13th Annual NFFTY Jury
Check out the side bar for the jury nominated films in each category!
Story Starts Here
Dustin won his Oscar for best screenplay of Milk. He also worked as a writer for HBO’s Big Love, ABC’s When We Rise, J. Edgar and Pedro. He also has credits as a director and producer for What’s Wrong With Virginia, Prophet’s Prey, 8 The Mormon Proposition, and 8 : A play about the fight for marriage equality. He is also a strong activist for the LGBTQ community. Being vocal with his Academy Awards speech promising marriage equality on a national stage, then shortly forming the non-profit American Foundation For Equal Rights (AFER) with Rob Reiner and Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). With AFER and the assistance of Ted Olsen and David Boies they went to the supreme court of the United States to win the fight for marriage equality. Dustin recently wrote a book titled Mama’s Boy: A Story Of Two Americas, both an autobiography and biography for his mother. Within the pages he discusses his personal life with his family, friends & career, the shaping of his adult life and how his family history impacts his drive to help others.
Rachel is an award winning screenwriter and filmmaker. She recently moved to the Seattle area after 12 years in LA where she worked as a screenwriter, producer and director, and founded the female focused production company Emergence Films. The company now has branches in both the US and London, UK and has a slate of feature films and TV series currently in development including an internationally themed documentary series focusing on female filmmakers around the world.
Rachel’s first feature was “Don’t Pass Me By”, a film she wrote, produced, and starred in. Rachel won Best Feature Writer at the LA Femme Festival for the script, and the film was released worldwide in February of 2014. Rachel also produced and co-wrote the feature film The Storyteller which won the SILVER PRIZE in the Family Film category in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards and was released on Hallmark Movies Now after winning multiple awards in the festival circuit. Rachel made her directorial debut with the short film Half Light and recently completed production on her second directed short, a proof of concept for the feature film Follow the River – a gritty period drama slated to shoot in WA state.
Kathryn graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in Creative Writing, and minors in Russian and Russian Literature, History, and Culture. Her work has appeared in reviews, magazines, journals, and the book Confined Connections. A Memoir of Kindness won a Hopwood Award (2017) and her short script The Adventures of Star Girl and the Marble Roller won NFFTY’s Story Starts Here Best Screenplay competition (2018). She currently works as a screenwriter for It's Not a Phase Mom, LLC. You can learn more about Kathryn on her website: https://www.kathrynorwig.com/
Dee Austin Robertson is an Emmy award winning writer, director, producer and content creator for both the traditional and new the media industry. He has been recognized by the creative industry with awards from NATAS, Digiday and Adweek. In addition, his directing and creative producing work on BuzzFeed and Purina’s DEAR KITTEN has amassed over 120 million views and was turned into a Super Bowl commercial in 2015.
In 2102, Robertson was the second video hire under visionary Ze Frank at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, where he was the founding member and lead of the company’s branded video department. Since then, under Robertson’s leadership, the division has seen massive growth. BuzzFeed’s branded content has been recognized by the YouTube Ad Leaderboard for over 15+ separate branded campaigns, with Webby, Digiday, and many other honors.
Robertson has overseen the creative and physical production of more than 500 pieces of original content ranging from award winning TASTY sponsored short form recipe videos to Executive Producing long form scripted content like PUPPYHOOD which was listed as one of the 20 Most Viral Ads of 2015.
Robertson co-wrote (story) and Executive Produced the divisive feature length film 'The Happytime Murders' starring Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Elizabeth Banks and Joel McHale. The Hollywood Reporter calls it "uproariously funny," The Boston Globe calls it "undeniably hilarious," and Vanity Fair calls it "maybe the worst movie of the year”.
For 16 years, Robertson has written, produced, and directed narrative short films for companies such as Killer Films (Boys Don’t Cry, Far From Heaven) and Darko Entertainment/QC Entertainment (Donnie Darko, Get Out, BlacKkKlansman). He also co-wrote and directed the short film ERIC GOES WEST, which was screened as part of the feature length anthology HOLIDAY ROAD at the Slamdance Film Festival and was recognized on screenwriter John August’s popular blog.
Dee is currently the Executive Creative Director at ATTN:, a digital publisher focused on purpose driven content for brands.
