Meet the TCFF moderators for 2014!
Rod Birleson is an educator and documentary filmmaker. He earned a degree in secondary education at Eastern Michigan University in 1970 and taught 27 years in Michigan public schools before retiring from teaching in 1997. He began his filmmaking career by being one of the two key field producers for the groundbreaking film, "Roger & Me. Rod went on to work as a producer on "SICKO" and "Capitalism: A Love Story". He has been active on the film festival from the start, acting as a moderator, panel member and volunteer for the Traverse City Film Festival. He is current TCFF's newest board member. "I am honored and pleased to have the opportunity to serve as a TCCF Board Member. This film festival is the best example of all the good that can come from a community that works together."
Recently named to 2013 Indiewire Influencers List, Russ Collins has served as the Executive Director of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor for 30 years. He founded and directs the Cinetopia International Film Festival and the Art House Convergence – the nation’s largest annual conference of non-profit community based cinemas. The Michigan Theater is a Sundance Film Festival USA site and was recognized as an Outstanding Historic Theatre in North America by the League of Historic American Theaters. Russ was a NEA Media Arts Fellow and was knighted by Republic of Italy for his promotion of Italian film culture in the United States. He teaches film studies at Eastern Michigan University and is the host of “Cinema Chat,” a weekly radio program that airs on National Public Radio affiliate WEMU and appears in print for AnnArbor.com. He received both a Bachelors and Master’s Degree (in arts administration) from the University of Michigan.
Deborah Collings Cutler’s love of movies started at a very young age, watching old movies with her Dad late at night on Million Dollar Movies in New York. At Emerson College in Boston, she majored in photography and writing and studied Theatre Arts at the University of London, England. Deborah worked at publisher Little Brown & Co, the Van Christo Advertising Agency, the Magic Lantern Theatre and Stock, Boston in Boston, MA. As a freelance photographer her work has been published in textbooks and national publications. Deborah was one of the founders of Boston Light & Sound (BL&S), a supplier of cinema systems and technical supervision for premieres and film festivals internationally. Deborah has been the Technical Personnel Coordinator for the Telluride Film Festival since 1995. She has served on the Board of Directors for Variety, the Children’s Charity, New England Chapter since 1983. She continues in the position as Muse to the President of BL&S.
Ira Deutchman has been making, marketing and distributing films since 1975, having worked on over 150 films including some of the most successful independent films of all time. He was one of the founders of Cinecom and later created Fine Line Features—two companies that were created from scratch and in their respective times, helped define the independent film business. Currently Deutchman is Managing Partner of Emerging Pictures, a New York-based digital exhibition company and also a Professor of Professional Practice in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, where he is the Chair of the Film Program. Among the over 60 films he acquired and released at Fine Line were Jane Campion’s “An Angel at My Table,” Gus van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth,” Robert Altman’s “The Player” and “Short Cuts,” Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon” and “Death and the Maiden,” Alan Rudolph’s “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, ” Mike Leigh’s “Naked,” and the award-winning “Hoop Dreams,” which in its time was the highest grossing non-music documentary in history. Other films Deutchman has worked on were “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” ”To Sleep with Anger,” “Metropolitan,” “A Room with a View,” “Stop Making Sense,” “El Norte,” and “The Brother from Another Planet. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, with a major in film.
Victor Fanucchi is a writer, filmmaker and educator. He began teaching at the University of Michigan in 2004 after working in Los Angeles for several years, where he made short films "Chekhov's Gun," "First Prince" and "Dream House," and worked a variety of film-related jobs, including editing award-winning trailers for Sony Classics, October Films and Miramax, as well as organizing film series and filmmaker appearances at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Based in Ann Arbor, he continues to make features and shorts that play in film festivals around the country.
Terry George, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing “In the Name of the Father.” His “Hotel Rwanda” received three Oscar nominations. Much of his film work (“The Boxer,” “Some Mother’s Son,” and “In the Name of the Father”) involves Northern Ireland. His storied career as a playwright, screenwriter, director, curator, draftsman, journalist, and magazine researcher has led him to his current place among the upper echelons of dramatic filmmakers.
