NICK SPARK

Award-Winning Filmmaker


NICK SPARK is a Los Angeles based writer and documentarian with a long standing passion for unconventional characters, including the oft-overlooked female heroine.

The Legend of Pancho Barnes which he produced and wrote profiles gender-bending pilot Florence “Pancho” Barnes, a forgotten rival of Amelia Earhart’s.

It won the L.A. area Emmy in 2010, screened in numerous film festivals and continues to air on public television stations in the USA and abroad. An accomplished writer of non-fiction and history, Nick was the associate editor for Wings and Airpower magazines.

His new award-winning film Right Footed profiles Jessica Cox, who was born without arms as a result of a birth defect, but managed to become fully independent — and the world's first armless airplane pilot.  The film follows Jessica over the course of two years as she gets married and becomes a mentor for children with disabilities and a disability rights activist.  The film has appeared in nearly 30 film festivals in the United States, Europe and Canada, and has won 10 major awards including "Best Social Action Film 2015" at the Hollywood Film Festival.

He has also appeared on PBS’ History Detectives, Japan’s NHK and National Public Radio concerning his research projects. He is an MFA graduate of the U.S.C.

School of Cinematic Arts and has an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He also has the distinction of having won the student Emmy Award at U.S.C. as a grad student, and as an undergrad at the U of A, both for documentary films.   
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Paul Kakert

Award-Winning Filmmaker

​Paul Kakert is a multi-award winning director, editor and producer who specializes in conceiving, developing, producing, marketing and distributing independent productions including reality programming and documentary films. His latest award winning film, Escape from Firebase Kate, is being broadcast on PBS stations throughout the US and is on iTunes, and Amazon Prime. Paul founded Storytellers International in 2009 as a 501c3 non-profit organization to produce feature length documentary films that tell compelling stories from around the world. As President and Director of all productions for the organization, his goal is to build an online, fanatic audience for documentary films through his community website Paul’s prior documentary films include award winning Train to Nowhere: Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation 

In addition to promoting the films he and other independent producers create, the organization actively solicits story ideas from a growing community at DocumentaryTV.com. Anyone can pitch a story they would like to see Storytellers produce. Paul’s goal is to inspire the public to tell him what is important to them, and most importantly, to hear from those who are close to the stories and the people involved. To date, films by Storytellers have taken Paul to India and Kosovo and throughout the US to meet his vision of bringing a world of stories to a US audience.

Paul also owns Effective Digital Presentations which is a video and multimedia production company in Iowa. The company is a successful federal government contractor and GSA schedule holder. Paul has produced videos and 3D animations for broadcast, federal government, non-profit organizations, higher education, and corporate businesses throughout the United States and in 9 different countries including Afghanistan, Kuwait, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Italy.


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Jon Whelan

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Director Jon Whelan entered the world of documentaries in a roundabout way. After a misused youth of surfing, skateboarding and broken bones, Whelan got his MBA while dabbling in Virtual Reality – he was way too early. In 1999 he co-founded the Web auction Afternic.com, selling just before the bubble burst in 2000. Whelan was also a founding member of the New York Angels.

The arrival of children in the next decade caused a shift in Whelan’s focus, this time to social justice, and the development of the award-winning “Stink!.”

Stink!” is an off-beat movie about Whelan’s tenacious quest to uncover the source of a chemical scent in a brand-new pair of kids’ pajamas, his journey through corporate boardrooms and into Congress, and his subsequent discovery of the disturbing ‘Cancer Loophole.’

Whelan currently advocates for truthful product labeling and serves as advisor to internet and media startups. He is also a principal of Net Return, Inc., and full-time parent to two young daughters in Manhattan. “Stink!” is his first documentary.​

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EMILY SHESKIN

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Emily is a director and editor who has worked on award-winning documentaries, TV specials and advertising campaigns. Her work has been featured in numerous publications such as (but not limited to) Creativity, Fast Company's CoCreate, and The Atlantic.

Most recently, Emily worked on Audible’s #StoriesThatSurroundYou social media campaign, which was recently featured as an editor’s pick in Creativity. Her latest documentary, Damon at 86th Street, was also featured in The Atlantic, FACT, and Complex.

In the past her webseries “The Sidekick Series” was featured in Fast Company’s CoCreate, and her other documentary work has been featured in Huffington Post, Narratively, and Gawker’s Jezebel.

As an editor Emily has most notably worked on HBO's award-winning documentary series "East of Main Street" (lead editor) and the feature film "Watchers of the Sky" (associate editor), which took home a Sundance Editing Award.

Emily holds a BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and is a member of New York Women in Film & Television, The Film Shop, Film Fatales, andIFP. She currently works at Firstborn in New York City.

Her award-winning short, Damon at 86th Street can been seen at festivals around the world.See More

​Jennifer Myhre

Award-Winning Filmmaker

​Jennifer Myhre makes video and audio documentaries and visual art informed by over two decades of experience as a sociologist and teacher.  She loves asking questions and listening to people's stories.  Jen sees documentary work as an act of bearing witness with compassion and finds it a gift when people open their lives to her.  Her documentaries highlight people's creativity and will to thrive.    As a visual artist she is motivated as much by the shape of things as their social meaning but increasingly finds sociology creeping into her art and film in ways that are highly satisfying to her.  And Jen could not survive without a sense of humor.

Jen Myhre has a Ph.D. in sociology with an emphasis on social movements and inequalities.  She loves teaching and working at a California community college, a public institution that embodies the radical notion that everyone has a right to a higher education.  She received the Distinguished Educator Award at De Anza College in 2007.  She also has been studying film and photography for the last five years.  In 2014, one of her photographs was chosen for the juried exhibit, Altered Views, at the Lightbox Gallery in Astoria, OR.  After a series of artist profile shorts, she completed her first feature length documentary, Homie UP: Stories of Love and Redemption, in 2015.

Homie UP: Stories of Love and Redemption is a film about the impact of mass incarceration on Latino families and it explores the ways in which education can be a path to redemption.  This film, filmed on a shoestring budget with funding from the California Humanities Community Stories program, was a collaborative labor of love made with a team of community organizers from the National Latino Research Center.  It focuses on a educational program for students who are incarcerated called Homie Universidad Popular and gives voice to those who have a loved one who is incarcerated.

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Markus Eichenberger

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Markus Eichenberger is a photographer from Switzerland. His passion is to travel and to explore different cultures and natural wonders. He likes to capture the beauty of our planet. Within the last 15 years, Markus traveled around the world covering more than 80 countries. His photos have been published in several travel magazines. In the last two years, he dedicated many months shooting photos of the stars in the beautiful Swiss Alps.

Markus’s goal is to create a special atmosphere, either with still images or with long exposure time-lapse short films. His film "Mystic Jungfraujoch” has won several awards at Film Festivals around the world this year. 

His biggest assignment as a photographer so far has been a documentary covering all 31 stadiums for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Some of the photos were published in a Special Edition of the Sports Illustrated Magazine in China, others were sold through the gettyimages distribution channel.

Markus’s expertise lies in landscape, architecture, people, wildlife photography and filming.
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Kayla McCormick

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Kayla McCormick is the Director and Producer of selectED. As a Chicago native with nearly twenty years experience producing both long and short form programs for television, she is thrilled to have completed her first feature length documentary, an intimate film that examines the truths and challenges of public urban education as seen through the lives of five public high school students in Chicago. 
Ms. McCormick started her career in New York in 1996 as an International Radio & Television Fellowship winner working for Barbara Walters.  McCormick was embedded with the US Coast Guard’s Air Station New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, while working for Towers Production in Chicago, where she created the verite-style show and shooting model for the Weather Channel Series Coast Guard Storm Stories.  McCormick’s pilot episode of The World’s Most Dangerous Road – Bolivia was one of the highest-rated, primetime specials for History Channel the year it premiered, and it was subsequently picked up as series for The National Geographic Channel.  In 2007, McCormick became a staff producer for The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she field produced segments for the show all across the globe.
In 2013, McCormick took a year off to backpack solo around the world. Nearly six months and 13 countries into her trip, while walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, McCormick was given the opportunity of a lifetime, to fully embed as a producer for an entire school year at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, and was on a plane home to Chicago three weeks later to start working on selectED.