Animation filmmaker Pranay Patwardhan's recent work includes art direction and animation for film, advertising and branding - for Google, Adidas, UNICEF, Amnesty International, Budweiser and Netflix. His short films have been featured by the Vice Creators Project, Vimeo, Fubiz, Design Taxi and screened at the Seattle International Film Festival, Clermont Ferrand (France), TBS Digicon (Tokyo), Mumbai International Film Festival (India), VH1 Sound Nation (India) and ITFS (Stuttgart), winning a bunch of accolades along the way. A self proclaimed food enthusiast, he's passionate about art, music and sport. Enjoys taking short naps, cycling, reading and collecting records, often all at the same time.
Filmmaker/Artist Amos Sussigan started his professional career working as the youngest official correspondent for Warner Brothers and Fox in his native Switzerland. At the young age of 22, his first and widely praised book The Chocolate Oscar - which sold out three times -- was published by the prestigious Swiss publishing house Armando Dadò Editore. Amos has been repeatedly recognized and awarded for his creative works, such as writing and directing the animated shorts Broken Wing (2012) and Swan Cake (2013). His films have been screened at more than 40 International Film Festivals all around the globe, including 6 major Academy Award Qualifiers. In 2015, Amos was hired by Walt Disney Animation Studios veteran executive Dan Lund (Aladdin, The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules and Mulan, Frozen) to art direct and co-produce Aria For A Cow (2015)- one of the last songs of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast & The Little Mermaid). The animated short film was produced by Connie Nartonis Thompson, an Associate Producer for Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. After working at Paramount Pictures in the Animation Department, Amos is now a Visual Development Artist for Ryan Coogler's Space Jam 2 at Warner Brothers. His other notable accomplishments are working for several major studios and media conglomerates including The Walt Disney Company (Ducktales), Fox, DreamWorks Animation (Where’s Waldo) and Netflix (Green Eggs and Ham). Further, he continues to work as a freelance director for artists such as Joe Brooks, Tammin Sursok (Pretty Little Liars), Caleb Hyles, Sinplus, and Luca Hänni.
Ken Tsui is a curator and the producer at The Vancouver International Film Festival's Films+ department, providing strategic, creative and production oversight for 16 days of conferences, talks, keynotes, concerts, exhibitions and special events. The prerogative of Films+ is public and industry initiatives that expand discourse and challenge expectations of screen-based media in a film festival environment. Subject matter initiatives in my purview include traditional cinema, television, VR/AR, live performance and music in film.
Ryan Kane is the Manager of Distribution at GKIDS. Having grown up in Maryland and New Jersey, he moved to New York City to attend the Film program at School of Visual Arts. At GKIDS, he has helped release five Academy Award®-nominees to North American audiences, including Claude Barras’s My Life as a Zucchini, Nora Twomey's The Breadwinner, and most recently Mamoru Hosoda's Mirai.
After a bad accident where he was forced to contemplate life, Romain decided he would pursue a journey worth living. Since then, he published his children’s book communicating climate change to younger audiences, traveled the world with Unreasonable at Sea, a social entrepreneurship accelerator on a ship, helping 9 ventures scale globally, and helped build Watson University, a new university model for 25 of the world’s most promising next generation leaders, as Vice President. Romain is now founder of Pathos Labs, a non-profit laboratory focused on finding ways that technology and media can most effectively dismantle hatred, and create understanding and compassion across lines of difference. He’s an been featured in the new books “2 Billion Under 20” and “Compassionate Careers,” has spoken internationally, including on the big red dot, and was voluntarily homeless in the streets of Scandinavia to train his mental resilience and to test the dogma that “need is the mother of all invention.”
After working as a branded-content and TV commercial producer in his native Switzerland, Jean de Meuron interned at several major media conglomerates, as well as Hollywood studios such as MTV Networks, Viacom, Paramount Pictures, The Weinstein Company, Universal Pictures and MGM. After attending USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Summer Program, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from The New School in New York, NY. He was honored with Outstanding Academic Achievement for his consistency on the Dean’s List. Upon graduation, Jean commenced his professional career working for prolific Emmy, Grammy, OSCAR®, Golden Globe and Tony Award-winning producer Scott Rudin. His first film credit was Associate Producer for CINEMAsuisse: Marc Forster (2012), a documentary short subject about Hollywood director Marc Forster. Serving as Executive Producer, Jean’s short film, La femme et le TGV (2016), starring Jane Birkin in the leading role, premiered at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival in the pardi di domani section. The short was further recognized with an OSCAR® nomination at the 89th Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short Film. Jean’s next short film, The Suitcase (2017), for which he served as the Executive Producer, premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. The film also made the Shortlist for the 2017 BAFTA Student Film Awards in the Live Action category. Jean’s latest film he produced, Megan (2018), an ambitious sci-fi proof of concept, received widespread critical acclaim, global press coverage and festival accolades. Several media publications such as The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly, Empire, /Film and IndieWire reported on the short. Megan won Best International Sci-Fi Short at the 2018 London International Short Film Festival and went viral online, surpassing 1.2M Views on YouTube. In 2019, Megan was honored with the renowned Telly Award (SILVER WINNER 40th Annual Telly Awards) in the Online Category: General-Viral. The short also won Best Sci-Fi at the 2019 Los Angeles Film Awards and 2019 New York Film Awards. Most recently, Jean worked on Haven – Above Sky, his first feature film, for which Constantin Film is the studio and Roland Emmerich the Executive Producer. Since 2019, Jean is a Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch.