Colin Gunkel is an Assistant Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures, American Culture and Latina/o Studies at the University of Michigan. His book Mexico on Main Street: Transnational Film Culture in Los Angeles before World War II is forthcoming from Rutgers University Press. He has published essays in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Film History and Velvet Light Trap, in addition to numerous pieces on Chicano/Latino art and culture. He is also currently the Associate Editor of the A Ver: Revisioning Art History book series on individual Latina/o artists published through the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. As an independent curator, he is currently serving on the curatorial team for several exhibitions as part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, scheduled for 2017.
Phil Hallman is the Film Studies Field Librarian at the University of Michigan where he is a reference librarian and selector for the cinema studies books and periodicals for the Hatcher Graduate Library. Additionally, he works with the Department of Screen Arts & Cultures and is the Head of the Donald Hall Collection, a unique collection devoted to the study of cinema that includes over 20,000 dvd titles and some 3,000 screenplays. He teaches various library research classes for the department and curates the Projectorhead film series sponsored by SAC. He served as a juror for the 2011 and 2012 TCFF in the American documentary/feature film category. He presented a panel at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX entitled “Dig Deep: Libraries, Archives and Filmmaking.” He has presented conferences papers at the 2011 , 2012 & 2013 Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conferences and he is a member of the SCMS Media Archives committee. This spring, he co-organized an exhibit based on materials from the U-UM's Robert Altman archive collection and oversaw a symposium devoted to Altman in June. Currently he is constructing a database for a research project entitled “Mapping the Motor City's Cinemas.”
Michael Mittelstaedt is the founding director of the Motion Picture Arts Division at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Now in its eighth season, his first students are graduating from top film schools, such as USC, NYU, and CalArts. Prior to Interlochen, Mittelstaedt’s professional career began in Lima, Peru where he acted as location sound recordist and translator. After South America, he was on to the Czech Republic, script consulting and acting as dialogue coach. In Chicago, he began directing and producing television and documentaries – his producing credits include, the America in the 20th Century series of documentaries, HGTV’s New Spaces, and lead producer of the multimedia/live performance fundraiser with For Global Progress, in conjunction with UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and AIDS research. He has degrees in Spanish language/literature and Psychology from Michigan State University and received his Master of Fine Arts from Ohio University in Film Production.
Founder and President Michael Moore, winner of an Oscar (“Bowling for Columbine”), an Emmy (“TV Nation”), a Palme d’Or at Cannes (“Fahrenheit 9/11″), and the British Book of the Year award (“Stupid White Men”), was the first 18-year-old elected to public office in Michigan. He operated the art-house film series East Village Cinema in his native Flint, Michigan, for eight years. Moore serves as the board president.
Jesse Pasternack is an 18-year old with a passion for movies. After announcing at a young age that he was going to become a director, he has been immersing himself in the art of film. At age 10, he reviewed films for The Rachael Ray Show and appeared on her show as a restaurant critic. Jesse was one of the leaders of both his high school’s Film Club and nationally-ranked Academic Challenge team. He is headed to Indiana University in the fall to study film. Jesse’s filmmaking heroes include John Ford, Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Sacha Guitry, Steven Spielberg, and Woody Allen. His favorite film is Allen’s Radio Days. Jesse would like his generation to know more about classic movies and is currently writing a book of movie reviews – he has watched over 600 films in the last 4 years. His future goals include becoming a director, collaborating with his older brother Sam on projects for film and television, and getting into the Criterion Collection closet. He is honored to be participating in the Traverse City Film Festival for the third consecutive year.
