2018 GRAND JURORS

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.

Beth Nelson

Beth Nelson, AFCI Certified Film Commissioner, is the Executive Director of the Savannah Area Film Office.  She promotes the Savannah area to the entertainment industry, serving as a liaison between film companies and local municipalities, providing assistance to production companies filming in the area, and supporting local crew and businesses.  She has worked as a location manager for film, television and commercials, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the entertainment industry. She holds a Master of Education degree from Armstrong State University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Georgia.  Beth served on the Savannah Film Commission from 2012-2016 and is a founding member of Savannah Women in Film and Television. She is a member of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Commission and Savannah State University’s Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board.

Kai C. Walker

Hailing from the Midwest, Kai C. Walker was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan.  In 1998, she received a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunication and Film from Eastern Michigan University, in 2002 she earned a Master Fine Arts in Film and Video from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her credentials include: It Is Well the biographical documentary about civil rights activist Rev. Dr. Bennie R. Mitchell, Jr.; the film short Lonnie’s Cousin for which received a Creative Independent Achievement Award; and the short film The Duet which was recognized as the Best of Show. Her other works include participating on the live sound stage recording of the Grammy Award Winning CD, Dianne Reeves LIVE.

Kai began her career as a tenured faculty member in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Savannah State University. In 2008, she co-produced the documentary From West Broad Street to MLK, Jr. Blvd for the National Black Programming Consortium.  Later that same year, she traveled to Africa and taught an exchange course at the 6th of October University. In 2010, Walker began working on the documentary entitled It Is Well. In 2015 she produced an award-winning segment for LifeLink of Georgia. In 2016, while participating with the Quality Enhancement Program/The Write Attitude at SSU, Kai had the honor of conducting an interview with former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, and would later join Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, for a Q&A dinner.

Kai is a member of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, and the University Film and Video Association.  She considers herself truly fortunate to serve as a university professor and still be able to pursue her passion of filmmaking.

music/georgia made

Sean Pritchard

 A former resident of Macon from 1999-2015, Sean currently resides in Nashville, TN with his wonderful partner, Emma, and their dog, Billie, and is attending Belmont University to earn his undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies/Music Business. Prior to his better-late-than-never approach to academics, Sean played an active role in Middle Georgia’s cultural growth, specifically in live music, through work with The Blue Indian, Bragg Jam, Cherry Blossom Festival, Rock Candy Entertainment Group and numerous other organizations and companies. In 2015, Sean became the youngest recipient of Macon Arts Alliance’s Cultural Award. He currently serves as the Entertainment Co-Chair for Bragg Jam and is always looking for ways to stay involved in all that Middle Georgia has to offer, even if it just means reading Field Note Stenographers. Sean is constantly missing IVP. 

Ryan Watterson

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

Mil Cannon

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.

NARRATIVE FEATURE

Jody Schiesser

Jody Schiesser is responsible for the award-winning short films The Street Cleaner, You Are Beautiful, and Antigone’s Song. He directs, serves as Assistant Director, produces, and scouts/manages locations for film and television, and his body of work includes feature films like Crackerjack, Untouched, Four Senses, Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, Christine, Magic Mike XXL, Adam Sandler’s The Do-Over, and most recently Daisy Winters. His movies have gone on to win awards and play at festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival and his films have been selected three times for the Macon Film Festival. He works for studios and networks such as Tyler Perry Studios, the Style Network, the Travel Channel, the History Channel, Warner Bros., Netflix, and Amazon Studios. He has collaborated with Oscar-winning directors and cinematographers including Steven Soderbergh and Dean Semler, and actors ranging from the undiscovered to name talent such as Adam Sandler, Channing Tatum, Iwan Rheon, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sterling Jerens, Shirley McClain, and Brooke Shields. Born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jody lives in Savannah, Georgia with his remarkable wife Sarah and sons Finn and Talon. Telling important stories, and nurturing an idea from concept to completed vision, is his passion. 

Victor Pisano

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.  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. 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.

Kasey Ray-Stokes

Kasey Ray-Stokes discovered her love for telling stories at a young age and fostered that love through her adolescence by writing angsty journal entries and filming her annual family Christmas pageants. Now that she is an adult, she focuses on telling stories to a broader audience by producing, writing and directing independent films and documentaries.  Kasey's micro-nonfiction piece, "Hearth," was recently published as a part of a collection of flash writing in the 6S Love Book. She earned her Bachelor's degree in English Communications from Armstrong Atlantic State University and her MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College. She resides in Savannah, Georgia with her producing partner/husband, Mark Ezra Stokes, and their son, Benjamin.

Narrative SHORTS

David Allison

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.

Gabriel Wardel

Gabriel Wardell has over 15 years of professional film experience as a projectionist, curator, writer, programmer, event producer and film festival director. Gabe produced the first SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, launched the inaugural Maryland Film Festival, and programmed films for the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Cinema Sundays at the Charles and Fringe Atlanta. For the next four years, Gabe served as the Executive Director of the Atlanta Film Festival, and was honored at the International Film Festival Summit (IFFS) with an Excellence Award for best Festival Director in the National Category. Gabe has contributed to panels at South By Southwest, IFP's Independent Film Week, and Slamdance; he has been a guest speaker at Cinema Club, the High Museum of Art, and the Chattanooga Film Society; he has been invited to speak with students at SCAD, Emory, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, and the Art Institute of Atlanta. He writes for Creative Loafing's Screen Grab Blog and Tweets @gabesmail. Currently, Gabe co-produces the Atlanta 48 Hour Film Project and the Southern Television and Film Summit, an annual event that brings diverse visionaries together to define the future of entertainment. Developing projects include DecaturDocs, the formation of the Atlanta Film Forum and Film Festival Consulting Services.

David Smith

Jeff is an Associate Professor of Film and English at the University of North Georgia, where he currently serves as Head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department. He writes a weekly movie column for The Gainesville Times and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. He has also acted for the camera and stage, has written and directed several music videos, and co-founded Late Fall Productions.

DOCUMENTARY

Asher Emmanuel

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. 

Joshua Matthews

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.

Steven Nyberg

Steven Nyberg has his BS in Multimedia Film Production from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA; and his MFA in Film & Television Production and MA in Cinema Studies from the Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, GA. From 2014-2015, Steven served as a Limited-Term Instructor at Georgia Southern University where he taught undergraduate students the practical and theoretical skills necessary to becoming a filmmaker. 

In the summer of 2016 Steven took off for NYC and has worked in the Locations Department of several TV shows including Amazon Prime’s Z: The Beginning of Everything; Marvel’s The Punisher (Season 1)Marvel’s Luke Cage (Season 2)HBO’s Succession (Season 1)the Netflix Original Friends From College (Season 2); and is currently working on a new CBS drama called Tell Me a Story

Steven is working on his own scripts which range from short to series length; and is set to direct a short in the Winter of 2018.

LGBT/Student

Laura Fong

Laura Fong is a storyteller with a passion for storytelling, photojournalism and videography. Her work focuses on teaching the art of storytelling and documentary, and her personal work documenting military veterans and the indigenous.

Her first documentary feature, No Greater Love — told the story of the legendary No Slack Battalion, 101st Airborne, through the eyes of a U. S. Army chaplain armed with a camera. No Greater Love debuted at the Boston Film Festival in September 2015 and won a total of 11 awards at various festivals both nationally and internationally. The film also took ‘Best Military Filmmaker Award’ at the 2016 GI Film Festival.

She is currently teaching at the University of Waterloo,  in her hometown of Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

Amor Owens

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.

Brandon Smith

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