As Associate Director of Programming of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), Curtis Woloschuk manages VIFF’s programming team and its activities. Leading VIFF’s Canadian film programming, he also coordinates the adjudication of nine awards. In addition to managing the festivals' scheduling, he supervises the creation of all programming-related content for VIFF’s website and guide.
A.M. Lukas (formerly Anna Martemucci) debuted as a writer-director with Hollidaysburg. Recently named #11 on Rotten Tomatoes' "20 Best Thanksgiving Movies of All Time" list, the film was embraced by critics, the LA Times calling it "Smart, warm, and authentic, one of the better youth comedies of the last few years." Her most recent film is the award-winning One Cambodian Family Please for My Pleasure, which stars Emily Mortimer, played the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, and has been viewed online and around the world over a million times.
Laura Fuest Silva, is a veteran executive producer in the unscripted television genre and currently Vice President, Alternative Programming at CBS. In this role, she is responsible for current projects such as THE AMAZING RACE and UNDERCOVER BOSS as well as launching new series such as the summer hit LOVE ISLAND. She also works on the development of new alternative projects for the Network. Silva has produced hundreds of hours of alternative programming for broadcast and cable television, launching and serving as Executive Producer of series such as “America’s Next Top Model,” “Pit Boss” “Rap Game,” “The Pussycat Dolls Present” and “Hunted.” She began her career producing a variety of documentary series and specials for NBC, Fox, Discovery Channel and Lifetime. Silva went on develop and launch several series for multiple cable outlets and has produced several hidden camera shows, including “Totally Hidden Video” and “Celebrity Undercover.” Other major series include “The Mole,” “Beauty and the Geek” and she was a creator and executive-producer of “The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best” which starred Sir Richard Branson. Silva graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois with bachelor’s degrees in TV/Film Production and Economics, and is a member of the Director’s Guild of America.
Larry Hryb, also known by his Xbox Live gamertag Major Nelson, is the Director of Programming for the Microsoft gaming network Xbox Live. Prior to taking the position at Microsoft in 2004, he was a former programmer and on air host with radio broadcaster Clear Channel Communications. Hryb graduated from Syracuse University in 1989 with a degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a minor in Education.
Matthew Law is a director, writer, cinematographer and actor originally from Seattle. Under the tutelage of Mr. Lawrence, his teacher at Ballard High School, his short films as a teenager found success as official selections at international film festivals, including NFFTY. After graduating from Loyola Marymount University's School of Film and Television with honors, he started his own production company in Los Angeles along with his classmate named Matthew Thompson (another NFFTY alum), they settled on simply calling their company: The Matts Productions.
For in front of the camera, Matthew just wrapped filming in Atlanta as a lead in the show The Oval, premiering on BET in October. You can also catch him as Agent Julian on Agents of Shield on ABC. Behind the camera, a low-budget feature he served as cinematographer on, named Debunkers Inc. is also now available on major streaming platforms.
Garrett Kennell is the creative director for Michelle Khare’s YouTube Channel with over 100 million video views and 1.5 million subscribers. During his collegiate years, Garrett worked closely with Oscar-nominated producer Chris Moore (‘Goodwill Hunting’, ‘Manchester by the Sea’) and was hired out of college to shoot, write and direct for several of his documentary projects.
Since then, Garrett has directed everything from choreographed fight scenes with the Marvel stunt team to numerous award-winning short films. Because his Dungeons and Dragons obsession doesn’t quite pay the bills, he has also directed content for brands like NASA, The US Marine Corps, Chevrolet, Target, HBO Max, and more.
