2017 GRAND JURORS
JoMarie Payton hails from Albany, Georgia. Her father, Driscoll Payton, was a construction worker and mother, Frankie Bell Payton, was a maid. They moved to the Miami suburb of Opa-Locka, Florida in 1950. JoMarie was the second of nine children.
JoMarie's first performance on stage was at the tender age of six years old. After high school, she attended Albany State University. Following graduation, JoMarie left for California to join the national touring company of the musical "Purlie" which starred Robert Guillaume. JoMarie finally got her big break playing Harriet Winslow in the sitcom Perfect Strangers. Audiences enjoyed her character so much that a spin-off was created a couple years later that focused on the Winslow family. Family Matters (1989) became a hit.
Payton is a human rights activist and a four time NAACP Image Award nominee. In honor of her mother, she started the Frankie Payton Scholarship Fund at Albany State College. She has been married four times and has one daughter, Chantale France.
Jane Merrow is a classically trained, Golden Globe nominated actress turned producer. After training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Jane had variety of TV and film roles in TV, which led to starring roles in movies such as Hands of the Ripper opposite Eric Porter, The Night of the Big Heat opposite Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, culminating in the role of ‘Alais’ in The Lion in Winter, co- starring with Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actress.
In 1995 Jane turned her hand to producing and was Co-Executive Producer with Edward Windsor (Prince Edward) in Ardent Productions' The Cater Street Hangman, from the book by Anne Perry. She also developed The Face of a Stranger from the book by Anne Perry, with a screenplay by Julian Fellowes.
2017 Jane now resides in Boise, Idaho, with her family. She recently returned from the UK where she played Lady Macbeth in the Production of Macbeth at the Groundlings Theatre. Jane is currently in development on a new motion picture Reunion, from the play, which had a successful run in London’s West End.
Gill has worked on over 100 films, many award-winning, including being the first producer ever to have a film win three prizes at Sundance. He was nominated for the Spirit Award for Producer of the Year. He also runs sonaBLAST! Records and is a community building, creative entrepreneur in Louisville, KY.
2016 CATEGORY JURORS
Asher understand this as the compulsive rhythm of the universe we all live in, and identify this classical tragic insight, tragic vision. He is deeply interested in identifying affliction all human beings encounter, tracing the unique and often surprising ways it can dramatically unfold. Asher is a director who has created music videos, branded content, short films, television shows, and documentaries around the globe.
MARTIN SHORE (Director/Producer/Writer) began his entertainment career at fourteen as a PA for his brother’s award winning 1977 film PUNKING OUT. As a musician Mr. Shore has toured with Bo Diddley, Albert Collins, Bluesman Willie, and many others. He has produced soundtracks and has acted as music supervisor for a number of feature films, including SAW, SAW II, RIZE, and ROCK SCHOOL, among others. He is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Sciences (Grammy Awards) and the Producers Guild of America
As a feature film producer, Shore’s films have been featured in many international film festivals around the world, including Cannes, Tribeca, Sundance, South By Southwest, and the Los Angeles Film Festival. A partial list of his credits as film producer include: Michael Cuesta’s TELL TALE (2009), starring Josh Lucas, and DARK TIDE (2012), starring Halle Berry. Shore recently partnered with Academy Award®-winning visual pioneer John Gaeta to form Float Hybrid Entertainment. Float helped develop Kinect and was Microsoft's only third party developer and now sits on the Kinect board at Microsoft.
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER, which played at Macon in 2015, is Mr. Shore's award winning directorial debut.
J. Elvis Weinstein
J. Elvis Weinstein directed the Macon Film Festival 2015 Best in Show award winning film “Michael Des Barres: Who Do You Want Me To Be?” He is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota where he began a career as a stand-up comedian at age 15 and at 17 was one of the co-founders of the TV show “Mystery Science Theater 3000” performing the role of Tom Servo. Currently living in Los Angeles, J. Elvis has spent many years as a TV writer/producer on numerous shows including “Freaks and Geeks” and “AFV”. He is currently wrapping post-production on his next feature documentary about stand-up comedy in Asia.