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John Murray

Award-Winning Filmmaker

John Murray is a digital media arts professional specializing in sound design, education, documentary film, and the management of people and productions in creative environments.

One of six founding faculty at Tribeca Flashpoint College in 2007, Mr. Murray spearheaded development of the intensive Recording Arts program from the ground up, focusing on professionalism, workflow, theory, craft, and wide-ranging aesthetics. Mr. Murray served as Chair of the Recording Arts Department from inception until 2010, when he accepted the Associate Academic Dean position. In 2013, he was promoted to Dean of Faculty managing the performance of 50+ instructors across 8 degree programs.

Mr. Murray has worked professionally in film and video sound postproduction since 1983 designing and mixing award-winning soundtracks for features, documentaries, shorts, and advertising. He began his career at News/Sports Radio Network and then Orange Productions in Milwaukee. In 1984, Mr. Murray was tapped to start a sound for picture production and mixing suite at the legendary Fifth Floor Recording Studios in Cincinnati. He then moved on to Sound Images in 1987, where he was the recipient of numerous ADDY awards for radio and television audio production.

In 1989, he began a complementary career in higher education, teaching recording, production, and film sound editorial first at Xavier University, and then from 1994-2007 at Columbia College Chicago. In 2000, Mr. Murray was granted an 18 month Artist-in-Residence position where he began to develop and administer curriculum and assessment for the Audio Arts and Acoustics Department. He was subsequently named Director of the Audio for Visual Media program, a collaborative discipline with the Film and Video Department.

In 1997, Mr. Murray created JM Audio Services, specializing in remote recording and archival of orchestral, choral, and acoustic music that has resulted in numerous works broadcast nationwide on such programs as National Public Radio’s Performance Today.

While continuing his career in postsecondary education, focusing on immersive, project-based learning in collaborative environments, Mr. Murray’s further interests turned to social impact documentaries.  In 2010, he created ECHO 61 and began a five-year project producing and directing A Farmer’s Road, a documentary about sustainable, small-scale artisanal farming and locally-sourced food systems.

In 2012, Mr. Murray became an executive board member of Good Pitch Chicago, a 501(c)3 organization in partnership with BRITDOC Foundation and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program devoted to producing Good Pitch events in Chicago, which bring together documentary filmmakers with foundations, NGOs, campaigners, philanthropists, policy makers, brands, and media around leading social and environmental issues.  

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Jayden Hua

Award-Winning FilmmakerJayden Hua is an Australian independent filmmaker, director, and journalist. He studies law and film at the University of New South Wales, and has studied film at the University of Michigan. 

His award-winning debut documentary, The Key of B, explores the life-changing power of music and arts in the community of Brightmoor in Detroit. Originating as a student project, the documentary attracted attention from the Michigan Daily , and has since enjoyed success at international film festivals and competitions. The piece has earned awards from the Ann Arbor Lightworks Film Festival, the Click-On-Detroit Film Competition, and the Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival. 

With a burning passion for both social justice and retro 80s B-movies, Jayden independently produces and directs fun and quirky short films and documentaries in Sydney with his friends and colleagues. 

Jayden currently stars in the online comedy sketch series: Very Noice Show covers events as a videographer, and works as the sub-editor of the Sydney based Tharunka Magazine.

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Edwin Gailits

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Edwin Gailits is an award winning director, producer, editor and cinematographer who has worked in film, theatre and digital media for most of his life. 

Most recently, Edwin directed, produced, filmed and co-edited the award winning feature documentary Cold Nights Hot Salsa. The film had its World premier at the Hollywood Film Festival LA, and screened in the Beloit International Film Festival People's Choice Program, at the East Lansing Film Festival and won the Jury Award for Best Documentary feature at the Naperville Independent Film Festival. The film will continue its festival run in 2016, beginning with the Bronx International Film Festival and Beloit International Film Festival. See the trailer here

Prior to Cold Nights Hot Salsa Edwin produced, directed, and edited films in a broad range of subject areas. He profiled the work of a Shibori fabric artist, examined the relationship between satellite data imagery, mathematics and watercolour painting and has a produced a series of hybrid educational/fiction films that explored mathematics. In addition he produced a health care documentary that looks at some of the underlying structural problems of the US health care system. 

Edwin holds a BAA from Ryerson University in Photo Arts. He also holds an honours BA in English and Philosophy from the University of Toronto.


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SPOTLIGHT

DOCUMENTARY

FILM AWARDS

steven oritt

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Steven’s directing background began in music videos and documentaries where he worked with various artists including Foo Fighters, Muse, OneRepublic, Paulina Rubio, and Pete Yorn to name a few.

His feature documentary debut, the award-winning  ‘American Native,’ tells the story of a forgotten Indian tribe in the hills of New Jersey, premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival and is currently midway through its festival run with The Athens International, St. Tropez International,  Manchester International and Black Hills Film Festivals among others, under its belt.

Along with segueing into commercial work, Steven recently wrapped production on his second documentary feature ‘An Accidental Climber,’ a look at one man’s attempt to become the oldest American to climb Mt. Everest in May of 2014. What ensued however was the worst disaster in mountaineering history, leaving sixteen climbers dead in a tragic avalanche.


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Gillian Laub

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Gillian Laub is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York. She studied at the International Center of Photography where her love of storytelling and family narratives began.

She received the Nikon’s Storyteller Award for her work in the Middle East that resulted in her first monograph, Testimony (Aperture 2007), to critical acclaim.  This body of work is comprised of portraits and interviews from Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians all affected by the Second Intifada. Laub is a recipient of the Aaron Siskind Fellowship and Jerome Foundation Grant. She is represented by Benrubi Gallery and contributes to many publications such as TIME and The New York Times Magazine. Her work is widely exhibited and collected.  

In conjunction with Laub’s first feature documentary film, SOUTHERN RITES, there is an accompanying book (Damiani 2015) and an exhibition with the same title.

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Deeyah Khan

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Deeyah Khan is a critically acclaimed music producer and Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director, whose work highlights human rights, women’s voices and freedom of expression. Her skill as a multidisciplinary artist led her to use music and film as the language for her social activism. Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry. The experience of living between different cultures, both the beauty and the challenges, dominates her artistic vision.

Her 2012 film Banaz: A Love Story won several international awards. This documentary, chronicles the life and death of Banaz Mahmod, a young British Kurdish woman killed in 2006 in London on the orders of her family in a so-called honour killing.  Deeyah is also the recipient of several awards for her work supporting freedom of expression and in 2012 she was awarded the Ossietzky prize by Norwegian PEN.  The focus of her work and access to voices that are often overlooked and misunderstood has led to increasing demand as a speaker at international human rights events and platforms including the United Nations.

Deeyah is the founder and CEO of social purpose production company Fuuse which creates works in the intersection of art and activism.

​Her film, Jihad a Story of the Others, can be seen at festivals world-wide. See the trailer here

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Adolfo Doring

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Adolfo Doring is an award winning filmmaker. He has directed/shot/edited music videos for Sting, Santana, Bon Jovi, The Dixie Chicks, Diana Krall and Savage Garden amongst many others. He received an MTV Music Video Award for ‘Hold My Hand’ by Hootie and The Blowfish in 1995.

