Staff & Board

Film Festival Alliance Staff

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Barbara Twist 

Executive Director

An L.A.-based filmmaker and exhibition consultant, Barbara has been involved in the independent exhibition sector for over a decade.

She previously worked with Art House Convergence as Managing Director until 2017, and in recent years has consulted for organizations including Europa Cinemas, Europa International, and IndieCollect. From 2020 - 2023, Barbara helped to re-open Vidiots at the Eagle Theatre, a non-profit Los Angeles-based movie theater + video store. Barbara holds an MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia University and has produced several award-winning short films. She is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

Contact Barbara here.

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Gray Rodriguez

Director of Communications

Gray is a film festival organizer and enthusiast with an affinity for operations and marketing. She has spent three years volunteering with the Sundance Film Festival in the Artist Relations Department and has previously served as a Marketing Consultant for the Bentonville Film Festival. Gray began her career in the festival industry as a volunteer in 2010, evolving into the role of volunteer director for the Tallgrass Film Association before ultimately going full-time, where she was the Director of Marketing for three years. Her marketing experience includes both corporate and agency roles.

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Ceci Leon

Membership Coordinator

Born and raised in Atlanta, Ga., Ceci has always been eager to merge her love of people and the creative arts in her hometown. After graduating from college, she worked for several non-profit organizations aimed to support Atlanta’s film industry. As a producer, she is passionate about producing creative content and events that put a lens on unique narratives. Currently, Ceci also serves as the Operations Manager for the Atlanta Film Society which annually hosts the Atlanta Film Festival. She is proud to be a connector for the film/tv production + exhibition space.

Board of Directors

Cara Ogburn, Ph.D.

Milwaukee Film

Cara Ogburn is Artistic Director at Milwaukee Film, which hosts the spring 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 autumn Cultures & Communities Festival (a week of screenings and events focused on culture and wellness amongst traditionally marginalized communities), and operates the historic, three-screen Oriental Theatre year-round. Cara started at Milwaukee Film seasonally in 2011, joined the year-round staff in 2013, and currently leads our youth education, artist services and film programming teams and overall artistic strategy.

Karen Cardarelli

Vice President

Since 2020, Karen has navigated the organization through the passing of its founder Milos Stehlik, and its reopening after the Covid pandemic. Prior to that she served as Interim Program Director with Illinois Arts Council. A long-time theater administrator, she co-founded Chicago’s Emerald City Theatre leading its growth from infancy to an annual audience reach of 60,000 people and $2M operating budget. Karen has served as Strategic Partnerships Co-Chair for the City of Chicago’s Year of Chicago Theatre, Steering Committee Chair of Ingenuity’s Strategic Partnerships Committee and sat on grant review Theatre Panels for DCASE and Illinois Arts Council. Currently, she sits on the League of Chicago Theatres Board of Directors and the iHeart Media Local Advisory Board.

Albert Chow

Tribeca Film

Albert Chow started from the ground up – as a Production PA; and has since straddled front of house, production and technical side of events. Besides his three most recent festivals (NY Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Seattle Intl Film Festival), he has also worked at Sundance, Mill Valley, SXSW, Doc NYC, NewFest, Woodstock, Rooftop Films and Hamptons International Film Festival.

Kathryn Spitz Cohan

Film Pittsburgh

Kathryn Spitz Cohan has been Executive Director of Film Pittsburgh since 2001 overseeing programs including Three Rivers Film Festival, Pittsburgh Shorts and Scripts, JFilm Festival, ReelAbilities Pittsburgh, Teen Screen, and the Robinson Short Film Competition. Previously, Ms. Spitz Cohan was 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. Ms. Spitz Cohan was named as one of the city’s top 50 cultural forces in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and 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 is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Serge Bakalian

Member at Large
Arab Film and Media Institute

Serge is a non-profit leader, science advisor, filmmaker and the founder of the Arab Film and Media Institute (AFMI), serving as its Executive Director. The California-based AFMI is a unique ecosystem to find, nurture, connect and develop Arab film and media projects, and home to the Arab Film Festival, the largest and oldest festival of its kind in North America.  He also works as a science advisor for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Serge caught the artist bug in 2007 and moved to San Francisco to develop and produce film and theatre projects, the latter dedicated to exploring Middle Eastern cultures and identities.  In 2011, he completed the award-winning Default: The Student Loan Documentary, which was released on PBS and over 140 broadcasting stations around the country. Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Serge holds degrees in Chemistry and International Relations.