Eugene Geno Brannon
Eugene “Geno” Brannon is a freelance entertainment professional based out of Atlanta, Ga. At a young age, Mr. Brannon always knew he wanted to work in the entertainment business. This dream led him to Savannah State University’s Mass Communication program and Full Sail University’s Masters of Entertainment Business program. Geno has over five years of production experience and has been blessed to travel the country, as well as abroad, to work on projects for ABC, NBC, CBS, BET, VH1 and TV One. When he isn’t working on set or working in the community, he can be found helping out with his family’s BBQ catering company, Nabo’s Food Services, located in Conyers, Ga.
After graduate work in Rome, Italy, Victor started his career under contract at 20th Century Fox Studios in Beverly Hills, CA., as a screenwriter where he wrote the original screenplay, "VOICE OF THE NORTH END” for famed Director, Martin Ritt. “Hundreds” of Film and Television projects then followed as Writer, Producer and Director. (See: “*Additional Background” Highlights below.) In 1990, Victor met and married Judy Belushi, widow of John Belushi. They, together with actor Dan Aykroyd, were involved in the formation and development of an entertainment restaurant/venue called, The House of Blues. http://www.HouseOfBlues.com In 2007, the House of Blues was sold to Live Nation Entertainment for more than $550 million. Victor still owns the House of Blues territorial rights to Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard. For 20 years, Victor was also the lead negotiator for setting up many additional royalty streams and sub-licensing agreements for the Blues Brothers Intellectual Property rights on behalf of Mr. Aykroyd and Judy Belushi Pisano. Victor has spent much of the last five years lecturing on Intellectual Property and Performing Arts at seminars, colleges, universities and on the lecture circuit while creating and developing the worldwide launch of a new entertainment restaurant/venue called, The BluCaratTM. He also continues to write and to produce extensively.
Mil Cannon has put his signature as an image-maker on Usher, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carrey, Whitney, Puffy, TLC, Pink, Collective Soul, Toni Braxton, Outkast, American Idol and fortune 500’s like Coca-Cola, IBM, McDonald's, BellSouth, NFL, HGTV, MLB, DIY, Fine Living, Direct TV, NASCAR, to name a few. Cannon also designed the inter-active stage performances for Usher's MTV performance, World Music performance, the Billboard Music Awards and the 2005 Grammy Awards. As Director, Cinematographer, Editor and accomplished Photographer, Mil is comfortable in the role of Auteur. At 17, Mil won the coveted “Excellence in News Film”, signifying Georgia’s top news cameraman, the youngest recipient to receive this prestigious industry nod. The 1996 Olympic Games lured Mil to Atlanta. Coca-Cola signed Mil to an extensive Olympic contract with a primary focus on Coca-Cola's Olympic image. Cannon's contribution included the award-winning Olympic torch film '"Reach Higher", the anthem from Gloria Estefan as well as the Celine Dion pre-opening feature entitled "Power of the Dream." Mil delivers art through film, video, and photography. He is a turnkey talent and his clients rely on him from conception to completion. Mil's work is a reflection of his life - the consummate talent who looks through a lens everyday and decides how to make something extraordinary happen.
Brandon is originally from Jefferson, GA. Currently, he works as a photographer for WSMV-TV in Nashville, TN. Brandon has extensive freelance experience including working as a video playback operator for AOL / Autoblog for the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, camera operator for several MotoAmerica motorcycle races, EVS replay operator for Eurosport's coverage of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in Sonoma, and Director of Photography for several short films and music videos.
Brandon's work has appeared in many outlets including ESPN, ABC, SportsCenter, HBO's OutFest in Los Angeles, USA Today's website, and the B-52's Facebook page to name a few.Brandon is a graduate of the University of Georgia, with a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism, a Film Studies minor, and New Media certificate
Joshua has written, produced, and directed numerous short films, including Dawn, which has been screened at several film festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival and the Macon Film Festival. In 2012, Joshua moved to Austin, Texas, where he co-founded Giant Step Films, a documentary production company. Since then, he has gone on to produce the short documentary film Elias, and feature-length documentary The Great Journey. OP-ID, his second feature film, is currently in production.