After the critical success of his dramatic feature film METRO (2006), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival he has gone on to make two more dramatic features ‘Thinly Veiled’ (2009) and ‘The Price of Dreams’ which is a double feature in 4 parts. Adolfo has also made three feature length documentaries, ‘The Trial of the St. Patrick’s Four’ (2005), ‘Got Stem Cells?’ (2007), ‘Blind Spot’ (2009) and the award-winning ‘Rose  & Roy’ (2015) View the trailer here


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Andreas Hadjipateras

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Andreas Hadjipateras is an award winning director. He has had his work featured in various festivals, including The Massachusetts Independent Film festival, The Atlanta Documentary Festival, and was recently the recipient of the 1st Prize, in NYU’s New Visions and Voices film festival. He is currently in production on a Greek feature documentary 'The Last Partisan', about the life of famed resistance fighter Manolis Glezos.

His award-winning short documentary, Gallero, can be seen at film festival around the world.

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Zuzka Kurtz

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Zuzka Kurtz, Czech born multi media artist residing in NYC. Wrote and directed the Off Broadway dance and puppetry performance "My Inner Sole" 2010, wrote and directed a collection of nine short films: "7 Ways 2 Skin A Cat" 2013.

Blade #1 is her first documentary film. Struggling financially, 5 NYC dancers respond to a Craigslist ad offering large amounts of money to women for shaving their heads.  The film focuses on Cori, a dancer whose unusual childhood comes into play as the women's relationship with the men evolves with surprising results.


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Rodney Whittenberg

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Rodney Whittenberg is founder of Melodyvision where he works as a Creative Consultant by using his skills as a composer / song writer/ multi instrumentalist. producer / engineer / filmmaker and educator. He brings a fresh and unique perspective to each client and project adding value that results in creative solutions to often complex problems.  

Rodney has composed music for over 34 films and TV shows, and countless dance performances. Projects include: Anthony Bourdain’s show a Cooks Tour; PBS POV Documentary The Camden 28; horror cult classics Infested and Return to Sleep Away Camp. He's received a regional Emmy for his score for the TV Documentary Mother Dot’s Philadelphia and Best Sound Design at the Terror Film Festival for Toll Taker.  

His recent CD projects as producer and engineer include: Zones, by Philadelphia Percussion Project, featuring classical composer Jennifer Higden; and Naked World, by world jazz vocalist Phyllis Chappell. He's the creator and host of the podcast Pre-Concert an interview show where listeners meet and preview up-coming performances. Clients include PEW's Philadelphia Music Project, Philadelphia's Orchestra 2012, Montgomery County Community College, and Intercultural Journeys. Interviews include: jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut; jazz bass player Ron Carter; jazz pianist and composer Omar Sosa; and, Pulitzer Prize winning composer and cast of the opera Silent Night.Rodney's work as a film maker centers around his passion for telling a story from start to finish in a creative way. Projects include: HBO Family segments 30X30: Kid Flicks; WHYY Wider Horizon educational spots; and numerous music videos and short-form documentaries. His most recent passion project  is aso-producer of the feature-length documentary Caregivers: Their Passion, Their Pain, which was recently featured on Radio Times and written up in The Guardian.

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Amber Cortes

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Amber Cortes is a documentary media maker who works with film, sound, and writing. She makes films and radio pieces, writes about interesting people, performs live interactive fiction, and occasionally creates transmission-based sound and video installation art projects. She lives in Seattle and recently earned her Master’s degree at the Communication Leadership program at the University of Washington. 

She’s held previous gigs at UnionDocs, a documentary arts collaborative in Brooklyn, NY and in public radio and print. Her first short doc, Luchadora, is the story of the unlikely rise of the Pacific Northwest's only fully debuted female professional Lucha Libre wrestler.

She has pretty much perfected the art of omelet making and is currently learning to play Daft Punk songs on her Suzuki Omnichord.

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Frank van Osch

Award-Winning Filmmaker

The Dutch director Frank van Osch (1962) had big dreams when he was young. He wanted to be a musician and if it all possible make the world a better place. But he became a filmmaker. He started his career in 1989 working for Dutch television. In 2005 he decided to focus on making documentaries and started his documentary production company ‘Van Osch Films’.

He never abandoned his love for music as you can see in his documentaries, ‘Drs. P, certainly not without talent’ about a Dutch poet and artist, ‘Bots, fight for the cause’ and ‘Songs of Hope’. You can see his hope for a better world in documentaries about the painful effects of war on ordinary people, like ‘Because we were beautiful’, about Indonesian comfort women and ‘Liberation children’, about the children of the heroes during the Second World War and their Dutch sweethearts and ‘Sons without fathers’, about the effect on growing up without a father figure.

Van Osch loves stories about people who struggle or people that are searching for something. He tries to get close to those people, looking at their motives, fears and pain. His films have a distinct trademark – they are always probing and personal. These stories cut close to the bone but also touch and inspire the viewer. They show secrets, fear, pain, motivation, inspiration and love.

With twenty-six years of experience in documentary and television his company is becoming better known every day. Looking back at his first documentary about beautiful ferries in the Netherlands, which to date more than one million people have seen. He now has his eyes set on the whole world. With ambitions to make well known international documentaries like his current project ‘The mother of beauty’, about Marilyn Monroe’s first modelling agent Emmeline Snively.

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Jef Bredemeier

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Jef Bredemeier is a fine artist, originally focused in painting, for the past 15 years. He veered into photography by necessity, needing to photograph subjects for his paintings as well as the paintings themselves. It quickly became a new and exciting medium alongside the canvas.

Working with photography and the still image brought on an interest in filmmaking and video applications. After some experimentation, he found a new base and medium for storytelling. Along side of this career in art, he worked at the restaurant Dante's Down the Hatch. Being a very magical and unique place, he was immediately connected, thus, it became his second home for thirteen years. When he learned of its closing, he felt it was deeply important to tell the story of what Dante had created in the city of Atlanta. The Award-Winning Dantes Down the Hatch is his first feature film. 

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Guosheng Ming

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Guosheng Ming is an outstanding young film director and producer who had been shortlisted "100 Chinese New Star Directors" in 2011. Currently, he as a graduate student is studying at Savannah College of Art and Design majoring in film and television production. He studied at Beijing Film Academy during 2013-2014 and studied at Tianjin University of Science and Technology during 2003-2007 in China. 

He promotes international communication of film culture and international cooperation of film production. He has been working in Joyversal Media Group (Beijing, China) for eight years during 2007-2015. He served as the leader responsible for Beijing International Science and technology Film Festival three times during 2011-2013. He is committed to promoting large-format giant screen movie 3D IMAX, full dome movie international cultural exchange and communication. He invited some international renowned filmmakers such as Elizabeth Daley (Dean of USC Cinematic Arts), Richard Weinberg (Professor of USC Cinematic Arts), Michael Daut (Producer& Director of Evans& Sutherland/ USA), Ed Capelle (Vice President of K2 Communications/ USA), Peter Popp (President & Director of Evans& Sutherland/Germany), and Yves Fortin (Producer& Director /Canada) etc.

His films focus on life. As independent director and producer, the documentary film Life On Earth is the first feature-length documentary created by him in 2015. The film focused on the vast land, people, plants, and small animals, he used simple and calm perspective try to capture and depict the spirit of life. He carved a real world of life that seemingly ordinary, but it is so poetic, sacred and compassion.

Emily Preston

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Emily Preston is a Toronto-based director and cinematographer currently studying at Ryerson University. She worked on the project, Inside Ruffus,   a documentary that premiered at the 2014 Atlanta International Film Festival.

She makes her directorial debut with the award-winning film,  Positions. Alexandra Golden is the artistic director of a small ballet school called Positions. After her early retirement as a second soloist for the National Ballet of Canada, due to joint degeneration in her feet, Alex was forced to discover who she was outside of being a ballerina. Positions presents Alex’s story as a universal one. We often wonder “Who am I?”, but this documentary forces us to ask ourselves “What is my passion?”

