Lela Meadow-Conner, Executive Director
Lela was named Executive Director of the Film Festival Alliance in June, 2018 after serving as Acting Executive Director since April 2017. She comes to FFA with over 20 years of experience in the film industry, 15 of those spent in the festival world. A founder of the Tallgrass Film Festival, she filled several roles within that organization between 2003-2017, including six years as the organization’s Executive Director. She’s also served in consulting roles for the Woods Hole Film Festival, Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival, and has attended dozens of film festivals, nationally and internationally in various roles and capacities. As a woman of color, living in a red state, Lela brings much experience for arts advocacy and collaboration in the face of adversity, and a deep understanding of the cultural significance that cinematic arts organization can bring to a community.
Barbara Twist, Director of Membership
Barbara is a filmmaker and exhibition consultant based in New York. She is the former Managing Director of the Art House Convergence where she worked with the Film Festival Alliance as a partner organization. She has been a consultant for Europa Cinemas, Europa International and IndieCollect, among others. She was listed on Celluloid Junkie’s Top 50 Women in Global Cinema in 2017 and featured in BoxOffice’s “Women in Exhibition and Distribution” October 2015. She is on the board of the Ann Arbor Film Festival and Cinema Lamont. She is a member of Detroit-based Final Girls: a women’s filmmaking collective and recipient of a 2016 Knight Foundation grant. She will receive her MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia University in May 2020.
Kathy Siebert, Accountant
Kathy is the owner/operator of KMS Accounting. In addition to corporate clients, she has many years of experience in the non-profit sector, with an emphasis on cinematic arts. She served for many years as both the treasurer and head of finance committee for the Tallgrass Film Association and has been with FFA since 2017.
Board of Directors
Cara Ogburn, Ph.D., President, Milwaukee Film
Cara Ogburn is Education Director and Milwaukee Film Festival Director at Milwaukee Film, which hosts the Milwaukee Film Festival, a 15-day festival boasting annual attendance around 80,000 for over 300 films (broad-based programming of shorts and features), and operates the historic Oriental Theatre year-round. Cara started at Milwaukee Film seasonally in 2011, joined the year-round staff in 2013, and currently oversees education programs for youth, adult, and filmmaker audiences, as well as the festival’s film programming team.
Alyx Picard-Davis, deadCenter Film Festival
Alyx Picard Davis is the Executive Director of deadCenter Film. In its 20th year, deadCenter has grown from a one-night screening of Oklahoma short films to a year-round organization with award-winning programs that provide free film classes to 3,000 high school students each fall, free film seminars for hundreds of working professionals each quarter, free film screenings every month, and an annual film festival that brings 33,000 people to downtown Oklahoma City for the most exciting weekend of the year. A long-time volunteer for the festival in host, events, transportation, and programming, Alyx was hired full-time in 2013. She has worked with budding rock stars at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, and she currently serves on UCO’s Alumni Board where she graduated with a BA in English-Creative Studies. She worked in the production office on “The Killer Inside Me,” the star-filled serial killer film made in Guthrie, Oklahoma. She co-produced Lance McDaniel’s award-winning film “Swirl,” and the 2017 OKC48 film “Previously on Alley Cats.” She continues to produce and advise on a few short films every year.
Beth Barrett, Secretary Seattle International Film Festival
Beth Barrett is the Artistic Director of SIFF (organizers of the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Cinema, and SIFF Education) and has been working with SIFF programming since 2003. An aficionado of short films, she secured SIFF’s status as an Academy Award® qualifying festival in 2008. Responsible for all aspects of SIFF programming, Beth has been in Seattle for 23 years and holds an MA in Northern Renaissance Art History.
Ryan Watt, Treasurer, IndieMemphis
Ryan Watt is the Executive Director of Indie Memphis, creating community for independent film and supporting the development of filmmakers. The arts organization is dedicated to year-round programs culminating with the annual Indie Memphis Film Festival in November. He is a film producer of features with premieres at SXSW, Locarno International, AFI, Los Angeles Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival. Most recently, Ryan is Associate Producer of FREE IN DEED, nominated for four 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Before transitioning into film production, Ryan specialized in marketing technology services at Securas Consulting Group, after they acquired his data backup firm Metro Backup.
Dan Brawley, Cucalorus Festival
Dan Brawley is the Executive Director of Cucalorus, an international celebration of filmmaking in Wilmington, North Carolina founded in 1994 by Twinkle Doon. Cucalorus screens more than 250 films with a range of multi-disciplinary programs focusing on dance, social justice, cocktails, and performance that blend together political integrity and goofy sincerity. MovieMaker Magazine has recognized Cucalorus for three years in a row as one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” From their headquarters at Jengo’s Playhouse, Cucalorus operates a growing residency program supporting emerging artists. The festival’s campus hosted more than 272 humans last year ranging from filmmakers and dancers to a roller derby team and 15 comedians.
Linda Broker, Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute
Linda’s passion for film started when she first volunteered for the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival 23 years ago, serving on the Programming Committee for the film festival, while raising her three young children. Fast forward to today, when Linda, as the Executive Director of what is now the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute, oversees three employees and heads up an active Board and highly dedicated corps of volunteers that provide programming throughout the year, three annual events (in addition to the Festival) and a Filmmakers Retreat. Most recently Linda led efforts to establish the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute Endowment, securing the largest single gift ever made to the institute, allowing the organization to expand and plan for its next phase of growth. This year marks the 31st anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, making it the longest-running women’s film festival in North America. The Institute recently moved into a new, expanded location that provides expanded office space and accommodates community screenings.