David Smith is an award winning filmmaker, writer and photographer. He is happy to be a juror at this year's Macon Film Festival, where his short film, TAKE ONE TABLET, was an official selection in the 2011. His work in commercial video production has earned him two corporate top-honor awards from KINKO's and The Bridgestone Group, as well as three Telly Awards for his work with the Tennessee Center for Child Welfare. Also, his photographs have most recently appeared in the Local Color Exhibit as part of the 2013 Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival. He is currently an Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of North Georgia and enjoys taking photographs while hiking with his wife and twin daughters.
David is a veteran filmmaker and graphic designer who has worked on numerous projects including feature films and motion design work for the World Cup. David studied film and television at the University of North Texas before he went on to pursue film editing studies in Los Angeles.
David has been in video and film production since 2000. He is a co-founder of Pilot Moon Films, a production company specializing in music videos, commercials, and marketing and mini-documentary videos for companies and organizations. He is also co-founder of Et Cultura, a film, music, and art festival in St. Petersburg, FL.
Joel Malizia is co-founder of a full service production company in St. Pete with David Allison. Joel spent most of his early adulthood working as a professional musician and carpenter, which led to him building sets for HSN, where he learned about the many facets of the production process. During this time, he created and shot short films, which experienced success at national and international film festivals. Joel met David in 2011. Their love for music based content and storytelling quickly helped them build a reputation locally and nationally.
In 2014, SXSW hired them to work on the Pro Media Team providing coverage for the festival. They have decided to take their experience and their love for the arts one step further by co-founding a brand new festival in St. Pete called Et Cultura (And Culture).
Laura is a Journalist-In-Residence and Visiting Assistant Professor at Mercer University’s Center For Collaborative Journalism in Macon, Georgia. She is an award-winning Photojournalist who earned a Master’s degree in Visual Journalism from Kent State University. Fong was named the Walton D. Clarke Fellow at WKSU radio, the NPR affiliate in Kent, Ohio. Currently she teaches classes in Photojournalism, International Storytelling, and and Video Production at Mercer and she continues to teach an online multimedia class for Kent State’s College of Digital Sciences; and raising her 10 year old daughter, Lily.
Ryan graduated with a master’s degree in communications with a focus in journalism and electronic media from the University of Tennessee. He then accepted a teaching position at Georgia Southern University where he taught communication and film courses. Ryan went on to work for the City of Savannah Tourism and Film Department working as the city's location specialist for three years. Ryan has produced, managed and coordinated various film and television projects both nationally and internationally including Untouched and Desires of the Heart to name a few. He recently branched out his production services to include the New Orleans area where he's currently coordinating for BBC’s Asian Provocateur as well as working as a project manager for The Olinger Group.
Amor Owens grew up in the entertainment world with her mother performing on stage and television in the Philippines. She began her own work in the film industry when Whitestone Motion Pictures asked her to costume The Candy Shop, a short film produced to raise awareness about human trafficking in Atlanta. With her passion to use the art of storytelling as a medium for positive social change, she has been involved in film, television, and theater since 2010, having worked in line production, casting, art direction, and costume. She studied acting and writing at Second City in Chicago and at the Yale Summer Conservatory and now works as full time actress. Amor also supports arts education through volunteer work at the Metropolitan Atlanta Theater, the Aurora Theater, and the Woodruff Arts Center. http://www.imdb.me/amorowens
Joe Finkelstein has been a teacher in the Bibb County School System for the past 15 years. He has a Broadcast Journalism degree from the University of Georgia and a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from Georgia College and State University. Joe will be entering his 4th year as Audio, Video and Film Instructor at Hutchings College and Career Academy. His video students have achieved success in many different student video and film competitions. This past March, his students won 1st place in the State of Georgia for a SkillsUSA Recruitment Video. Joe loves to spend time with his family. He recently celebrated his 25th anniversary with his wife Ellen and has two sons. Will completed his Junior Year at GA Tech and Jack completed his Junior Year at Central H.S. Joe can also be “heard” all over town as he is a Public Address Announcer handling several different sports at Mercer University and Central Georgia Tech.