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Eric Benson

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Eric Benson graduated from the University of Northern Iowa majoring in Electronic Media Production and Performance and Electronic Media Leadership with a Minor in Journalism. Eric also has a degree in Visual Communication from Hawaii Pacific University. In 2012 Eric founded Bus-Stop Productions, a full service film production company and sanctuary for creative nerds.

Eric served for twelve years in the United States Navy as a Photojournalist and Mass Communications Specialist serving in over 35 countries. His primary service was in Asia and the Middle East and has experience working with various news agencies to include CNN, MSNBC, The Associated Press, and Reuters. During his twelve years of service Eric has learned that wearing a number of hats, has given him an intricate understanding of how visual media appeals to the human experience and enjoys living his life catering to that primal desire.


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Mercedes Kane

Award-Winning Filmmaker


The Award-Winning Breakfast at Ina’s is Mercedes Kane’s third feature length documentary.

Her 2012 film, “Today We Saw the Face of God” screened in film festivals all over the world and took home several awards including the “Best Feature Documentary” at the Illinois International Film Festival. Her award-winning film, “Hearts of Hope” (2009) also screened internationally to critical and audience acclaim.

Mercedes was associate producer on the feature film “Chicago Heights”, named One of the Best Art Films of 2010 by Roger Ebert. She lives in works in Chicago where she makes films and is a part of the creative team at Kindle Communications.


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John Hudgens

Award-Winning Filmmaker


John Hudgens is a award-winning filmmaker, animator, and artist who created several award-winning "Star Wars" parody films and has also worked professionally on such varied licensed properties as "Babylon 5", "Crimson Skies", "MechWarrior", and "Star Wars". 

He's worked for years in local television promotions and production, but it is his freelance efforts through which he's achieved some notoriety in science fiction circles. After doing many science fiction-themed videos for conventions in the late 80s and early 90s, Hudgens made a "Babylon 5" music video as a personal project in 1994 and sent it to show creator J. Michael Straczynski, who turned around and hired Hudgens to continue creating the videos. Straczynski used them in in his convention presentations, and one served as the series' demo reel for the show's move to TNT. They collaborated on eight total over the run of the series. 

John won the Audience Choice Award in Lucasfilm's Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards in both 2003 and 2005 for his parody films "The Jedi Hunter" and "Sith Apprentice". Another parody, "Crazy Watto" (made with "Men in Black" creator Lowell Cunningham) played at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival to help promote the premiere of "Revenge of the Sith".


His current award-winning documentary, Backyard Blockbusters, has been selected by film festivals around the world.  

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Brian Boye

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Growing up in small-town Nebraska, Brian didn’t even know people MADE short independent films until he moved to Kansas City and found himself at an IFCKC meeting one Spring evening in 2003. Since then, he’s gone on to write/direct/produce several award-winning short films in a variety of genres: from documentary to mockumentary, a thriller, several comedies and even two musicals. 

As an award-winning independent filmmaker, Brian Boye has worked almost exclusively in short-form comedic films; but has always had the desire to complete his newest project, the award-winning, Famous Last Words. Its origin began in 2000, when Brian was saying goodbye to a close friend:  "I said,  'I'll see you in a few weeks. I love you, buddy.' And four weeks later Bill disappeared." This was the inspiration for Brian's most ambitious project to date.  See the trailer here.

By day, Brian works in the Promotions Department for Kansas City CBS affiliate, KCTV; and also serves as the Promotion Manager for its sister station, KSMO-tv. His broadcast career as garnered him several state and regional awards, including a 2012 Mid-America EMMY Award.  

In his spare time, Brian his very active in Kansas City's thriving independent film scene, serving several years on the board of the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, including two years as the organization's President.  

Brian is very proud of his latest work and is excited to see what new opportunities it will bring him in the future.

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Corey Bobker

Award-Winning Producer


Corey began his career in talent management representing the likes of Steve Buscemi, Anna Paquin, Thomas Jane, and Chris Cooper at Michael Ovitz’ Artists Management Group. From there, he took his unique skill set and production experience and segued into reality television, serving as producer on such top-rated shows as ABC’s The Bachelor & Celebrity Wife Swap and Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker, among many others.

Along with segueing into reality, Corey Bobker also focuses his attention on telling long form stories, producing the award winning documentary film "American Native" and is in post production on his follow up documentary called “An Accidental Climber." He also produced the Cloris Leachman starrer, "This is Happening," a festival favorite which is currently in it's theatrical run. 


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Michael DiLauro

Award-Winning Filmmaker

A celebrated director and producer of documentaries, television programs, commercials, and corporate productions, Michael DiLauro has earned five Emmy Awards, a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival, and the Gabriel Award for outstanding television programming.

In support of his aims, DiLauro has received major funding from the Bill of Rights Commission, Catholic Communications Campaign, National Italian American Foundation, many state Arts and Humanities Councils, PBS, UNICO and the R.K. Mellon Foundation.

His feature documentary film Prisoners Among Us: Italian American Identity and WWII, chronicles the migration and assimilation of Italians into American culture through WWII. In particular, this film examines “enemy alien” policies that profoundly affected Italian-American identity. The program was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the New York International Film Festival and Montreal Film Festival and has been screened in over seventy venues in the United States and Canada. 

DiLauro’s feature length documentary, La Ma Strada-My Road, the story serves as a metaphor linking the ancient traditions of Italian culture with contemporary Italian American identity. The video was screened at the Palestrina Film Festival in Rome and recently was awarded a Silver Prize at the Media Communications Assocation International Film Festival. The story serves as a metaphor linking the ancient traditions of Italian culture with contemporary Italian Americans. 
http://www.lamiastrada.org

Michael’s latest documentary program, We Built This City: How the Allegheny Conference Remade Pittsburgh, this documentary tells the story of the evolution, the successes, and the struggles of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development as the key engine of positive change in making Pittsburgh America’s most livable city. 

The University of Pittsburgh, for his service to the Italian American community, honored DiLauro with the Italian American Heritage award. In 2011, UNICO (the largest Italian American service organization) awarded DiLauro their Mille Grazie award for cultural contributions to the Italian American community.

DiLauro earned an M.F.A. in Film Studies at Ohio University. Currently he is the Director of the Academic Media Center and Associate Professor of Media Arts at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Karen Audette

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Karen has been in story-telling and visual creative fields for over a decade as a personal biographer, graphic designer, painter and marketing director.

She loves art, crime and a happy ending all of which her award-winning documentary short, The Nike Chariot Earring, possess. See the trailer here

Next film on deck is about the heroin overdose epidemic in a town in Massachusetts and the police chief who’s had enough and is trying something new to combat the rising number of deaths.

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Peter Carolla

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Peter Carolla is an award-winning documentary filmmaker becoming known for his attention to people and cultural phenomena in danger of being forgotten or ignored. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, his experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique led him to documentary film as a means to explore and share thought-provoking stories that deserve an audience.

His short film, The One Who Builds, screened nationally at film festivals and earned Best US/International Documentary Short at Kansas City FilmFest and Best Short Documentary at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival in 2013. Peter’s latest film,

His award-winning, Calling the Cops on Jesus, has screened at Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Cucalorus Film Festival, and Atlanta Docufest. 

Peter is currently the Media Production Specialist at Davidson College and a freelance documentary producer/director.



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Inda Reid

Award-Winning Filmmaker

With a widely diverse career background in film and theatre, award-winning director, Inda Reid  has worked in almost every facet of the film industry from Director to D.P., Cinematographer to Writer: Actor, Musician, Producer and Editor. 

Strongly influenced by the Cinéma Vérité movement, she has adopted the style for her award-winning documentary features, Brotherhood of the Popcorn (2014) and The Making of The Nutcracker (2009). 

