ASPRI FRANK: The South Florida woman’s “Rebirth” received the Silver Award for Best Feature Film in the Florence Italy International Film Festival in March. PHOTO COURTESY OF VOYAGEMIA.COM

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Aspri Frank, a millennial filmmaker who hails from and resides in Palm Beach County, and who is one of if not the first African American woman in South Florida to have her own film production company and to write, codirect and produce a feature film, is making waves.

Her movie entitled “Rebirth” has won a major film festival, receiving the Silver Award for Best Feature Film in the Florence Italy International Film Festival in March.

In the first film festival she entered, she won big.

“We submitted it, but actually Florence Italy reached out to us,” Frank. “They saw my trailer and it won the award! It gives me great encouragement and makes me feel good that people in Italy care about my film.”

Frank’s mother and manager Mary Woodard said she began practicing in front of the cameras when she was a kid. She studied TV production at Inlet Grove Community High School in Riviera Beach, graduated in 2010 and embarked on an education major. After completing a writing assignment at Bethune Cookman University, her professor encouraged her to change her major to film writing. She took his advice and is now getting notice for her first feature film.

Her mom said “Rebirth” started out as a web series, then “We were told it should not be a web series but instead a feature film. We accepted that advice and shifted gears. We completed the movie and here we are,” said Woodard.

Frank said she realizes the movie’s theme of domestic violence can be frightening to some but it needs to be put out there. The theme arose from a personal perspective though not necessarily physical abuse, she said, and it was cathartic dealing with a complex issue that could also help many others.

“I thought it’s a really good topic that could help people,” said Frank, 31. “Part of the healing process is to dig deep. It’s not really discussed in a real way. The topic is sugar coated in some ways. There’s both the mental and emotional side of domestic abuse. It’s not just that someone hits you.”

She further explained how victims’ responses to abuse varies. “Unless you’re in a victim’s shoes you can’t tell people how to deal with it. Sometimes victims don’t realize they’re in the situation because they’re in the midst of the perfect storm.”

One of her dreams “is to bring Hollywood to Florida.” Although professionals, “All of my crew and actors were based in Florida,” Frank said. “I didn’t have to go to Hollywood. There’s so much talent here.”

Frank also said she prides herself on diversity on the sets of her company, Leoinia Free Productions, LLC.

“Everything I do is going to be diverse because we’re better together,” she said, explaining that she utilized people of various races and ethnicities and even those with special needs. “Why do we have to be separate when we can do it all together?” The millennial filmmaker also said she demands positive vibes. “If your attitude is bad, none of that would be allowed on my set. I’m putting my foot down because that won’t be tolerated by Leionia Free Productions.”

Her mother said she’s proud of her daughter in every way imaginable. “I’m so glad she took to heart what her professor said.” Her dad, Dr. Charles W. Woodard, said “This effort is an example of her maturity. We kept God in the midst. She has become quite the young lady!” Leionia Free Productions held the “Rebirth” premiere at the Movies of Delray in western Palm Beach County last November. They are planning additional premiers out of state and in a more central location in South Florida. The goal is to see “Rebirth” in theaters nationwide and streaming, said Woodard.

Frank said she plans more films for herself and will be producing for others. Some projects are already underway. “Keep watching because there’s more to come. But I’d like to acknowledge the cast and crew on this film because they were amazing!”