Mark Fishkin, Mill Valley Film Festival
Mark Fishkin is the Executive Director and Founder of the California Film Institute and the Founder and Director of the Mill Valley Film Festival. Since founding the Mill Valley Film Festival in 1977, Mr. Fishkin has shepherded the once small, three-day showcase into an 11-day, internationally acclaimed event featuring a wide variety of US and international independent films, Children’s FilmFest, shorts, seminars and tributes to exceptional filmmakers. Under his direction, the Mill Valley Film Festival has garnered a reputation as a favorite among filmmakers and one of the most influential non-competitive festivals in North America. Mr. Fishkin spearheaded the $8.5 million capital campaign to restore the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, which opened in 1999, creating new models for filmmakers for exhibition. Under Mark’s leadership over the last fifteen years the Smith Rafael Film Center has become one of the most highly regarded and successful not for profit art house theaters in the country.
Judy Laster, Woods Hole Film Festival
Judith Laster is the Founder and Director of the 26 year-old Woods Hole Film Festival, the oldest film festival on Cape Cod and the Islands and one of the oldest in Massachusetts. The Festival is an eight day festival of independent film that takes place each summer. Over the eight days, the festival screens approximately 130 films selected from submissions from around the world. The festival is dedicated to presenting the work of emerging independent filmmakers. In addition, the Festival presents 2 year round films series and collaborates with other arts organizations both on and off Cape Cod to program films for their venues. She participated in the founding of the Film Festival Alliance and is an attorney with more than two decades of experience working in the Massachusetts legislature.
Ben McCarthy, Festival Consultant
Ben McCarthy is a freelance film festival and arts consultant at McArts Consulting based out of Charlotte, NC. Most recently, Ben served as the Executive Director of the Seattle Queer Film Festival and as Director of Philanthropy at the Seattle International Film Festival. He has a MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University and BA in Theatre from Greensboro College.
Rachel Morgan, Sidewalk Film Festival
Rachel Morgan is the creative director and lead programmer for the Sidewalk Film Festival as well as an instructor of Media Production and Telecommunication and Film at Lawson State Community College. She is also a co-instructor in the Documenting Justice documentary film program at the University of Alabama and is a former contributor to Film Threat. She received a BFA from The Savannah College of Art and Design in Film/Video Production and a MA in Film Critical Studies from the University of Alabama where her focus of study was on Children and Adolescence in Cinematic Horror.
Andrew Rodgers, Festival Consultant
Andrew Rodgers is a writer, filmmaker, programmer, and arts executive, based in Denver, Colorado. He led the Denver Film Society from 2016-19 and the RiverRun International Film Festival from 2005-16. Previously, he was a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune and a publicist for the Sundance Film Festival. He received a master’s degree in business administration from Wake Forest University and a bachelor’s in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.
Kevin Sampson, DC Black Film Festival
After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, radio show/podcast, and hour long film review TV show. He has served as the director of the Rosebud Film Festival since 2013. He created the DC Black Film Festival in 2016 in an effort to create a space to exhibit quality productions by and about people of African descent. In 2017 Kevin launched Picture Lock PR to represent some of the many great independent films he sees on a regular basis. Kevin received the 2018 Donald H. McGannon Award for his work with women and people of color in media. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association, North Carolina Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. His weekly radio show can be heard on Fridays on WERA 96.7FM.
Patrick Shepherd, Cleveland International Film Festival
Patrick Shepherd serves as the Associate Director of the Cleveland International Film Festival and 2018 marked his twentieth year with CIFF. Joining the organization as a seasonal staff member in 1999, Patrick was hired as Development Director in 2001 and promoted to Associate Director in 2006. He has managed the CIFF’s fundraising efforts as their attendance tripled (to 106,504) and their budget increased to just over $3.2 million in the last 17 years.
Kathryn Spitz Cohan, Film Pittsburgh
Kathryn Spitz Cohan has been executive director of Film Pittsburgh since 2001 overseeing programs including Pittsburgh Shorts, the JFilm Festival and ReelAbilities Pittsburgh. Previously, Ms. Spitz Cohan was the Artistic and Education Director of Shakespeare-in-the-Schools, at the University of Pittsburgh, where she also taught for the Katz School of Business, Film Studies program, and the department of Theatre Arts. Previously, she served as the Assistant Director of Administration for the Three Rivers Arts Festival and was the Artistic Director of the Theater Department at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. Ms. Spitz Cohan was named as one of Pittsburgh’s top 50 cultural forces in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and has received an Opal Award from Women in Film and Media–Pittsburgh for exemplary professional achievement and contributions to the economic and cultural development of the region. Kathryn started the Pittsburgh Film Presenters Network to encourage dialogue, collaboration and the sharing of resources among Pittsburgh film presenters. She has served as a board member of Women in Film and Media-Pittsburgh and the Hollywood Theater, as well as a panelist for the Heinz Endowments Small Arts Initiative. Kathryn is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Communications.
Erica Thompson, Ashland Independent Film Festival
After graduating with a BFA in Film from Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Erica spent three years working in education and hospitality at the Milwaukee Film Festival. In spring of 2017, she took a seasonal role in hospitality at the Ashland Independent Film Festival in Southern Oregon. Since then, she has risen through various management roles and helped the organization carry out its two annual festivals and year-round events, as well as reach new heights by moving into the new AIFF Film Center in late 2019. After leading the organization through an abrupt pivot to a virtual platform for the 19th annual festival, she was promoted to the role of Executive Director in July of 2020.