Inda has also won awards for her narrative shorts: The Leading Man (2011), and Mormon Boys (2012). Extremely passionate about theatre and the timeless craft of storytelling, Inda studied Shakespeare, British History and period Styles in London, UK on a study abroad scholarship. After receiving a B.S. in History with honors, she completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting and Directing from The University of Arizona, where she won Best Director for her stage production, "From The Mississippi Delta.” In 1999-2001, she was a member of the all-girl band ROXXI, which toured Europe and opened for acts like Destiny's Child and 112.  Due to her diverse experience in (and on) stage and film, Inda has developed the reputation as an actor’s director; she is an effective communicator with a keen sense of story and movement. At the same time, she delivers her ultimate vision with unassuming authority, possessing the innate ability to create magic on a limited budget.

Inda Reid currently works as a writer, director and editor in Ventura, California.  She has many projects in development: one of which is a dramatic musical television series entitled, "Sunday Mornings (2017),” with ex-band mates, Michelle and Maria Acero. She is the founder and CEO of Predator Productions  and is a proud member of SAG/AFTRA, AEA, ASCAP and WGA.

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Roger Weisberg

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Roger Weisberg joined public television station Thirteen/WNET New York in 1976. As a staff producer, he created dozens of programs on a broad range of social, political, and health policy issues. In 1982 Weisberg formed an independent production company, Public Policy Productions. Since then, he has written, produced, and directed 31 documentaries on subjects ranging from health care, aging, and the environment to defense policy, criminal justice, and poverty. These films have been released in theaters, broadcast on PBS and other television networks worldwide, and extensively distributed in the home video  and educational markets. 

Weisberg’s documentaries have won over 150 awards including Peabody, Emmy, and duPont-Columbia awards. Some of his films were cinema vérité style documentaries with no narration. Others were narrated by distinguished journalists like Marvin Kalb and Walter Cronkite as well as prominent actors including Meryl Streep, Helen Hayes, and James Earl Jones. Weisberg received an Academy Award nomination in 2001 for SOUND AND FURY and in 2003 for WHY CAN’T WE BE A FAMILY AGAIN.

One of his latest projects, the award-winning, Dream On can be seen a festivals world-wide.
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Dario Vrbanek

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Dario is a Canadian born filmmaker with a particular interest in social issues. His day job as a high school teacher inspires him to make films that can contribute to positive social change and create a better environment for his students.

Dario is a true “Indie” filmmaker as he funded and crowd-sourced the entirety of his film’s budget.  Let's Talk About Men is Dario’s first film.  Let’s Talk About Men is a film documenting Dario’s journey to discover and unveil the secret realities of men’s lives.  His honest and candid approach to challenging topics with strangers on the street leads men to share moments of tender reflection and previously undiscovered truths.  The film uncovers a world that is seldom discussed, and allows men the permission, for many the first time, to express their truth frankly and without judgement.  The discoveries of Dario’s journey lead him, and can lead any man, from a life of disconnection and isolation to a place of hope and healing.  Men and women everywhere will look at the lives of men differently after watching this important film.


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Ryan Kelley

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Ryan Kelley began his career as a journalist, covering local and national politics.  

His award-winning film Dixie was the result of several years researching and interviewing those associated with America's most controversial song.  

He is currently working on other documentary film projects and writing a book on the history and impact of blackface minstrelsy in American culture.

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Michael Barnett

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Michael Barnett is an Emmy Award winning filmmaker with a history of telling incredibly timely and uplifting stories. Michael utilizes his ability to add humor to even the toughest subject matters while still remaining objective.

Michael has also traveled the world shooting commercials, music videos, promos and television for HBO, Nat Geo, Discovery, BBC – just to name a few – and has lent his creative eye to over twenty feature films and documentaries. Michael’s first full length film, the Emmy nominated documentary “Superheroes” – a chronicle of the real life super hero community – was a breakout hit at the 2011 Slamdance Film Festival where it won the first ever “Theatrical Release Award.” “Superheroes” was quickly bought by HBO Documentary Films and premiered in the summer of 2011. In 2012, Michael created the production company SuperFilms! and immediately went into production on “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” a documentary about the last lion of American liberalism. The film premiered at the 2013 TriBeCa Film Festival to rave reviews and was released theatrically by IFC and Sundance Selects.

In 2015 Michael directed the award-winning "Becoming Bulletproof", an intimate story of a group of filmmakers living with disability and winner of over 18 Best Doc/Grand Jury/Audience Award prizes at film festivals across the nation. "Becoming Bulletproof" was chosen by the US State Department to screen in over 40 countries worldwide as part of the cultural diplomacy outreach program called The American Film Showcase. Michael has partnered with Time Inc. for his next film, "The Mars Generation", a documentary film about the future of space exploration.

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JEREMY SEIFERT

Award-Winning Filmmaker

​Jeremy is an award-winning documentary director, producer, and editor, recently winning Best Documentary at the 24th Environmental Media Award for his film GMO OMG. 


In 2010, Jeremy completed his debut film, DIVE! Living Off America’s Waste. Initially made with a $200 budget, a borrowed camera, and a lot of heart, DIVE! went on to win 22 film festivals worldwide.


Jeremy's second film, GMO OMG, is a journey in search of answers about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and how they affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice. The personal nature of his films find instant connection with viewers and inspire real change both personally and socially. Jeremy has appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher”, “Dr. Oz”, “NPR”, and many other news outlets, to speak about his films and the most pressing environmental issues of our time. Jeremy and his wife, Jen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Finn, Scout, and Pearl.

His new award-winning project, Our Daily Dose, can be seen at festivals around the world.

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Dan Covert
Andre Andreev

Award-Winning Filmmakers


Dress Code is a boutique production company led by founders Dan Covert and Andre Andreev. Dan is from Ohio, Andre is from Bulgaria. They met while studying graphic design at California College of the Arts, where they first began to collaborate. To this day everything they do is filtered through a designed lens. They balance their time doing commercial work and self funded films, intentionally staying small and selective so they can stand behind everything produced and directed by Dress Code.

The duos award-winning film, Plamen, is a deeply moving, unforgettable documentary. In 2013 Plamen Goranov, a 37-year-old construction worker and artist from Varna, Bulgaria set himself on fire as a form of political protest. Plamen (also meaning "flame" in Bulgarian) explores what led the young activist to his protest and ultimately to his death, thus setting a disturbing trend of self-immolations in the EU's poorest country.

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Marc Menish

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Marc Menish is an American filmmaker/educator.  He currently teaches media-related classes in Tokyo. 

His award-winning documentary shot, Bryn, can be seen at film festivals world-wide.

His other docs include: "Dance of the People” which won Best Short Doc at Manchester Intl. Film Festival 2015.

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Kevin Bryce

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Kevin Bryce, an award winning filmmaker, editor, and producer, has directed 2 feature documentaries. His first, We Are Superman, is an award winning film about the racial and economic divide still found in almost every urban area in the United States. Focusing on Kansas City as a case study, Bryce investigated what work is needed to turn a dividing line into a gathering place. 

The award-winning, All These Flowers, is Bryce's second documentary feature. The film tells the emotionally charged story of 6 people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder from across the United States.It digs into their relationships with their spouses, children, parents, counselors, and communities. Watch the trailer here

Bryce has written, directed, and produced countless short films and videos and is currently in production on his third documentary about historical and community trauma.


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TONY VAINUKU

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Tony Vainuku comes from a culture of third world traditions and a family of athletes. He grew up playing sports, but football was the focal point for his community and for Tony throughout much of his youth. For many who share his Polynesian heritage, the sport had become a way of life. After high school, he spent some time in the corporate world before enrolling at Westminster College in Utah to study business marketing for the purpose of learning how to build businesses around his passions of creative directing, writing and filmmaking.

