OM

Writing a children’s book can be difficult – especially when you don’t have opposable thumbs!

Written by Nicole DeIorio, Editorial Intern

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Buck – Buck the Dog! I’m a Boston terrier. RRRRRUFF!”

Buck the Boston Terrier has many accomplishments under his paws – especially for only being around six-years-old. A published author, comedian and professional pest controller, Buck has done many exciting things in his six years of life (or is it 42-years?) Either way, life wasn’t always this incredible for the Boston Terrier. Buck once faced starvation and the threat of euthanization before he found his furr-ever home. With an abundance of love and care, Buck and his owner forged a bond that developed into his first children’s book.

Buck the Boston Terrier was adopted four years ago by Linda Yacovetti Arvanitis, Ocala Realtor at Remax AllStars Realty – and now published author. Before he was known as Buck the Dog, he was picked up by Winter Park Animal Shelter and given a second lease on life.

Buck the Boston Terrier has many accomplishments under his paws – especially for only being around six-years-old.

Buck the Boston Terrier has many accomplishments under his paws – especially for only being around six-years-old.

His snaggle tooth smile and brindle coat were dull from him being malnourished when the animal shelter found him. Little did the shelter know, the unnamed Boston Terrier’s life would be changed forever. Being six-months-old when the pup was found, the Boston Terrier wasn’t adopted until his first birthday.

The shelter tried adopting him out for months, but hopes looked grim for the sweet puppy. Thankfully, Florida Little Dog Rescue came along at the very moment Buck was scheduled for euthanization. They temporarily placed him in a foster home for the next nine months of his short, rocky life.

Meanwhile, Arvanitis scoured adoption websites, plotting the rescue of her future dog. She was a Boston Terrier lover at heart. Over her lifetime, she’d loved and lost four terriers. When she found the adorable Boston Terrier’s picture, her heart instantly connected with him – she fell in love! That’s when the plot thickened.

Having already scheduled to meet with the dog rescue, Arvanitis only needed to convince her husband this dog was meant to be in their lives. Her creative words won over her husband’s heart and the following day they adopted the little Boston Terrier they affectionately named Buck. He was a perfect fit for their terrier-loving family.

“Buck’s a warrior. I recognized that the moment I met the little guy!” Arvanitis said. “He must have been raised with big dogs at the shelter because he acts like a big dog himself – thinking he can take on the world! He won’t even give small dogs the time of day.”

Buck found a way deep into the family’s hearts – as well as their beds – soon thereafter! Arvanitis, with a stroke of inspiration, opened Facebook and created a page dedicated to her lovable Boston Terrier – only one day after adopting him. Since then, the Buck the Dog page has exploded with interest in Buck’s daily antics.

Arvanitis wrote what came naturally – humor. Writing from the perspective of Buck, she found his followers adored his hilarious jokes. Arvanitis’ friends and family thought Buck’s adventures were quite funny. In her posts, she affectionately called herself The Lady and her husband The Man. From chewing up pine cones to finding the sunniest spot in the house, Arvanitis documented Buck’s curious antics — particularly, his love for chasing animals.

Buck’s favorite critter to chase is a lizard, although that admiration is closely followed by his thrill for chasing squirrels. Buck’s tenacious desire to chase animals doesn’t stop with skittering creatures. In one of Buck’s Facebook posts, he details his encounter with another one of his favorite animals. “I just got home from my walk with the lady and we came across a black snake. He was all coiled up, except for his little head. I was sure I would be able to go up real close to that little head and BITE IT…so that it would squeak, like my toys do. But the lady gasped – even freaked out a little bit – and pulled me away. Until next time, little black snake, if in fact that is your REAL name. I noticed you weren’t wearing a name tag.”

Friends and family told Arvanitis her posts should be compiled in a book. While building a social media following, she continued posting as Buck’s trusty writer since he doesn’t have opposable thumbs.
A year after starting the Facebook page, Arvanitis and Buck wrote their first children’s book. In August of 2015, Arvanitis began compiling her posts about Buck. “Writing the book took an entire year! I never realized how long the process would take. Even after the story was written, finding an illustrator proved difficult and self-publishing took longer than expected.”