Deb Polich has served as president/CEO of Artrain, Inc., a nonprofit arts organization, for 20 years. Founded by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs as its flagship program in 1971, Artrain has introduced the arts to millions and helped strengthen cultural programs by delivering arts and cultural programs to towns across the United States and Canada. Artrain received the 2006 National Medal for Museum Service, our nation’s highest honor for museums. In 2012 Deb added the responsibility of leading The Arts Alliance, the local arts agency in the Ann Arbor, MI area. Deb holds a degree in Arts Administration from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and, previously served as managing director of Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater. She serves on the boards of ArtServe Michigan, the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, EMU’s College of Arts & Science Resource Development and Masters of Public Administration advisory boards and is an occasional Arts Management guest lecturer. Deb is married to Russ Collins, director of the Michigan Theater.
Thom Powers programs for the Toronto International Film Festival, overseeing the documentary section and Mavericks conversation series. He serves as the Artistic Director of three projects: DOC NYC, the largest documentary festival in the country; the weekly film series Stranger Than Fiction at Manhattan’s IFC Center; and the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey. He curates the monthly Doc Club for SundanceNOW.com; consults for the Miami International Film Festival and teaches at the School of Visual Arts. He previously spent a decade directing documentaries for HBO, PBS and other outlets; and worked for Fantagraphics Books. He was born in Detroit and attended the University of Detroit Jesuit High School.
V Prasad - A screenwriter and director, Prasad’s produced work includes the theatrical release Ocean of Pearls, which was developed in the Film Independent Screenwriters Lab. Other screenplays include Sid Says, which won the Lawrence Kasdan Scholarship in Creative Writing and Radha’s Prayer, developed in the IFP/West Director’s Lab. Prasad holds an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute and teaches the craft at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. Over the years, his students have come from all walks of life, from film students to building contractors, doctors, kindergarten teachers and even a Bond girl. As a story consultant, Prasad has lent his expertise to many companies including Working Title, BET, and Lion’s Gate providing development notes on projects as diverse as The Punisher and State of Play. In addition to his work as a filmmaker, instructor and consultant, Prasad has also served as a programmer for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles specializing in films from South India and the Indian Diaspora. Currently, Prasad is in post-production on Consideration, his directorial debut.
Robert Rayher's primary creative focus since 1993 has been screenwriting. From the end of the '70's through the early '90's, he produced and presented experimental films and videos. Robert has had stints in the motion picture industry and with independent film productions. His films and tapes have been screened widely in North America, and occasionally in Europe and Asia. A number of his titles are available from the Canadian Filmmakers' Distribution Center. Grants for filmmaking include NEA Regional Fellowships ('88 & '92) and support from The National Film Board of Canada ('83-'85).
Rebecca Reynolds is a partner in the Michigan-based company, 8180 Films. The company’s third feature, The Girl on the Train, screens at TCFF9 on Wednesday 9AM at Old Town Playhouse. This psychological thriller stars Henry Ian Cusick, Nicki Aycox and Stephen Lang. Shot in New York City, The Girl on the Train was written/directed by Larry Brand, exec produced by Ross Satterwhite and produced by Gary Sales, Reynolds and her husband Jim Carpenter. 8180 Films’ second feature is The Coexist Comedy Tour, a comedy documentary which premiered at the TC Winter Comedy Arts Festival in February 2013, now playing on Starz and available soon on DVD. Their first feature was the award-winning indie drama, Christina, which premiered at the State Theatre, July 2010. Starring Stephen Lang, Jordan Belfi and Nicki Aycox, Christina is available on amazon.com through Indican Pictures. Reynolds co-wrote/produced two HBO Comedy Specials with actor/comedian Robert Wuhl and served as writer/producer for Wuhl’s hit HBO comedy series Arli$$. Screenwriting credits include the psychological thrillers Backfire and Overexposed, co-written with Brand. Reynolds thanks TCFF, Michael Moore and Deb Lake for nine great years of just great movies and great fun. It’s an honor to be in TCFF9!