After graduating with a B.S. in Business Marketing, Tony founded a multimedia company called Soulprofile Productions, which specialized in creative directing, video web ads, music production and other promos. In addition, Tony founded and launched the Soulpro brand in 2011: a lifestyle apparel brand built on the philosophy of Passion is Purpose®. In its three years of business, Soulpro has grown across the western United States and been actively involved in collaborating with and promoting hundreds of musicians, artists, athletes and entrepreneurs. 

Everyday, Tony lives his life by the simple philosophy of “get busy living, or get busy dying.”

His award-winning film, co-directed by Erika Cohn, In Football We Trust, can be seen at film festivals across the globe.

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Myles Shank

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Myles Shank began his filmmaking and storytelling career shortly after college by creating several documentaries in countries around the world. 

From the bush of Africa to the bustling streets of Greece, he has found a niche in one-man directing and producing documentaries and short narratives.  After having footage featured on ABC's Shark Tank and premiering four documentaries in packed local theaters, Myles is finally entering work in several festivals around Florida and throughout neighboring cities. 

With a bachelor's in International Business, an MBA, and experience filming and traveling in five continents around the world, Myles is shifting his filmmaking to larger productions in an effort to make media that leaves a lasting positive impact in the world.

His award-winning film, Common Cents, can be seen at festivals world-wide.

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Louie Palu

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Louie Palu is an award winning documentary photographer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in publications, festivals and exhibitions internationally. Some of his awards include a National Magazine Award, Pulitzer Center Grant, Bernard L. Schwartz Fellowship and a Milton Rogovin Fellowship from the Center of Creative Photography. 

Palu’s work has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, BBC, PBS and many others. He is best known for his long-term projects including a 5-year project on Kandahar, Afghanistan, the detention center in Guantanamo Bay and the drug war in Mexico. In 2015 he completed his first feature length documentary film titled Kandahar Journals. 

Well known as a photojournalist for documenting the war in Afghanistan Palu’s work has always blurred the line between journalism and art. His work is held in numerous collections including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston and National Gallery of Canada. He has lectured at universities and academic conferences internationally focusing mostly on the relationship between photography and violence. He is currently working on a documentary film in Ukraine.

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Vic Compher

Award-Winning Filmmaker

After a successful career in social work, Vic began his “encore career” in filmmaking about 12 years ago. "Portraits of Professional CAREgivers:  Their Passion. Their Pain" is Vic's fourth documentary. His other films include: “Treasures of the Elders,” “ Peace of the Elders,” and “I Cannot be Silent” which appeared in a number of festivals.

Vic's documentaries, including CAREgivers,  present the dramatic, personal narratives of people who are making a difference in our world and the films address themes such as creative aging, peacemaking, and the intergenerational sharing of legacies.

His exploration of the subject of secondary trauma in “Portraits of Professional CAREgivers” shows the unknown, vulnerable side of professionals and public servants, who care for traumatized people, e.g. our child protective social workers, first responders, firefighters, police, emergency doctors and nurses, clinical psychologists, and hospice staff—all taking extraordinary emotional and sometimes physical risks, while seeking meaning in their lives and work.


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Ivana Noa

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Ivana Noa is a Flemish kid writer and director. She wrote her first short story at the age of 6. At the age of 9 she won the Belgian kids writing competition “The Wonder Quill”.  At the age of 10 she wrote her first script and worked on her first book.

Ivana directed her first short film in 2014. FEELING TO DIVE AND OTHER STORIES is official selection of a number of International Film Festivals and wins Best narrative short at Williamsburg IFF. 

In 2015, at the age of 12 and together with the release of her second film UNOFFICIAL: JUDO, Ivana Noa wins the Rising Star Award of Chicago International Film Festival. The film wins another three awards: in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, and Williamsburg and is official selection of festivals across the world. 

With her recent short ACTRESS and upcoming INTERVIEW WITH A DIRECTOR, she continues exploring the documentary genre. Her ability to mix different expressive elements in her films such as original poetry and conceptual art is establishing her as a young documentary experimental artist, searching into the interpreted reality.

Ivana Noa has been invited to be a jury member of several International film and theater festivals among which Het Theater Festival, Chicago Children FF, European Youth Film Festival.

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Steven Swirko

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Swirko was born in Germany as the son of an American soldier. In 1988 his family moved to Berlin. After graduating he started working on film sets in several departments, e.g. as 1st assistant director and production assistant.

Swirko then started a vocational training as management assistant in audiovisual media at a television production company. He then started at a TV network in the production department. In 2009, Steven Swirko attended the University of Music and Performing Arts/ Filmacademy Vienna to study film producing and script writing. He produced several award winning short films such as “CHRONOS” (2011), “Ketchup Kid” (2012) and “Salvation” (2012) ,directed the short documentary “Michael S., re-collected” and works as production manager for commercial production companies.


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Ron Davis

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Docutainment Films is a Florida based documentary production company founded by award-winning filmmaker Ron Davis.  In 2008, Ron co-directed and co-produced PAGEANT (2009), a feature length documentary that follows the lives of five female impersonators as they vie for the crown at the 34th annual Miss Gay America Pageant. 

During 2011 and 2012, Ron directed and produced his second film, the HBO Original Documentary Film MISS YOU CAN DO IT. The film chronicled Abbey Curran, Miss Iowa USA 2008 and the first woman with a disability to compete at the Miss USA Pageant, and eight girls with various disabilities as the girls participate in the Miss You Can Do It Pageant. The documentary aired on HBO in 2013.

Ron premiered his current feature documentary HARRY & SNOWMAN at the 2015 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival to rave reviews. The film has garnered seven Best Documentary Audience Awards on the 2015 film festival circuit and will be released theatrically in 2016.

Docutainment Films is currently in development on LIFE IN THE DOGHOUSE, a feature documentary about Danny & Ron’s Rescue, which has saved the lives of more than 7,500 dogs and changed the way the world looks at recuse dogs. Ron is also is also in pre-production on AN INFINITE MIND, which explores the lives of individuals with dissociative identity disorder, a condition previously known as multiple personality disorder.

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Nicky Larkin

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Nicky Larkin was born in Birr, Ireland in 1983. He studied Fine Art in Galway-Mayo I.T. and Chelsea College of Art, London. Working mainly in the medium of film and video-art, he has exhibited widely both at home and internationally.

In 2007 he travelled to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, to shoot the experimental film Pripyat, which went on to screen at numerous international film festivals.

In 2011 he travelled to the Middle East where he directed his first feature length documentary on the Israel-Palestine conflict, funded by The Irish Arts Council Film Project Award.

In addition to his film and video work, he writes a regular opinion column in The Sunday Independent. His written work has also been published by The Jerusalem Post and Allotrope Press.

His second award-winning, feature-length documentary, The Iron Man, was released in October 2014, which follows one man's fight against terminal cancer over the final two years of his life, using cannabinoid oil treatment.  The Iron Man was produced by Niall Cahir of Rain Chill Productions. Larkin also just finished his first drama short, Too Shall Pass. 

He is represented by The Molesworth Gallery, Dublin, and Galeria Strefa A, Krakow.

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Sean Ryon 
Lea Zora Scruggs

Award-Winning Filmmakers

Sean Ryon is a documentary journalist from West Chester, PA. He attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where he co-produced the award-winning short documentary Born Into This with co-director Lea Zora Scruggs. Born Into This was selected to screen at DOC NYC, Denver Film Festival, Brooklyn Film Festival and more. Ryon has shot and produced short documentaries for Fusion, Vocativ, Noisey's "Live From The Streets” and Revolt TV. He is currently a Video Producer for NationSwell.com, a solution-oriented media company based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @seanryon89 and on Instagram @wallysean.