In August of 2016, the adorable Boston Terrier released his first children’s book titled Buck’s New Home. Shortly after the book’s release, Arvanitis attended a Florida Realtor Women’s Conference. While she was there, her friends set up her first book signing. “Honestly, my first book signing happened by accident,” Arvanitis laughed. “My coworkers set up the signing at the conference after hearing about the publication. I am beyond grateful to them for that opportunity.”

At her next book signing, Arvanitis brought Buck. There was only one problem with this – Buck was more popular than the book reading. “The children flocked to Buck,” Arvanitis said. “They were more interested in petting Buck – whose tail was going a mile a minute – than listening to the book reading. It was delightful!”

The local community has been very excited about Buck’s story. When Arvanitis reached out to Barnes and Noble of Ocala for a book reading, the company jumped at the opportunity. They went above and beyond for the author, creating a book signing with Buck and a chance to put the children’s book on their shelves. Since the start, Arvanitis has taken part in three book signings and readings with the lovable Buck.

“Buck has afforded me many wonderful opportunities,” says Arvanitis. “From the day he came into our home, he has made his way into our hearts. He sleeps in our bed – something I thought would never happen. He thinks he’s a human. Buck eats, sleeps and goes on walks when we do.”

Since adopting Buck, Arvanitis’ life changed. From having a Facebook page dedicated to Buck to writing a children’s story to going to book signings to becoming an author – she is in awe of how much more happiness is in her life.

Arvanitis believes inspiration is a large reason her life turned out this way. “I follow my instincts and try to live without fear. My inspiration to write the book and reach out to Barnes and Noble of Ocala didn’t lead me astray. It’s one of the reasons I’m a published author with an incredible dog. Inspiration led me to adopt Buck which, in turn, afforded me these wonderful adventures.”

Let Buck crawl into your hearts! Support a local author and, at the same time, enjoy reading a sweet dog’s “tail” to your children. And make sure to follow Buck’s adventures on his website.

The show must go on – So, what’s it gonna take? (Left to Right: Laurie Zink, Joe Pantoliano, Greg Thompson and Tony Spiridakis)

The show must go on – So, what’s it gonna take?
(Left to Right: Laurie Zink, Joe Pantoliano, Greg Thompson and Tony Spiridakis)

