Walk of Fame honor for Mark Emery

Mark Emery, center, celebrates with Gerald Ergle, left, and David Ulloa, right, after his Star was unveiled on the Walk of Fame outside the Marion Theatre in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted November 12, 2021 | By Susan Smiley-Height

Mark Emery, center, celebrates with Gerald Ergle, left, and David Ulloa, right, after his Star was unveiled on the Walk of Fame outside the Marion Theatre in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

Globe-trotting filmmaker, musician, and photographer Mark Emery has captured much of the exotic beauty of locales and creatures around the world. But he is quick to say that one of the most beautiful sights he has ever seen is right here in Ocala — the play of fog and light that creates what he calls “God rays” on the Silver River.

As a young man, Emery milked rattlesnakes and wrestled alligators at the Ross Allen Reptile Institute at the Silver Springs attraction and piloted glass-bottom boats. He befriended boat captains Roosevelt Faison, Virginia Ferguson, Oscar Collins, and Leon Cheatom, who have logged more than 200 years on the river. Later in life, Emery, by now an Emmy award-winning cinematographer and composer with a lengthy list of accomplishments, began to envision a documentary film about the captains and the river.

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, a screening of Emery’s “Out of the Mist: A Silver River Story” followed the unveiling of a bronze plaque commemorating his place in the Ocala Film Foundation’s Walk of Fame in the sidewalk in front the historic Marion Theatre.

The walk is a partnership between the foundation and the city of Ocala. The dedication event was sponsored by foundation member Angie Lewis.

The Walk of Fame contains plaques dedicated to Bruce Mozert, the photographer whose creative underwater images put a major spotlight on Silver Springs, noted musical producer Bruce Swedien, underwater cinematographer Jordan Klein Sr., and Emery.

“It’s extremely humbling because I knew all these folks and they are stunning human beings and they did the kinds of things that I never thought I would ever be in the same group with them,” Emery said of the honor.

“Having worked with Mark all these many years, it even makes it more special,” said Laurie Zink, executive director of the foundation and co-founder of the Silver Springs International Film Festival. “And that’s not working with his filmmaking, but working with him in organizing the film festival and on the foundation team. It’s also knowing what he’s done for filmmaking for this area and for the promotions of our area worldwide; it’s incredible. He absolutely deserves every piece of that sidewalk.”

Lewis said of all the accolades Emery has earned “through production, photography, composition, it’s just a real honor to be able to honor him because he won’t honor himself.”

“He’s extremely humble and we have a two-time Emmy winner right here, so it’s a pleasure for us to be able to recognize him and for him to take it in, instead of him doing it for others. He’s been such a mentor for so many people, such a giver, so it’s time for him to get,” Lewis stated.

Emery said his father passed away when he was 19-years-old, and he went to work at Silver Springs.

“Oscar would pick me up if my truck was not working,” he recalled. “They’d cook up lunch and we’d have goat or wild hog. I was just part of the family.”

And it was that family connection Emery wanted to showcase in the documentary, which he worked on for close to five years in between his work with National Geographic, Discovery, the Smithsonian Channel, and the British Broadcasting Company. The premiere of the film took place in Ocala in 2019.

Emery said that when he was working at Silver Springs, the Marion Theatre was segregated. He was very happy when his film was screened there because it was exciting to see the boat captains who are Black being shown on the big screen and seated as guests of honor in the audience. The documentary is available on DVD in some locations around Ocala.

Among his many accomplishments, Emery has worked as a producer or director for such projects as National Geographic Television’s “The Seasons of the Salmon” and “The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes,” and “One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby” on TNN. He has extensive experience on location shoots, such as those with Alaskan salmon and bears, and manatees and alligators much farther south. A recent endeavor included what he described as “56 days filming in Marion County for the first of six one-hour films about North America.”

“We did things on alligators that have never been done before,” he said.