Meet the TCFF moderators for 2015!
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 began at a very young age,watching classic movies on "Million Dollar Movies" with her dad too late at night. She was hooked! At Emerson College, where she was their first female projectionist and at University of London, Deborah studied photography and theatre arts. In publishing,she was a freelance photographer and a darkroom lab rat. Deborah served as the business manager of the Magic Lantern Theatre (film) in Bridgton, Maine. She was a senior photo researcher for the agency Stock,Boston in Boston,MA. Deborah was active in the early formation of Boston Light & Sound, then a film dailies system supplier for major motion picture studios in the U.S. She served as Business Manager including managing its in house screening room. She has worked in film tech and projection support with the Telluride Film Festival in Telluride,Colorado since 1984. Deborah has served as Film Moderator for the Provincetown International Film Festival on Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She continues to be fascinated by the stories told on film and by filmmakers.
Ira Deutchman 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 a consultant in marketing and distribution of independent films. Among his clients is Emerging Pictures, a New York-based digital exhibition company that he co-founded in 2002. He is also a Professor of Professional Practice in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, where he was the Chair of the Film Program from 2011-2015. 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.” His screen credits include Associate Producer of John Sayles’ "Matewan;" Executive Producer of Jonathan Demme’s "Swimming to Cambodia," Gary Sinise’s "Miles From Home," Paul Bartel’s "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills," Matty Rich’s "Straight Out of Brooklyn," Stephen Gyllenhaal’s "Waterland," Maggie Greenwald’s "The Ballad of Little Jo," Alan Rudolph’s "Mrs. Parker & the Vicious Circle," Paul Auster’s "Lulu On the Bridge," Wayne Wang’s “Center of the World,” Daniel Noah’s “Twelve,” Anthony Jaswinski’s “Killing Time,” Loren-Paul Caplin’s “The Lucky Ones,” Amy Wadell’s “Brothel” and Georgia Lee’s “Red Doors;” and Co-Producer of David Anspaugh’s “The Game of Their Lives.” Deutchman was the Producer of Tony Vitale’s "Kiss Me, Guido," Sarah Kernochan’s "All I Wanna Do," Mark Christopher’s "54," Adam Davidson’s "Way Past Cool," Bob Gale’s “Interstate 60,” Tanya Wexler’s “Relative Evil,” Ann Hu’s “Beauty Remains” and Ed Radtke’s “Speed of Life.” He was also Consulting Producer on the CBS sitcom “Some of My Best Friends.” 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.
Colin Gunkel is an Assistant Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures, American Culture and Latina/o Studies at the University of Michigan and the author of Mexico on Main Street: Transnational Film Culture in Los Angeles before World War II (Rutgers University Press, 2015). He has published essays in a number of scholarly journals, including American Quarterly, Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Film History and Velvet Light Trap. He also serves as Associate Editor of the A Ver: Revisioning Art History monograph series on individual Latino/a artists
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.”
Peter Johnston is the Production Manager for Michigan State University’s Film Studies program where he manages the film lab and teaches production courses, and the creative director for video for the MSU College of Arts & Letters Marketing office. He’s also an accomplished fiction and documentary filmmaker, and in his spare time loves to brew beer.
Anders Kelto is a reporter for National Public Radio (NPR), based in Washington DC. He spent four years reporting in Africa for NPR and PRI’s The World, covering everything from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Much of his reporting has focused on global health and development, and more recently he has contributed to NPR’s domestic health coverage. A native of Traverse City, Anders returns to Northern Michigan every summer and still runs a soccer camp that he started in college, called Mr. Soccer Camp.