Linda Broker

Member at Large
Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute

Linda Broker is the Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Women’s Film. Currently in its 34th year, the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival is the oldest women’s film festival in North America. Linda’s passion for film as a catalyst for the community began when she started volunteering for the festival in 1994. During the following seven years, she served the festival in various capacities, including Programming chair and Operations chair, before being hired as the first executive director of the organization in 2001.

Linda has led the organization through a period of tremendous growth and today RMWF has an active year-round presence. In addition to the November festival, three other events take place annually, including a Filmmakers Retreat. Screenings are also hosted regularly in the RMWF “microcinema” and the Film in the Community program offers free screenings throughout the year in diverse locations throughout Colorado Springs.

Carley Callahan


Carley Callahan is the Festival Producer at SIFF. Responsible for the planning and execution of SIFF’s festival programs, you can find her running around with a radio on at SIFF’s annual DocFest, Cinema Italian Style, Noir City, and flagship event - the Seattle International Film Festival. Before joining SIFF in 2017, Carley started out as a production assistant at the Telluride Film Festival in 2014, and quickly became part of the film festival industry, working at film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, Mill Valley, SFFILM, and Provincetown Film Festival. She studied in the Studio for Interrelated Media program at the Massachusetts College of Arts and Design. Carley lives in Wallingford, Seattle with her partner, and when not film festival-ing, she's sewing her own handmade clothes.

Sarah Escalante 

New Orleans Film Society

Sarah Escalante (she/her/hers) joined the New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) team in July 2022 as Executive Director. Prior to NOFS, Sarah worked with the Michigan Theater Foundation as their Director of Programming and Communications and the Festival Director of the Cinetopia Film Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and ran the gamut of festival roles at genre to regional and major festivals across the U.S. Originally from California, Sarah was an academic lawyer until her lifelong love of film and movie theaters led her to the impactful conversations and experiences found working within the film festival and art house communities.

Bears Rebecca Fonté

All Genders, Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival (AGLIFF)

Bears Rebecca Fonté founded Other Worlds in 2014 after two years as the Director of Programming for AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL. In 2020 Other Worlds was named one of the World’s 50 Best Genre Fest by MovieMaker Magazine. Her SciFi shorts ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE, PRENATAL, and THE SECRET KEEPER have played 150+ festivals including Fantasia, SciFi London, Boston SciFi, FilmQuest, Austin Film Festival, and Dances With Films. Her LGBTQ Horror short CONVERSION THERAPIST made its world premiere at Inside Out in Toronto and US Premiere at aGLIFF. Her feature thriller iCRIME, which she wrote and directed, was released on DVD, VOD, and streaming by Breaking Glass/Vicious Circle Films in 2011. Bears Rebecca also was one of the producers on the Sundance Jury-Award Winning short THE PROCEDURE. Prior to arriving in Austin, she self-produced two web-series that were seen by a combined ten million viewers, wrote coverage for independent producers and coverage services in LA. She has served on the aGLIFF (the All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival) for four years, taught for their Queer Youth Media Project, and in 2020, helped guide the virtual pivot as Technical Director. She also represents Northwest Austin on the City of Austin Arts Commission.

Timothy Gordon

LightReel Film Festival

Film Critic, Association President, Cinema Historian, Radio Host & Producer, Film Festival and Award Show Founder, Brand Creator, and lover of ALL things film, Tim Gordon remains a cinematic force.  Gordon has turned his passion for film into his life’s work, seeking to educate future generations and alter the perspective of African-Americans on screen as well as in the executive suites of Hollywood.

NK Gutiérrez

Midwest Film Festival

From HBO Latino to The Oprah Winfrey Show, classically trained dancer, vocalist, actor and filmmaker Nicole Kristine Gutiérrez has excelled in nearly every facet of entertainment. Most recently booking recurring roles in Showtime’s The Chi, NBC’s Chicago Fire and her 4th run of the hit show, La Gringa, at the 2022 Puerto Rican International Theater Festival in San Juan. Gutiérrez made her filmmaking debut with the short film, The Last New Year, in which she wrote, produced and starred. Latina Magazine called it "A hilarious and relatable story of sexual liberation, self-care and empowerment, with women of color at the center."  NK is in the business of consciously creating equitable and just community through the lens of heart centered living. She puts her BA in Psychology, Mental Health First Aid and Consent certifications to use as an Intimacy Coordinator on film & TV sets as well as teaching mindful employee care practices in the corporate and nonprofit space. Gutiérrez currently serves as the Operational Director of Midwest Film Festival, co-chair of the Black Harvest Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Head of Programming for the XL Festival and Lead of the Film Club at Soho House Chicago.

