CLEARWATER – When Yvonne and Hank Charneskey formed VonHenry Productions in 2006 to film events for others, on a contract basis, they certainly weren’t thinking they’d become award-winning documentary filmmakers.
But less than a decade later, the Clearwater couple’s first feature-length documentary, “Go Mickey Go,” was named Best Documentary Feature at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival, and they’re hard at work on their next two documentary projects.
And this is all while tending to the day-to-day needs of their business.
After about a year of shooting wedding videos, VonHenry Productions morphed into VonHenry Media, Yvonne said.
“I’m not 22 anymore and I can’t stand on my feet for 12 hours at a time,” she said.
Besides, the gigs were monotonous, Hank said. “It’s the same script over and over.”
So they tweaked the name of their company and shifted their focus toward commercial projects and marketing content for businesses.
“We call it DICE,” Yvonne said. “Documentaries, industrial films, commercial projects and educational training films.”
While that list handily sums up what services they offer, it’s constantly evolving. No two projects are alike, and their schedule and workload changes day to day.
They’ve done everything from filming a DVD series for a local church to creating commercials for a variety of businesses – attorneys, Realtors, lawyers, nearby resorts. They’ve provided contract services to local media outlets, including Bright House and Patch news sites. The couple also makes short video book trailers for authors, trains media and marketing professionals so they can create their own video materials, and recently have begun to offer whiteboard explainer videos to clients.
“We try to keep up with the trends,” Yvonne said. “We have a lot to offer in this economy. You have to be able to do that.”
Then two years ago, Mickey Wright’s management company approached VonHenry about making a full documentary film about Wright, a female racecar driver from Clearwater who got her start at 45. The result was “Go Mickey Go.”
The creative couple realized making this documentary would be the next step for them, after years of filming “mini documentaries” for commercial projects and news outlets, Hank said. “So we were learning to tell documentary stories in two or three minutes. It was just a matter of building [on them] and building them up.”
In addition to taking Best Documentary Feature at the L.A. International Underground Film Festival, it was accepted into three other festivals, including the upcoming Ritz Theatre Film Festival in Winter Haven on June 21.
They never expected to win awards with it, Hank said. “We would have just been thrilled if it got in somewhere.”
Their latest project, “Horses and Heroes,” is in post-production. It’s “99.9 percent” done, Yvonne said.
The film provides a behind-the-scenes look at Sarasota’s War Horse Farm. The farm’s colorful performing troupe, New Riders of the Golden Age train horses and the knights who ride them into battle at Medieval and Renaissance festival re-enactments throughout the country.
The couple was introduced to the entertainers several years ago while shooting a video for Patch. They were immediately drawn to their story.
“These people were so in character when we met them and I was so impressed,” Yvonne said. “They were in character even behind the scenes and I really felt like I was in medieval times. They had this integrity and chivalrous way, and they treated their horses really, really well. That impressed me more than anything.”
They’ve also finished filming B-roll footage for their next film, tentatively titled “Matriarchal Chance: Your Life, Your Chance.”
This film features the empowering storytelling programs for girls and women offered by Fran Powers at Tampa’s Powerstories Theatre.
“I’m so enthralled by what she does,” Yvonne said. While filming her speaking at a workshop for women in the corporate world, “it hit me that she was a really good storyteller and that this was a story worth telling.”
Hank said that the way Powerstories transforms young girls is amazing.
“A lot of these girls come in shy, very unsure of themselves and they learn leadership skills through song and dance,” he said. “And they learn not only how to be a leader, but when to step back and follow, and when they need to be in the spotlight.”
VonHenry Media is a member of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce. Hank now sits on the board, and in January, their company was named the 2013 Small Business of the Year by the chamber.
“It’s really one of the best chambers I’ve ever seen,” Yvonne said. “They give back so much.”
So VonHenry gives back to the chamber as much as it can. It’s even filmed videos about the chamber itself and the formation of the Pinellas Park Medical District.
“It’s a beautiful piece,” she said. “It really gives the medical district a soul.” For more information, visit www.vonhenry.com.