Lea Zora Scruggs is a video producer and reporter from Miami, Florida. To date, she’s produced videos for Quartz, freelanced as a casting producer for Efran Films/The New York Times: Ben & Jerry’s, an associate producer for Tina Brown Live Media’s Women in the World Summits and interned for CNN’s Newsroom and “Black and Latino in America” documentary series. Scruggs received her B.A. from Spelman College and her M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. While at Columbia she served on the boards of the NABJ student chapter and Columbia’s first Women in Media group. She also worked as a video journalist fellow for the Village Voice and produced two award-winning short documentaries, The Harlem Quartet and Born Into This. The later film was co-directed with Sean Ryon, and has since been selected to screen at DOC NYC, Denver Film Festival, The Brooklyn Museum and many more. Starting in December, Scruggs will be working as an Associate Producer for Radical Media on a docu-series about income inequality in America. Follow her on Twitter @LeaScruggs and on Instagram @LeaZora.

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ERIKA COHN

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Producer and Co-Director, Erika Cohn grew up attending the Sundance Film Festival as a native Utahan, where she first began her career. Although her films differ in place and time, her fascination with religion and culture remain a reoccurring theme and her passion for social change the driving factor. In 2008, Erika traveled to Cambodia where she shot “Giant Steps,” a documentary about the reinstitution of art after the Khmer Rouge rule, which aired on PBS. In 2010, Erika associate produced the Frontline/ American Experience series, “God in America,” a six-part historical series on our nation’s relationship between religion and politics. 

Erika has received numerous accolades for her work, including a Director’s Guild of America award for her film, “When the Voices Fade,” a narrative profile of the Lebanese-Israeli war of 2006, and recent admission into the CPB Producer’s Academy. Erika has been a featured panelist/speaker at various film festivals and university conferences regarding independent film financing and mentors youth filmmakers across the globe. She attended Chapman University in CA, where she graduated with degrees in Film Production and Middle Eastern Studies. In addition, Erika is an avid documentary photographer, shooting primarily the lives of women in conflict zones, and serves as a US Ambassadorial Film Scholar to Israel/Palestine. She currently has two films in development through Idle Wild Films, Inc.

Her award-winning film, co-directed by Tony Vainuku, In Football We Trust, can be seen at film festivals across the globe.

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Deborah Sayer 
Melissa Elian

Award-Winning Filmmakers

Deborah Sayer is an award-winning filmmaker, singer, writer, and producer.  Last year, Deborah produced and completed the film Many Scars which won the Spotlight Documentary Film Award and will be featured at festivals across the country in 2016, including the American Documentary Film Festival.

Melissa "Bunni" Elian is a video journalist and photographer based in New York. Melissa's work has been featured in National Geographic, PBS, The New York Daily News, The Daily Beast, The Global Post, and The New York Times.

Deborah met Melissa in a class in NY at the same time she had her idea for her film Many Scars.  Though they graduated more than a decade apart, they realized that they shared the same alma mater.  After viewing one of Melissa's short video-journalism pieces, Deborah knew Melissa had something when it came capturing an impactful moment on camera.  Deborah hired Melissa to be her traveling camera person, production assistant, assistant editor, and essentially her sidekick while she dove head first into the deep waters of creating the Many Scars film.  


Learning while working together that Melissa was as headstrong as herself, Deborah and Melissa butt heads frequently throughout the production and editing process of Many Scars.  Despite the power duo's tumultuous relationship, somehow the friction between the two ultimately resulted in an exceptional end product.  They still remain good friends.  

In the Many Scars film Deborah conceals a debilitating illness from her co-workers, friends, and family for almost a decade. After experiencing multiple miscarriages, she reaches a breaking point and sets out on a journey to find a cure for the incurable. Many Scars is the story of Deborah's journey and the surprising truths she reveals and faces along the way. She persistently counters the accuracy of the questionable MS diagnosis, exploring causative factors, such as the dental industry's repression of the dangers of mercury exposure in "silver fillings," and its connection to chronic illness. Crisscrossing the country, Deborah films her encounters with an eclectic group of people from experts, to activists, to medical hobbyists. 

Facing her fears, and using her own case study as the entry in, it is initially Deborah's crusade to cure herself that drives the film forward, but as she video chronicles her day-to-day attempts to find a cure, the story transcends her own situation to become a symbol to resist the status quo, for others to not give up. 

"There are no such things as incurable, there are only things for which man has not found a cure." 
-Bernard Baruch

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Nick Cavalier

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Nick Cavalier is an award winning director of films, music videos, commercials and branded content. Nick has been creating works for well over 10 years and has been featured in multiple national publications and networks such as MTV, G4, Alternative Press and many more. 

He is more recently known for his award-winning film and character portrait on famed artist Derek Hess titled "Forced Perspective" which was screened and awarded at the Cleveland International Film Festival, SXSW, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Atlanta Docufest, Kingston Film Festival, Indy Film Fest, Reel Indie Film Festival, Blue Whiskey Film Festival and many more.

The film is about the unknown origin story of Derek's art, his struggle with bipolar disorder and alcoholism and how these demons effect his artwork. The film examines the relationship between creativity and mental illness and it's effects on culture.


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Chandler Wild

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Originally from Texas, Chandler has been working extensively in New York  theater and film since 2006.  He holds a degree from The City University of New York in Theatrical and Cinematic Management and Production.

His short doc “Changeover”, which he conceived and produced, followed the last night of 35mm projection at a rural drive-in movie theater and played at over a dozen festivals nationwide including the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival.

The award-winning, “Mount Lawrence”, which marks his feature directing debut, is a feature about his epic 6,708 mile bicycle ride to name a mountain after his father. It has won numerous Best Documentary awards at festivals across the country. Wanting to take the helm in creating quality stories, Chandler teamed up with Scott DelaCruz in late 2012. They began All The Way Around to bring stories to life they believed in.

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Marcos Antonio

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Marcos Antonio was born in Baitoa, a small town in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. He became a laborer at the age of 5 to help support his family of 11. In 1971, the family emigrated to New York and a few years later Marcos Antonio enlisted in the US Army, where he served for six years. He later acquired a business degree and became the owner of a cosmetic line. He sold his successful business in 1994 to dedicate himself entirely to painting, his life long passion.

Marcos Antonio has exhibited his art work on three continents and has spoken about Latin American art at museums and galleries. From 1999 to 2002, Marcos became the director of the Providence Festival of New Latin American Cinema. He is also the founder of the Anthony Quinn Life Achievement Award in Film and the Arts. From 1990 to 2003, he acted as Providence's unofficial ambassador to the Caribbean, and this role, has undertaken humanitarian missions and represented the interests of Rhode Island institutions. In the fall of 2001, Marcos Antonio became Providence's first Director of Hispanic Affairs. In 2009 Marcos Antonio started the global art project Impressions of Humanity.

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Brian Gersten
Liv Dubendorf

Award-Winning Filmmakers


Brian Gersten is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and non-fiction writer from Chicago. Brian previously graduated from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, and subsequently interned at Kartemquin Films. His first job in film was as the outreach coordinator for the award-winning documentary "The Trials of Muhammad Ali". Last year, Brian completed a documentary short entitled "The Amazing Mr. Ash", which has been screened at festivals across the country and overseas.

Liv Dubendorf is a television veteran and documentary filmmaker. Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she left the north to attend Elon University, where she got her B.A. in Media Arts. She worked her way up the production ladder in LA from associate producer to audio supervisor, working some research jobs in between. She's had the pleasure of seeing her documentaries win awards at festivals, including seeing her film "Win or Lose" win the bronze Student Academy Award.

The duo's short documentary, The Hollerin' Contest At Spivey's Corner, can be seen at film festivals world-wide.

