The Vero Beach Film Festival is a non-profit arts organization that celebrates independent filmmaking and enriches our community, both culturally and economically. We love film because it introduces us to new places, touches our hearts, and can help us to find solutions in these challenging times.

We have hosted hundreds of filmmakers from around the globe and screened hundreds of films, from comedies and dramas to documentaries and shorts.  During the festival the coastal town of Vero Beach offers red carpet screenings, well attended parties and filmmaker events that support both the independent and student filmmaker.

And most important of all, the festival gives back to Vero Beach, with free community screenings and thousands of dollars in donations to local charities.  


Board of Directors

David Yakir, President

David is an entrepreneur and creative business strategist in media, entertainment and digital marketing.  Recently he created the Podgeist Company, which uses the podcast medium as an effective communication solution for businesses, and for nonprofit, cause-based, and educational organizations. Since 2014 he has hosted the IHeart Radio broadcast and podcast “Yak About Today,” which will now be dedicated to the Vero Beach Film Festival and the people behind the screen.    

Anthony Aruffo, Treasurer

Anthony has been with the film festival since it was founded and has served several roles over the years, from Executive Assistant to Board Chairman.   He is a Senior Consultant at BTS, a professional services firm that partners with some of the world’s largest global corporations.  Aruffo is also Board Chair of EcoWorks International, which helps farmers in Haiti.  

Xaque Gruber

Xaque is a locally-based artist and filmmaker who has written for many TV shows in Los Angeles and around the world. His short comedy films, “The Pistol” and “THE” were shot in Vero Beach and have won acclaim at festivals worldwide.  He has been involved with the festival since 2016 and previously served on the Festival Jury.

Jill A. Hargrave

Founder and President of EagleVision Productions, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit production company. She is an award-winning independent producer, fundraiser and screenplay writer. Over the years, she produced a number of Emmy-nominated documentaries for NJN Public Television, and served on the staff of the NJN Foundation as its Director of Grants Development successfully raising funds for many NJN productions and educational outreach projects. After NJN closed down, Hargrave served as the Development Director for the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ before relocating to Vero Beach, Florida in September, 2012.

Kelly Kite Jr.

Kelly has been a board member since the film festival was founded in 2016.  He is CEO and Co-Founder of Kite Capital Partners in Vero Beach, where he oversees the firm’s ongoing strategy, governance and business operations.  Kite also serves as managing partner of Kite Tax Lien Capital, which manages private equity funds and real estate investments. 

Heather Stapleton

Heather served in several roles for the festival, including Director of Logistics and Co-Director of Volunteers, before joining the Board.  She is Executive Director of Vero Heritage, which operates and maintains the Heritage Center and the Indian River Citrus Museum in Vero Beach. 

Jeff Woolnough

Jeff is a television director whose recent credits include “Vikings,” “The Expanse,” “Riverdale,” “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” “Supernatural” and “NCIS.”  His work has received 12 nominations and 4 statues from the Directors Guild of Canada and a Peabody for “Battlestar Gallactica.”  He moved to Vero Beach with his wife, Claudette Roche after 25 years in Los Angeles and has been involved in the film festival since 2017.

Advisory Council and Team

Susan Keller Horn, Co-founder/Film Submissions Director

Elizabeth M. Borne, Finance Director

Gregg Casalino, Attorney

Paul Cavalli, former Board President

Elli Courtney

Rich Hoover, Technical Director

Ken George, Media Director

Steve Goff, Accountant

Jenn Kite, Event Planning

Doris Kwek, Festival Concierge

Tor Jones, Creative Director

Patti Lyons, Director of Volunteers

Gary Mastro, former Board President

Phil Osborne, Director of Logistics

Barry Shapiro, Festival Jury

Mark Schimmel, Advisor

Charlotte Wagner, Event Planning

Fundraising Committee

Jill A. Hargrave, Chair

Sarna Rose

Wil Harris

Diane D. Reheis

Joyce M. North

Jerusha Stewart, Founder and Executive Director Emeritus

We are inclusive and respectful of people of every race, ethnicity, gender identity/expression, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, age, physical appearance and body size, language spoken and economic status.