Mette Norkjaer is the Creative Executive at BOOM! Studios, a production company and publisher with a First Look deal with 20th Century Fox. BOOM! Studios controls the largest library of comic book IP outside of Marvel and DC Comics. BOOM! is currently developing multiple projects for film and TV including, GOLDIE VANCE with Rashida Jones attached to write and direct, LAST SONS OF AMERICA, the Eisner award winning LUMBERJANES, IMAGINE AGENTS, and many more. Mette earned her MFA from the prestigious Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts in 2016. She is originally from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Jesse Harris founded NFFTY back in 2007 at the age of 21. He went on to run the festival as Executive Director and then Artistic Director until 2014. Under his leadership the festival grew from a one night event to a massive globally recognized film event and the premier film festival for young filmmakers. Variety named Jesse one of 25 talents who transformed youth entertainment and was named one of City Arts Magazine’s Top 50 Culture Makers. Jesse is also an accomplished filmmaker himself, having made his first feature at age 17. Jesse now directs commercials around the world and is working on his next feature film to be shot in early 2020.
Gigi Saul Guerrero is a Mexican director and actress living in Vancouver Canada, she's described by Variety as part of the new wave of Latino talent. She has been praised as one of the top, emerging directors in the horror genre by Empire, Dread Central, and Bloody Disgusting. Guerrero completed her feature film debut "Culture Shock" for Blumhouse Production's "Into The Dark" anthology series for Hulu. She is also a directing instructor at the prestigious Vancouver Film School. In her mid 20's Guerrero became one of the co-founders of award winning production company "Luchagore Productions".
Shortly after relocating to the Pacific Northwest, Nesib CB Shamah attended the Seattle Film Institute and fell in love with the process of film production and development. Years later, while leading the renovation of the historic Columbia City Theater music venue, CB produced and directed over 25 live music shoots, the music web series Destination Unknown and the Emmy-nominated documentary Welcome To Doe Bay. CB also co-directed the dark comedy Worst Laid Plans, was producer of the short films Haskell and Mehndi, as well as the 2017 SXSW feature Lane 1974. In 2019, CB was awarded the Seattle Mayor's Award for Achievement in Film at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Noel has been the Director of the BFI Future Film Festival since 2008. Now approaching its 13th year the BFI Future Film Festival is the biggest and most important film festival for young filmmakers in the UK. Alongside this Noel also runs the BFI London Film Festival Education Programme, the BFI Flare Education programme, and monthly BFI Future Film Lab events at BFI Southbank in London, whilst supporting and producing independent short films with emerging young talent.
Anna Proulx is currently the Director of Admissions for the American Film Institute Conservatory, a top ranked masters film program. She has an extensive background in both arts and higher education management. Previously, Anna Proulx managed the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, creatively supporting and working with international and domestic documentary filmmakers. She has continued to find, develop and support future storytellers now through education at both Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and TV and now at AFI’s Conservatory.
Leah is an award winning producer and director that seeks out powerful character-driven personal stories told in unexpected ways.
Leah was named Variety Magazine's "110 Students to Watch" in 2015 for co-directing a short called The Provider that won Best Documentary at NFFTY 2015 as well as being nominated for a Student Emmy. Leah's latest documentary Death Metal Grandma premiered at SXSW 2018, earned a Vimeo Staff Pick and landed on NY Times Op Docs also won best documentary at the Cannes 2019 Emerging Filmmaker Showcase. She is in production on a feature documentary about an abortion clinic on the U.S/Mexico border that is supported by the Tribeca Film Institute, Film Independent and Sundance Institute.
Ward Serrill is the award-winning director of The Heart of the Game, released by Miramax to wide critical acclaim. He has created more than ninety short films including Building One House with Robert Redford and Wild America with Sissy Spacek. He wrote and directed Something in the Water for PBS and the feature documentary Song of the New Earth as well as TreeStory, a series of short films designed to inspire our relationship to trees. His current feature, The Bowmakers was released in late 2019.