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Chad A. Stevens

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Chad A. Stevens is an Emmy-winning filmmaker, editor, journalist and teacher. Before becoming a professor at the University of North Carolina, he was a producer and editor at MediaStorm, where his work focused on a range of topics from PTSD to the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda.

After beginning this project in 2006, the lion’s share of Stevens’ work has centered on environmental documentary. This creative focus intersects with his scholarship in innovative projects ranging in topic from hydraulic fracturing to the BP Gulf oil spill and includes Powering a Nation, an interactive documentary series funded by the Carnegie and Knight Foundations. These efforts have led to many awards,  most notably an Emmy in New Approaches in Documentary for his collaboration in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning project, Caught in the Crossfire. Stevens’ first short, Leveling Appalachia, received the National Magazine Award for Digital Media and has been used in university curricula across the country. Excerpts of the project are featured in the eBook version of Al Gore’s new release, Our Choice, a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth.

His latest award-winning film, Overburden, can be seen at festivals world-wide. ​See More

Dee Hibbert-Jones 
Nomi Talisman

Award-Winning Filmmakers


First time filmmakers Dee Hibbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman have been working together since 2004, collaborating on art, film and interactive projects that look at the ways power structures and politics impact everyday lives. Dee is originally from the U.K., and is an Associate Professor of Art & New Media at UC Santa Cruz; Nomi was born in Israel and is a freelance editor and animator.

The duo's short documentary film, Last Day of Freedom, can be seen at film festivals across the globe. When Bill Babbitt realizes his brother Manny has committed a crime he agonizes over his decision- should he call the police? Last Day of Freedom is a richly animated personal narrative that tells the story of Bill’s decision to stand by his brother, a Veteran returning from war, as he faces criminal charges, racism, and ultimately the death penalty. This film is a portrait of a man at the nexus of the most pressing social issues of our day – veterans’ care, mental health access and criminal justice. 

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Nyasha Kadandara 
Olivia Lace-Evans

Award-Winning Filmmakers


Nyasha Kadandara is a Zimbabwean-born multimedia journalist based in New York. Nyasha’s work has covered a broad spectrum of breaking news, human rights, ethnic communities and sports. She has recently finished production of a short documentary addressing the themes of child abuse and addiction. Nyasha is currently the Columbia Fellow at Al Jazeera English in Doha, Qatar; she will be returning to New York to accept her degree from the Columbia Journalism School documentary program in December, 2015.


Olivia Lace-Evans is a British multimedia journalist specializing in human rights, religious and international reporting. Her work has been featured in publications including the BBC, The Washington Post, The Sunday Times, and The Observer. She is currently completing a fellowship with the BBC in Washington DC, producing stories for World News America and BBC platforms in both the UK and US. Olivia has traveled to over 35 countries, and hopes to use film as a means of discovering untold stories across the world.

The duos latest project, the award winning, Through the Fire, can be seen at film festivals across the world.


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Kurt Neale

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Kurt Neale is a film maker/consultant in Dallas. Kurt manages KFN productions, and Capernaum Inc. a non profit group.

His award-winning film, Compelling Love & Sexual Identity, examines our culture polarized by strong and often differing opinions. How can people connect with those whose beliefs, values, and lifestyles they find offensive? Over the past year, his team traveled the country, posing this question to scores of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. 
Compelling Love & Sexual Identity
is the result of their answers: a thought-provoking and moving feature-length documentary film that captures their personal stories and candid responses. 

Kurt is currently working on another documentary titled 

“Love in Addiction” that will be released in the Fall of 2016.

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Jeffrey M. Togman

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Jeffrey M. Togman is an American filmmaker and political scientist.  Togman’s award-winning documentary We’re Not Blood follows his own search for his birth parents, and explores broader issues of the politics of adoption in the United States. We’re Not Blood had its world premiere at the San Francisco Documentary Festival, and its international premiere at the Portobello Film Festival in London.  We’re Not Blood was an official selection of the Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival, where it won the Best Dramatic Documentary Feature Award. See the trailer for the award-winning film here
Togman’s first film Home tells the story of Sheree Farmer, a mother of six who is trying to leave public housing and buy her own home.  The film had its world premiere at the SilverDocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival (now AFI Docs), where it won a Special Jury Recognition Award.  The New York Times called Home a “marvelously revealing documentary about the psychology of poverty.”  The film aired nationally on the Sundance Channel, and is distributed by Magnolia Pictures and Netflix.  Home has screened at the American Museum of Natural History, Princeton University, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Kyoto University in Japan. 
Togman is a long-time member of the faculty at Seton Hall University, where he is associate professor of political science and film.  His book The Ramparts of Nations is a comparative study of immigration politics in France and the United States over the second half of the twentieth century. After completing his bachelor’s degree at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, Professor Togman did his graduate work at New York University (NYU), where he studied political science, anthropology, and history, and earned a Ph.D. in Politics, as well as a Certificate In Digital Video Production.
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Ted Roach

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Ted Roach is a director, producer, and editor who has been working in the film & digital media industry for almost twenty years. His productions have screened in over 40 film festivals, won many awards, and have been broadcast internationally.
 
Most recently, Ted wrote, directed and edited the feature documentary "120 Days" about an undocumented Mexican family caught up in the throes of US deportation. Official selection of the Austin, Atlanta, Napa Valley, RiverRun, Dances With Films, and St. Louis International Film Festivals (among over 20 others), the film has won 12 festival awards so far. The project was picked up for VOD and broadcast distribution by Gravitas Ventures in late 2015. See the trailer here
 
Roach co-created and served as a producer/editor on the MTV docu-series "Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life" in 2012-2013, and has produced/edited several other award-winning feature documentaries. As a freelance video journalist and editor in Washington, DC between 2008-2012, he created over 100 digital video shorts for organizations such as the National Park Service, NOAA, and the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He has also produced/edited music videos for Ke$ha, Drake White, and Trace Adkins (to be released 2016). His early career was spent in Los Angeles working in varied roles including assistant director, production coordinator, production assistant, and a motion picture talent agent’s assistant at the William Morris Agency.
 
Ted holds an MFA Film degree from American University in Washington DC, where he won the 2011 University Award for Outstanding Graduate Scholarship, and was a national finalist for the 2010 Student Academy Award in Documentary. He has also earned a BA History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a directing/editing certification from the Los Angeles Film School.  See More

AWARD-WINNING documentary 

FILMMAKERS in the spotlight

Jonathan Schwartz

Award-Winning Filmmaker


Jonathan Schwartz is president and filmmaker of Interlock Media, Inc.  His goals are to produce original works in film, video and new media.  He is inspired by the relationship between indigenous peoples and environmental integrity.  Jonathan’s work reaches audiences with dramatic and non-fiction print, television, radio and community-based presentations across the planet.

His latest award-winning project, Faith in the Big House, explores the formulas used by Christian missionaries to convert inmates. At a maximum-security prison farm in Louisiana, a group of Christian evangelicals conduct a carefully scripted religious retreat. Five felons, misfits handpicked by the Warden, join other inmates in this "Encounter with Christ."

Can a gang-banger, a self-styled theologian, a narcissistic rocker, a twitchy jock and a former football phenomenon find redemption? Will the experience change these men?

Can religion keep convicts from almost inevitably returning to lock-up?

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Suree Towfighnia

Award-Winning Filmmaker

Suree Towfighnia is a director, producer, DP, and documentary educator. She directed and co-produced Crying Earth Rise Up (2015), a PBS documentary revealing the impact of uranium mining on the water and people of the Great Plains. Suree previously directed Standing Silent Nation (2007), a PBS documentary chronicling a Native American family's struggle to grow industrial hemp on their sovereign Reservation lands. She began the Lakota Media Project (LMP) in 2003 to train and mentor Lakota girls and women seeking to tell their own documentary stories. Suree has been dedicated to working on social justice documentary and community engagement since 1997.

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