Terri Sarris has taught media production at the University of Michigan for over two decades. In addition to full-time teaching, she continues to produce her own media work. "buzzards steal your picnic," Sarris’ documentary profile of Detroit composer Frank Pahl, was awarded "Best Michigan Film" at the Detroit International Documentary Festival in 2007 and at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 2008. "The Radiant Sun," her portrait of the Michigan textile designer Ruth Adler Schnee, has screened at museums and galleries including the Palazzo Mocenigo textile museum in Venice, Italy, during the 2011 Venice Bienalle. With her former student, Sultan Sharrief, she co-founded the EFEX Project, a community-film production and outreach program. The EFEX independent feature film Bilal's Stand (written and directed by Sharrief), was one of only eight films screened in the NEXT category at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Diplomat, columnist, lecturer, Jack Segal’s career on the world stage has spanned over 40 years and as many countries, placing him at the crossroads of many of today’s most pressing events. Today, Jack is co-chair of Traverse City’s International Affairs Forum, host of an interview show on Up North TV, a frequent guest on local radio and a lecturer at NMC. From 2002 to 2010, Jack was the senior political adviser to the NATO Commander in Afghanistan, a job that involved spending about one week in five in the war zone, meeting with President Karzai and other Afghan leaders, senior NATO and UN officials, and talking with ordinary soldiers in their remote outposts. He made 40 trips to Afghanistan and saw the situation go from the euphoria of the expulsion of the Taliban in 2002 to the disappointing outcome we see today. Previously, Jack served in the Clinton White House as a member of the National Security Council. Overseas, he and his wife Karen served in Tel Aviv and Moscow and were the first diplomats posted to Siberia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They both also previously worked as negotiators at the START nuclear arms control talks in Geneva. In another life, Jack served two tours of duty in the Army in Vietnam, receiving a Bronze Star and many other awards. He lives in Traverse City with his wife Karen and their daughter Maya, a Junior at Interlochen Arts
Matthew Solomon (PhD, UCLA) is Associate Professor in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where he teaches courses in film history and film theory. He is the author of Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century (University of Illinois Press, 2010) and the editor of Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon (SUNY Press, 2011). He is at work on a new book about Méliès and the modern world.
Oliver Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer who has worked with stations like WTVS, WFUM and WKAR—as well as independent production companies like HKO Media, Metrocom International and Good Problem Productions—to produce a range of projects from PSA campaigns to full-length documentaries and series. He was the co-writer and co-producer of the Emmy Award-winning Think Squad series on Detroit Public Television and the documentary Blue Ice: The Story of Michigan Hockey broadcast on Fox Sports Net. He was a writer, producer and director on the Emmy-nominated Michigan Football Memories and has written and produced multiple Emmy Award-winning short-form public television documentaries and public service announcement campaigns. He is also currently a lecturer in the University of Michigan’s Screen Arts and Cultures department, where he teaches two courses in television writing. He graduated from the Screen Arts and Cultures program in 2000 and was the recipient of a Hopwood Award and the Gayle Morris Sweetland Fellowship in screenwriting while a student there.
Lesley Alicia Tye is a writer and instructor of screenwriting and film critical studies at Interlochen Center for the Arts. In 2004 she co-chaired the strategic planning committee for the development of Interlochen’s Motion Picture Arts Department. She earned her BFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California and her MFA in Creative Writing from National University. Lesley has also taught screenwriting seminars for Michigan Writers and Northwestern Michigan College’s extension program, and her panel exploring screenplays as literature was accepted to the 2013 AWP Conference. Previously she worked in Los Angeles in film and television, with credits including casting assistant, below-the-line agent with Casala, Ltd, and Costume Designer for the feature “Two Coyotes” and short “The Millennium.” Her flash fiction has been published in the anthology Bite from Trachodon Publishing. She has written several feature length screenplays, was co-writer for the television pilot "Devin's Chronicles" for Caspian Sea Entertainment, and while at USC received the Stephen C. Gentry Award for Excellence in Screenwriting. She has also been active on and off stage in theatre productions in Los Angeles and here in Traverse City.
Dan Zak is a staff writer for The Washington Post and an emcee at the Telluride Film Festival. He is working on a non-fiction book about nuclear weapons. He's on various social media as @MrDanZak.