Sean Kusanagi, began his career in documentary filmmaking focused on immersive storytelling. Alongside his two feature films on Netflix, Sean has worked with Apple, RYOT, Living on One, Lionsgate, and was nominated for the Tribeca X award for his short documentary, Wasfia. Sean’s background in storytelling eventually led him to work alongside ODESZA, creative directing live shows, documentary video content, and music videos. His latest work on ODESZA’s “A Moment Apart tour” has been called "an immersive and trademark cinematic experience”
Kevin Klauber, ACE (b.1986) is a film editor and writer most known for editing two Oscar®-winning documentaries: “20 Feet From Stardom” and "Icarus." Kevin's editorial debut, “Pearl Jam Twenty”, came under the direction of Academy Award®-winner Cameron Crowe. Since then, he's edited numerous non-fiction series and feature documentaries, including the 2016 Oscar®-nominated documentary “Winter On Fire” (Netflix), “Cobain: Montage of Heck”(HBO), “Crossfire Hurricane” (HBO), “Beauty is Embarrassing”, (Tremolo Productions), “Harmontown” (BRKLY), “Chicken People” (Samuel & Goldwyn), and "Ugly Delicious" (Netflix). In 2012, the American Cinema Editors (ACE) awarded Kevin an Eddie Award for “20 Feet From Stardom.” He attended USC School of Cinematic Arts for undergraduate work and Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School for everything else. Kevin is also a NFFTY Alumnus (‘08).
Sigal Bujman was born in a Kibbutz in Israel. She has been living in the US since 2002. Sigal has been a director, writer, and producer for over two decades. Her Second World War documentary, Vitch, participated in twenty film festivals and dozens special screenings around the world. The world tour of Vitch will end this coming Spring at the Jewish History and Art museum in Paris. She also wrote Vitch, the movie’s accompanying book. She co-created and directed the 36-part cultural-travel series ‘Fantastic Festivals of the World’ for the Discovery Channel. Created the political documentary “ Haifa – the Silenced Voices”, the historic story “Koxinga – A Heroes Legacy” for National Geographic, and environmental bio “Papa Boss” that aired on PBS. Sigal founded a film department at Ramot Hefer high school in Israel and taught there for four years. Sigal lives with her two kids in Seattle. She is currently a content producer, for a media company, Art Culinaire.
Alex Johnston is an award-winning documentarian, media maker and scholar, based in Seattle, Washington. His work has screened at a wide range of venues, including the Berlinale, IndieLisboa, London Short Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, and the Miners' Colfax Medical Center, a convalescent home for retired hard rock and coal miners in Raton, New Mexico. He is the managing editor of the radical online media journal NOW! A Journal of Urgent Praxis, (NOW-Journal.com) and is an assistant professor of film at Seattle University. You can see some of his work here: http://www.aljiers.net/
Rocio Mesa is the director of LA OLA - Independent Films From Spain, a showcase of the best contemporary Spanish cinema in Los Angeles (American Cinematheque), New York (Anthology Film Archives) and Mexico City (Cineteca Nacional). Mesa works as a freelance film programmer; she has been an Associate Programmer for the LA Film Festival, a co-programmer for Art House Theater Day and has collaborated with independent theaters like the Echo Park Film Center or Now Instant Image Hall. Mesa premiered her first feature film as a director in 2013, ‘Orensanz’, nominated for Best Andalusian Documentary at the ASECAN Awards and selected on international festivals like Seville European Film Festival, BAFICI or Alcances. She is currently working on her next feature project as a writer/director called ‘Secaderos’ (‘Tobacco Barns’), selected by the Faliro House Sundance Screenwriters LAB. Mesa is also a producer and post-producer with years of experience in the field. She was named by Variety Magazine as one of the top 10 “Spanish Women Rising in the Film Business.”
Sindha Agha is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker who has quickly made a name for herself by creating viral digital pieces with distinct & vibrant visuals. Sindha kicked off her career by writing & directing "Birth Control Your Own Adventure," a tragicomic short acquired by The New York Times. "Birth Control" quickly reached 12.5 million organic Facebook views and was nominated for a 2019 News & Documentary Emmy. The film was also accepted into Tribeca and Palm Springs Film Festivals as a part of their official selection.
Sindha has since been awarded two separate Sundance Institute Fellowships, directed two seasons of her critically-acclaimed series “Body Language” for BBC Three, contributed to Radiolab, published work in The Atlantic and been nominated for “Video of the Year” by the Society of Publication Designers.
Jocelyn R.C. is coincidentally one of the three co-founders of NFFTY from over a decade ago, alongside Jesse and Kyle, and she's thrilled to be able to help jury the Experimental category this year. In the 12-ish years since her active involvement with NFFTY, she's worked and lived in Los Angeles (film industry), San Francisco (VR tech market), New York City (advertising world), and recently relocated back to her stomping grounds of Seattle where she's working as a Creative Director in T-Mobile's brand studio. A lifelong supporter and participant of filmmaking, she's excited to be local for this year's festival.