The Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival, Inc. 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.    

Jill Landes, Secretary

Jill is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news producer and documentary filmmaker who produced stories at “60 Minutes” and at CBS News for more than two decades.   Her most recent documentary, “The Lavender Scare,” has aired nationally several times on PBS and received the Audience Award for Documentary Feature at the film festival in 2019. 

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.  

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. 

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.

Sydney O'Haire

Sydney is a fourth generation Vero Beach resident and a filmmaker whose shorts, music videos and documentaries have been screened and awarded at multiple film festivals around the world.  She is currently working on writing new film and TV material of her own. O’Haire is a Wealth Management Client Associate at the Merrill Lynch O’Haire Group in Vero Beach.   

Mark Schimmel

Mark is a director and producer of commercials, TV, short films, features, internet content web videos and digital media.  Schimmel’s film, “The Musician,” won the Grand Jury Award for Dramatic Short at the film festival in 2019.  Schimmel currently heads up the Branded Entertainment Track at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota. 

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

Paul Cavalli, former Board President

Rich Hoover, Technical Director

Ken George, Media Director

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

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.