Film Festival Alliance

Board & Staff

Barbara Twist, Executive Director (part-time)

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. Since 2020, Barbara has worked with the Vidiots Foundation, a non-profit Los Angeles-based movie theater + video store, and will continue to serve as their part-time Director of Partnerships. 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.

Gray Rodriguez, Director of Communications (part-time)

Gray is a film festival organizer and enthusiast with a particular 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, 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.

Board of Directors

Alyx Picard, President

Alyx Picard is the former Executive Director of deadCenter Film. 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.

Linda Broker, Vice President, 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.

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.

Kathryn Spitz Cohan, Treasurer, 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.

 

Cara Ogburn, Ph.D., Past 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.

Members-At-Large

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.

Karen Cardarelli, Facets

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Shellie Schmals, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

Shellie Schmals has been the Film Programming Manager at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival since 2014, where she plays a lead role in selecting the nearly 800 films that are considered for each annual Festival. She has 25 years of experience in the non-profit universe, holds a MBA from Brenau University and EDM in Higher Education Administration from the University at Buffalo. As a talent wrangler and producer/emcee, Shellie is involved in many projects including Roxie Roz burlesque, Georgia Pinup Posse, DanceATL and most recently, curated a burlesque/short film collaboration with the Philadelphia Jewish Film & Media (2021). She is an active member in Georgia Production Partnership and Women in Film & Television Atlanta, where Shellie sits on the Board of Directors as Vice President of Programming, coordinates WIFTA industry panels at Dragon Con (Film Track) and for the nationally known Cinema Life Collective, is past co-chair of the WIFTA Short Film & Talent Showcase (2017-2020) and past WIFTA Secretary (2016-2020).

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.

 

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.

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.

Barbara Vásconez, New York Women in Film & Television

Barbara Vásconez is the Program Manager at New York Women in Film & Television. Before joining NYWIFT, she held the position of General Manager at the Quad Cinema for three years. She has worked for a variety of film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, Hamptons Film Festival, Montclair Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, DOC NYC, and the Nantucket Film Festival. Her spare time is spent programming panels and creating unique community engagement opportunities for the New York Latino Film Festival. In 2019, she launched and founded the Ville Film Festival in Somerville, New Jersey. In 2020, she joined the Ecuadorian Film Festival as Co-Director. Her educational goals include working to develop film programs in New Jersey that improve film education for low income students. She works on amplifying the Latinx community and speaking on important issues like immigration and minimum wage. She is committed to the importance of film as a means of community engagement. Barbara has a degree in Film and Video Production from the School of Visual arts in NYC and holds a Business certificate from W.O.R.C in Philadelphia.