Director Devin Scott, a San Diego resident, received an Orson Welles Award for his film “She Wore Silver Wings.” The documentary features his 92-year-old great-aunt Jean Landis, one of the heroic Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who, for the first time in U.S. history, were recruited to volunteer their services in WWII by ferrying military aircraft. Of the 25,000 applicants, only slightly more than 1,000 women made it through the rigorous WASP training, but were paid less than their male counterparts, given no military benefits and received no medical insurance or burial benefits.
Receiving the single standing ovation of the evening, Landis smiled while recalling her determined journey of paving the way for women’s roles in the Air Force.
“We opened the door where no women had ever flown,” said Landis, “and once we were proven, there was no stopping us.”
Scott grew up hearing inspirational stories of his great-aunt, but it wasn’t until adulthood that he was able to fully appreciate them.
“She is the only person I know whose dream actually came true,” said Scott. “When the only thing you want costs everything you have, she said ‘yes.’”
Receiving the Special Jury Prize was 28-year-old Brandon James Miller, producer of “Homeless in Los Angeles.” The film was made over the course of 11 months, starring Miller as he deals with his own struggles as a homeless Air Force veteran, educating viewers on the homeless who don’t fall victim to its stereotype.
“Not all homeless people are drug addicts pushing carts and collecting cans,” said Miller.
The film features characters that have suffered domestic violence, traumatic brain injuries, or became an orphan as a result of the 9/11 attacks — landing them on the street without a place to call home.
“I did everything right … I went to college on the GI Bill to get my bachelor’s in film,” said Miller.
Focusing all his energy and money into producing the film, Miller accomplished his goal of becoming a filmmaker, using his own experiences as a platform.
“While filming, I used the homeless shelter and the library as my office,” said Miller. “I am a homeless survivor.”
Sustaining himself with the help of vouchers from Veterans Affairs, Miller knows not everyone is as fortunate.
“There aren’t enough programs for veterans once they transition back to civilian life,” said Miller. “Many times they lack the knowledge of doing business.”