Sheila C.Murphy (PhD., Visual Studies, University of California, Irvine, 2002) is Associate Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures and specializes in Digital Media Studies (Internet cultures, video game history, convergence cultures). She is the author of How Television Invented New Media (Rutgers University Press, 2011) and of essays appeared in The Journal of Visual Culture and such anthologies as The Video Game Theory Reader 2.0 (2008). Her current book project, entitled ReLoad: The Emergence of Internet Visuality, traces the ways the Internet has become host to its own visual cultures and, through a close study of software and hardware development, provides a historical account of the image types and image-making practices found online since the introduction of the world wide web in 1994. She loves watching the amazing and provocative films shown in Traverse City at the Film Festival, whose volunteers, audiences and community remind her how good movies can make the world better.
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 a 19-year old with a passion for movies. Jesse just completed his freshman year at Indiana University, where he reviews film, television, and pop culture for the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. He is the Writing Chair of the IU Student Cinema Guild, and an usher at the beautiful IU Cinema. Jesse is a friend of the Doug Loves Movies podcast, having appeared on the show four times since meeting Doug Benson in Traverse City last year. Jesse has watched over 800 films in the last 5 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 fourth 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 has been the documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival since 2006. He curates the digital streaming platform SundanceNOW Doc Club; and serves as the Artistic Director of America’s largest documentary festival DOC NYC and the weekly screening series Stranger Than Fiction. He is the co-host of WNYC’s Documentary of the Week. He programs for the Miami International Film Festival and teaches at the School of Visual Arts. On Twitter: @thompowers
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 writer/producer and co-founder of 8180 Films along with her husband/producing partner Jim Carpenter and long-time collaborator Larry Brand. With actor/comedian Robert Wuhl, Reynolds co-wrote the HBO Comedy Specials, Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl and Assume the Position 201, the first of which was nominated for a Writers Guild Award. She also served as writer/producer for Wuhl's long-running HBO comedy series Arli$$. Screenwriting credits include the psychological thrillers BACKFIRE and OVEREXPOSED, both co-written with Brand. Reynolds and Carpenter produced 8180 Films’ three award-winning indie features: the noir thriller THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (Monterey Media, Cardinal XD), the comedy documentary THE COEXIST COMEDY TOUR FILM (Starz, Kino Lorber, Cinedigm) and the post-World War II drama, CHRISTINA (Indican Pictures). She and Carpenter are currently producing 8180 Films’ latest feature, BEYOND GLORY (beyondglorythemovie.com), a performance documentary starring Stephen Lang (AVATAR).
Jack Segal is a retired US diplomat who served at NATO, the White House and the State Department. Overseas, he served in southern Africa, Greece, Israel/Palestine, Russia and Afghanistan. He and his wife Karen, co-chair Traverse City’s World Affairs Council chapter. They were the first western diplomats in central Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Jack is currently an Adjunct Professor at NMC and will be teaching at Norwich University, Vermont starting in 2016.
Matthew Solomon (PhD, UCLA) is an associate professor in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where he teaches film history and film theory and directs the PhD program. He is the author of a new book about Chaplin’s The Gold Rush for the BFI Film Classics series that will be available at the TCFF, as well as the author of Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century, which won the Kraszna-Krausz Award for best moving image book in 2011, and the editor of Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon, published with a critical edition DVD. He is at work on a book about Méliès and the modern world.
Oliver Thornton is an EMMY® Award-winning writer/producer who has worked with broadcast stations and independent production companies 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 as well as the documentaries Blue Ice: The Story of Michigan Hockey and Detroit Titan Court Report: Legends & Traditions broadcast on FSN Detroit. His recent projects include Feel Grand with Jane Seymour, a nationally distributed talk show through American Public Television, as well as pre-production for a documentary on filmmaker John Sayles.
Lesley Alicia Tye is a writer and instructor of screenwriting and film at Interlochen Center for the Arts. 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 seminars for Michigan Writers and Northwestern Michigan College’s extension program. 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, and was co-writer for the television pilot Devin's Chronicles for Caspian Sea Entertainment. Here in Traverse City Lesley is co-creator of the Mash-Up Rock ‘n Roll Musical Troupe and wrote and directed their first two shows How Grinchy Met the Who and Grimm’s Alternative Fairytales.