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Notes from Nantucket Film Festival: Who inspires you to write, create and keep moving forward

This morning I sat in the audience, notebook in hand, while Michael Ian Black presented the Compass Rose award to Molly Shannon on stage at the Nantucket Film Festival and all the while I couldn't help but think "this is the moment my own career has come full circle."

Currently I am working from the unbelievably beautiful island of Nantucket with Writer-Producer Stacey A. Davis and Executive Producer Nichalaus Sims as they are presenting their comedy The Sibling Code during The Nantucket Film Festival. There is a lot to see and take in - and this was another moment we were excited about. 

Stacey A. Davis and Nichalaus Sims prepare for the first of two Nantucket Film Festival screenings of The Sibling Code.

Stacey A. Davis and Nichalaus Sims prepare for the first of two Nantucket Film Festival screenings of The Sibling Code.

With a look at the two actors on stage, in a flash I am transported years back to my reporter years. I might as well be attending parties at SXSW in Austin with Michael Ian Black or interviewing Molly Shannon as I did in Detroit when she had just released Year of the Dog.

Yet so very much has changed. Shannon has just completed the film Other People, playing here at the festival and earning a lot of fantastic support for her heart-felt performance and for Writer-Director Chris Kelly. The Compass Rose award, for which Shannon seemed genuinely grateful, is given annually to performers whose contribution to acting inspires screenwriters to create new material. That's pretty heady stuff.

The event was "In Their Shoes.. Molly Shannon" , a talk during which Shannon actually ended up shoe-less demonstrating a Saturday Night Live character. Black was a witty host and moderator. He gave her the spotlight to expound on everything from motherhood to auditioning to her own ambition. 

Michael Ian Black and Molly Shannon talk acting, parenthood and "Other People," during the Nantucket Film Festival.

Michael Ian Black and Molly Shannon talk acting, parenthood and "Other People," during the Nantucket Film Festival.

What struck me most about Shannon was how genuine, how grounded, how much of a shining bright light she truly seems to be. She expressed so openly a personal tragedy of losing her mother and youngest sister at the tender age of 4 and shared that many ways loss in her life has shaped her childhood, her own role as a parent, and perhaps the parallels it plays in the role she developed in Other People, where she is a mother facing her final days.

You got the sense that as a comedian, an actor, a performer, she truly loves the work. She seemed to be driven by that and her decisions ruled by it. It's easy to connect to that - no matter what you do for a living. 

Shannon also achieved something else that isn't easy for any of us who work hard or in competitive, non-traditional careers. She achieved the illusive balance. She left her high-profile post as a regular on Saturday Night Live when her own father became ill to spend more time with him, to give herself time to have a personal life, eventually a family. Now that's inspiring. And yes, she spoke about the film she's currently starring in and promoting, too.

She called Kelly's script "breathtaking" and I'm convinced I'll see it (especially after hearing his hilarious performance at NFF's Late Night Storytelling), and need tissues to make it to the end. But I'm even more taken by the authenticity of its lead actor, her enduring strength of character, which has been evident throughout all stages of her career. It was truly something to behold. 

I related so closely with her story. I am so often inspired by Writer-Producer Stacey A. Davis, who has never been one to shy away from a challenge, or a chance to try something new. The Sibling Code might be her first foray here but it's a delight of quick-wit showing among films chosen and embraced for screenwriting and storytelling in particular. Coming up behind it, she has exciting new projects on the horizon, too.

I've been advising and assisting on promotion for the film, but I admit Davis and Sims are simply two of the most driven, talented and wonderful humans I'm lucky enough to also call my friends. It's nice when work works out that way. 

The talk, the Compass Award, this trip - it all made me wonder... Who are you inspired by most when it comes to writing or producing new work, and how do you celebrate it?

Stephanie Angelyn Casola founded Prologue as a writer, social media and PR professional with more than two decades of experience in media. She is addicted to wi-fi and minimalist design. Stephanie holds high expectations for coffee, craft beer and pizza, and grew up an avid fan of scary movies. Recently dubbed the "Queen Bee of hustle, media relations and coolness" when she's not working or traveling, she's probably ducking into a movie, rock show or museum. Email her at