Larry Laboe

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA)

Larry Laboe is Co-Founder and Executive Director of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA), an organization committed to highlighting and connecting emerging filmmakers and storytellers worldwide. Larry is a member of the Producers Guild of America and has been a Faculty Member at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) and L Art University in Shanghai and Beijing. He is a Board Member of the BRIC Foundation, a Committee Member of SAGindie and the Co-Chair of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Entertainment, Arts and Media Committee. Larry has produced scripted and unscripted streaming series and commercials, directed by talent such as Joseph Gordon Levitt, for some of the world’s leading brands, networks and studios, including Disney, NBC, CBS, VEVO, Dailymotion, MTV, DEFY Media, Comedy Central, Verizon go90, Amazon, Complex Media, IKEA, Mountain Dew, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Verizon and Smuckers.

Justice Obiaya


Justice Obiaya, an Atlanta native, holds a BFA in Media Arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta and an MA from the Savannah College of Art & Design. He began his art nonprofit career as Marketing and Business Manager for ASIFA-South, quickly advancing to Associate Director, where he established the first ASIFAC animation festival. In 2017, he joined the Atlanta Film Society (ATLFS) as Education Program Coordinator, later becoming Marketing & Community Relations Director. Justice has led various committees with Out On Film, Atlanta’s Oscar-Qualifying LGBTQ+ film festival, ranked #1 in the nation by 10Best and USA Today in 2023, and Top 100 Best Reviewed with FilmFreeway. With an 8-year tenure at Out on Film, he held roles as a volunteer, Festival Coordinator, and Marketing Committee Chair. In January 2024, Justice assumed the role of Executive Director, making history as the first person in the organization's 37-year history to hold this position.

Leslie Raymond


Ann Arbor Film Festival

Media artist and educator Leslie Raymond joined the Ann Arbor Film Festival as its executive director in August 2013. Before that, she founded a New Media Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio and served as assistant professor of art in digital video and new media art at Oakland University, where she was recognized with an Innovations in Teaching award. Raymond excels at organizing special projects that bring together practitioners to advance the conversation around contemporary cinema practice.

Crickett Rumley


New York Film Academy, Los Angeles

Crickett Rumley received her MFA in Film at Columbia University and is the founder and senior director of the Film Festival Department at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. With diversity, equity, and inclusion at the center of her work, she develops educational programs for a diverse, international student body. She has guided filmmakers to official selections at esteemed festivals ranging from Sundance to Bronzelens and to nomination and shortlisting for the BAFTA Student Film Awards, the Student Academy Awards, and the College Television Awards.

A regular at the Tallgrass Film Festival, Crickett served first as a juror and now is their Panels Director. She also judges the Forum on Life, Culture, and Society’s International Short Film Competition and hosted the Winter Film Awards International Film Festival’s Education Day on the NYFA campus in New York, where she collaborated with her colleagues on workshops about Social Media for Creatives and How to Craft the Low Budget Screen Story. She is a member of the Film Festival Alliance.

tt stern-enzi


Over-the-Rhine International Film Festival

Having spent 20 years as a freelance writer and film critic in the Greater Cincinnati region (covering the film industry & film festivals with the alt-weekly Cincinnati CityBeat and television affiliate Fox19, while earning distinction as an accredited critic on Rotten Tomatoes and membership in the Critics Choice Association), tt stern-enzi began curating film programs at the Mini Microcinema and other regional venues, serving on the advisory board for the University of Cincinnati Center for Film & Media Studies, and developing an educational curriculum for his WatchWriteNow initiative. These efforts have paved the way for tt to step into the role of lead programmer/curator for the rebranded Over-the-Rhine International Film Festival during its first two years before settling into the position of Artistic Director for the 2021 edition.

Jamie Webb


Together Films