written by Amber Tompkins
Photography by Ralph Demilio
A brilliant idea is born
The Ocala Film Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that recognizes and upholds Education as its major mission – with economic development as a close second. Founder of the Marion Cultural Alliance, Ocala Film Foundation and Chairman of the Horse Fever project, Laurie Zink has always been passionate about the arts and how they can stimulate economic growth in Ocala. Zink, along with many others, saw great potential in Marion County’s youth population. It may or may not come as a surprise to some, but our county alone contributes more artistic talent to the film and media industry than any other county in the state of Florida. This, in conjunction with our rich history in filmography that began in 1911, makes Ocala a highly desirable place to produce a film. The idea for the Foundation came about because Zink had always encouraged and supported her daughter’s artistic endeavors but also wanted to be able to foster these talents in other students as well. It was through the Ocala Civic Theatre Zink became acquainted with current festival director, Greg Thompson. Thompson was guest directing a production at the time. He had been active in the arts community for over 25 years and, while he does not live in Ocala, he felt the same zest for Marion County arts as did Zink and saw great potential in the way of developing a film festival. Zink and Thompson witnessed other communities greatly benefitting by hosting their own festivals and both knew local students could use a local festival as an outlet to exercise their own artistic talents while building valuable relationships that would help to launch their careers and improve their skills as artists.
“It is the fact underwater photography was started and perfected here that makes Central Florida a great place to shoot,” Thompson explained. “Silver Springs has always been and continues to be the world’s greatest water stage.” It is the largest basin of its type and has unique mineral deposits that make for reflective walls and unsurpassed crystal clear water. These factors equate to exquisite underwater filming conditions – something that is attractive to filmmakers who visit or discover Ocala because of the festival. To maintain the integrity and beauty of Silver Springs, a portion of festival monies raised goes back to preserving them. Not only is the Foundation benefiting from our beautiful springs, they are passionate about being eco-friendly and helping to maintain them.“It’s not just the rich history of filmography that makes Ocala the perfect city to host [a festival],” Zink tells OM, “it’s our contained downtown area and historic theatre as well.” When you look at big named festivals, those are factors they all have in common. Zink and Thompson knew from the get-go it was a recipe for success – Ocala needed its own film festival and they were going to be the ones to make it happen. Between Zink’s gumption and Thompson’s experience, the two began laying the groundwork for the first Silver Springs International Film Festival in 2014. It was their hope to expose Marion County students to some major players in the industry, as well as bring growth and exposure to our beloved city.There are a lot of people who dream up ideas and say, “We should (do this or that),” letting those ideas fall flat. However, the day Laurie Zink and Greg Thompson met, words sprang into action and the Silver Springs International Film Festival went from being a “We should” notion to a “Let’s do it!” action. While Zink will admit they didn’t fully realize what they were getting themselves into, all of the hard work and man hours were completely worth it. The festival was a success from inception. If it were not for Thompson’s connections and experience with film festivals, SSIFF would not be where it is today. In fact, it is his influence and guidance that has singlehandedly helped lead the festival to such successes. SSIFF is looked at as a model for other film festivals around the world.  “If we keep doing this with the same intention and rate of progression,” says Zink, “we will continue to make serious headway,” – a great thing for Ocala. For years now, Ocala has been working to revitalize its downtown area and encourage more tourism and commerce. Tourism is a main economic driver and professionals in the industry understand it goes hand in hand with hosting a film festival. For those of us who know and love Ocala, we know it only takes one visit here for someone to fall for the quaint charm of our tight-knit, beautiful and artistic community. Because filmmakers from all over the world submit their films to be shown at the festival, Ocala is getting beaucoup exposure. When the participating filmmakers come to town, they boost the local economy by eating numerous meals at local restaurants, staying multiple nights in hotels and doing a great deal of local shopping. Businesses in and around the downtown area will attest to this – when the festival is in town, business is booming.
Community Impact
Orchestrating the festival and all that it encompasses is a year round process that is currently being done by selfless volunteers who all share one common trait – a passion for the arts. Countless hours of work and planning go into each festival. There is much more to it than a night of movies and popcorn. The weeklong festival consists of daily Meet the Filmmaker coffees, multiple workshops and seminars that include a cast of renown players from the industry such as the Manhattan Film Institute’s founder Tony Spiridakis who is more widely known as a director, writer, actor, producer and playwright; James Walker, world renowned writer, producer and director; and representatives from the prestigious Torchlight program at the Florida State University. These events are held at local businesses and are free for guests to attend. Venues that have hosted in the past include Trilogy At Ocala Preserve, The Appleton Museum, Central Florida College, Pi On Broadway, Stella’s Modern Pantry and more. Guest attendance stimulates business and increases exposure, making it a win-win. If it wasn’t for the hard work and dedication of Laurie Zink, the Silver Springs International Film Festival wouldn’t be a reality and people from all over the globe might not even have Ocala on their radar. Zink is proud to say, “We’re bringing the world to our community,” and she has every right to be proud. This festival literally attracts people from all over the world. Other festival planners want to know the secret to the rapid success of the SSIFF. Zink recalls being “overwhelmed by the positive response.” Just to paint a picture of the magnitude