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.
Jon Gann, Systems & Design Consultant
Jon is the Founder of DC Shorts, a non-profit organization championing short filmmaking, and the creator of the DC Shorts Film Festival, one of the country’s premier short film showcases. He has also served as the Executive Director of CINE, a 59-year old organization that honors the best in film, TV and digital media with the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award. Through his Reel Plan consulting firm, Jon has bridged the communication gap between competing film festivals, so all can share film information, sponsor strategies and filmmaker data. He also works with dozens of filmmakers and festivals, including the Key West Film Festival, AFI Docs and the Bermuda Film Festival, on strategies and niche marketing. Jon is a founding board member of the FFA, and curates the Big Screen Shorts & Stop Hate Through Film series.
Board of Directors
Dan Brawley, President, 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.
Andrew Rodgers, Vice President, Denver Film Society
Andrew Rodgers became the Executive Director of the Denver Film Society in 2016. The organization owns and operates the Sie FilmCenter, which shows art house films year-round, and runs the Denver Film Festival, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017. Previously, Andrew served for 11 years as the Executive and Artistic Director of the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. Prior to that, he worked as a publicist for the Sundance Film Festival and as the Publicity Director of the Chicago International Film Festival. He started his career as a journalist with the Chicago Tribune. He received his undergraduate degree in Journalism from Eastern Illinois University and an MBA from Wake Forest University. In his spare time, Andrew directs documentary films and chases after his two young daughters.
Judy Laster, Treasurer, 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.
Cara Ogburn, Ph.D., Secretary, Milwaukee Film
Cara Ogburn is the Programming & Education Director for Milwaukee Film, which hosts the annual Milwaukee Film Festival and operates the historic Oriental Theatre year-round. Cara began working for the Milwaukee Film Festival seasonally in 2011, curating and planning panels, workshops, and other programming for filmmakers and general audiences to extend the films onscreen. With twelve years of experience teaching at the college level, in 2013, Cara joined Milwaukee Film’s year-round staff, overseeing strategic planning and a resulting expanded slate of programs for youth, filmmakers, and general audiences. In late 2015, Cara was promoted to direct the Programming Department in addition to Education, guiding the process and team that curate all content presented on and off-screen during the festival and year-round.
Beth Barrett, 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.
Clint Bowie, New Orleans Film Society
Clint Bowie is the Director of Programming for the New Orleans Film Society, where he has worked since 2010. In this role, he oversees the curation of content for all of the organization’s year-round programming, including the Oscar-qualifying New Orleans Film Festival and the New Orleans French Film Festival. He has served on juries and panels at film festivals around the country–including Cleveland, Florida, Dallas, Denver, Palm Springs, and others–and has attended dozens of other festivals both large and small.
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.
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.
Alyx Picard-Davis, deadCenter Film Festival
Alyx Picard Davis is the Festival Director and Director of Operations for deadCenter Film. In its 19th 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.
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.
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 sunny Southern Oregon, where she promptly found her calling in festival management and mountain living. In two short years, she has risen to the role of Director of Operations at AIFF and continues to seek innovative opportunities for the organization. AIFF has found great value in the resources and connections FFA has to offer. Erica returns from each Regional Round table Event with a new wealth of knowledge to share with the team, as well as a deepened sense of connection to the field and a revitalized passion for the industry.
Ryan Watt, 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.