of this event which has taken place for 3 years now, in 2014 alone, 11 filmmakers from around the world participated in the 3-day event. In 2015, that number jumped to 53 filmmakers and lasted 5 days. Last year, the festival became a 7-day event and featured works from 77 different international filmmakers. The Foundation has put many programs into place that encourage and allow young burgeoning artists to explore their talents. The Dream2Screen program offers classroom grants that help support Marion County school media programs. These grants have brought major media growth to our student population. Lake Weir High School for example, has been able to start a morning show with a grant they won in 2014. David Guest’s students at Forest High School have been able to learn the ins-and-outs of making a documentary. They’ve won a grant the past 2 years and it has afforded them the ability to purchase camera equipment and put together an amazing documentary called “Safe Haven: The Story of Paradise Park.” Their 18-minute documentary focuses on the segregation that took place right here in our community, decades ago. When these students learned about Paradise Park from Dr. Cynthia Graham at the Silver River Museum, they were appalled – partly because they could not imagine segregation like that in our community today, but also because they had never heard about it! They asked themselves, “Why aren’t Marion County students learning about this part of local History?” So they decided to do something about it. David Guest’s students wrote the grants themselves and took great pride in their submissions. “The documentary took nine months to produce, but has been a wonderful learning experience for the students,” Guest told OM. “This festival brings real world experience to our students and when they get to meet real actors, producers and directors at the festival and workshops they see we really aren’t as “Slocala” as people say.” David Guest also acts as the liaison between Marion County digital arts students and the festival. In addition to classroom grants, individual scholarships are offered annually. These scholarships have helped many students in our county who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the industry. “The Ocala Film Foundation and Silver Springs International Film Festival is connecting people with opportunities,” Zink told OM. The Foundation also grants a Fresh Squeezed Award in the form of a $10,000 cash prize for the best made film in Florida – both feature films and shorts. Last year a student from the FSU film school was named a winner and continues to be very supportive of the Ocala Film Foundation and what it’s working towards. In fact, their next film is already in preproduction here in Central Florida. With every success story, community support becomes stronger and the economy grows a little more, not to mention the pride each participant takes in their work. “For the people who are just starting out, a little bit of cash turns into a whole lot of effort,” explains Thompson.The most recent endeavor developed by the Foundation was this year’s Jump/Cut Film Challenge. The 5-day long event consisted of 2 full days of workshops where mentors were flown in from all over the country to provide guidance to those participating. One mentor in particular, Todd Thompson, who worked at the Yellow Shoes Creative Group at Disney for over 20 years was impressed by Ocala’s “commitment to the arts and the emphasis people put on creativity here.” The remaining 72 hours of the challenge was for teams to make a film using parameters they were given. These parameters included a character name, job, prop, local landmark, a spoken line and film genre. It was truly amazing to see what all of the different groups came up with – each taking their own spin, using the same requirements and time allowance. Arguably the most valuable relationship formed by the Foundation has been the one established with the Manhattan Film Institute, an elite boutique film school in New York. MFI has been gracious enough to partner with the Dream2Screen program and is committed to matching the dollar amount of the student-won scholarship, if the student qualifies and wishes to attend MFI. This has made attending the distinguished school a reality for many people in our community, people who otherwise might not have been able to attend. One success story in particular hits very close to home for OM. ChrisWims, the current Director of Media for Ocala Magazine, started out as a scholarship winner who attended MFI as an acting student. He was thrilled to recently learn they want him to return as a director. Wimswholeheartedly attributes his success to the Foundation and the doors it has opened for him. The relationships built by the Foundation are invaluable and Marion County has greatly benefited from them. Festival director Greg Thompson believes these scholarships and grants are really changing things for our county. He also let OM in on a little secret – a Florida filmmaker approached him because of the Silver Springs International Film Festival in hopes he would agree to produce a high quality film with a $2 million budget, right here in our backyard! “This could make a big splash,” says Thompson, “and I am beyond flattered and incredibly honored to be asked to participate.” And while he can’t divulge any more details at this time, Ocala should be very anxious and excited to find out more.
So what’s next?
The program founders have worked tirelessly to create a successful festival model built on a sturdy Foundation. Everything about it greatly benefits our community, but only so much can be done with strictly volunteering and fundraising alone. “We can’t keep planning this thing on a wing and a prayer,” explains Zink. “The city and county both love what we’ve done but we need more support.” In other words, if Ocala wants to continue to benefit from the attention and revenue the SSIFF brings, we had better figure out a way to help fund it. People can’t keep working, tirelessly for nothing. And while funding is an integral part of making the festival a success, “What we need is more than just money,” urges Thompson. “We need a commitment from the community. It’s so doable. This could be astounding!”So many industry leaders have said they’ve never seen anything like this before. The key to the success of this festival has been the leadership of the Foundation. They have looked at how to strategically bring attention to Ocala, and it has worked. But one cannot put enough emphasis on the support they actively, critically need – and it is going to have to come from city and county officials. OM


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