Palm Springs International Shortfest 2023: Forum Programs and Jury Members Announced Image

Palm Springs International Shortfest 2023: Forum Programs and Jury Members Announced

By Film Threat Staff | June 6, 2023

The Palm Springs International ShortFest is back for its 29th edition, featuring 299 films from 129 countries in 50 programs. The festival, which runs from June 20-26 at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, will also host its annual Forum with industry experts and award-winning filmmakers. The jury members for the Oscar-Qualifying Awards, Student Short Awards, and Special Jury Awards have been announced as well.

From June 23-25, the ShortFest Forum will offer a variety of events for festival filmmakers and industry professionals to network and learn from each other. The forum will cover topics such as new trends and best practices in the film industry worldwide.

Some events are filmmaker-only with limited seating and require pre-registration, which is open until June 12th. For any Forum questions, please contact This year’s Forum programs and participants include:

Ask Me Anything: Shorts Distribution
Friday, June 23, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
So you’re finishing up your festival circuit, but how can you ensure your film will be seen by wider audiences? What does the current shorts distribution and viewing landscape look like? How can you partner with the right companies and platforms to set your film up for success? Our panel of distinguished guests weigh in on all your shorts distribution questions.
Panelists: Andrew Calberg (Producer), Meghan Oretsky (Sr. Curator, Vimeo), Céline Roustan (Programmer, Palm Springs ShortFest, SXSW, Short of the Week)

Ask Me Anything: Festivals
Friday, June 23, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Join us for an open and candid conversation with festival programmers, directors, and curators as they reveal how their selection processes work, share tips for your upcoming festival submissions, and outline how to make the most of your festival experiences. Bring all your questions!
Panelists:  Francis Roman (Senior Film & TV Festival Programming Manager + Lead Shorts Programmer at SXSW); Kate Mason (Programming and Events Associate at Film Independent); Meg Weighman (Programmer at SCAD Savannah Film Festival); Paul Sloop (Short Films Programmer at Cleveland Film Festival); Ritesh Mehta (Co-Director of Programming at Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA)).

Pro Pitching
Friday, June 23, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Pitching is an art form… Join us for a lively conversation with distinguished industry executives on the do’s and don’ts of presenting your project and what they look for in a winning idea. Submit your pitch ahead of time for the chance to pitch directly to the panelists and receive feedback live! Three pitches will be pre-selected and confirmed prior to the panel.
Panelists: Graciela Garcia (Manager at Cinetic Media); Liliana Granados (Producer); Matt Rosen (Manager at Rain).
Moderator: Patrick Gomez (Editor in Chief at Entertainment Weekly).

The Next Step: From Short to Feature
Friday, June 23, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Moving into feature filmmaking can be daunting but endlessly rewarding. Hear from our panel of filmmakers on the best ways to approach this transition and their own challenges, learnings, and creative journeys venturing from the world of shorts into features.
Panelists: Aitch Alberto (Director); Lisette Feliciano (Director); Fawzia Mirza (Director); Colin West (Director).
Moderator: Jenelle Riley (Deputy Awards and Features Editor at Variety).

Unpacking the Writers Strike
Friday, June 23, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The writers’ strike has surfaced issues and debates that affect all of us in the industry, from implications around the future of artificial intelligence to the significance of streaming residuals and more. What is at stake for filmmakers, both established and emerging, and what can we expect in the weeks and months to come? How can we be informed and best support each other as negotiations continue? Whether you’ve got multiple films under your belt or are just starting out, join us for a candid and open conversation about the strike’s impact.
Panelists: Liz Cardenas (Producer / Filmmaker, Ten to the Six Pictures); Jonathan Handel (Attorney, Journalist, and Executive); Malina Saval (Features Editor at Variety); Steve Green (Associate TV Editor at Indiewire).
Moderator: Jacqueline Coley (Awards Editor at Rotten Tomatoes).

Greener Futures: Sustainable Filmmaking
Saturday, June 24, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
The climate crisis begs the question – how can we integrate sustainability into our filmmaking? From reducing our carbon footprint on set to prioritizing climate-driven stories, how do we do our part to protect the planet for ourselves and the next generation? Our panel of experts weighs in on ways we can bring stewardship to filmmaking while ensuring impactful stories go further.
Panelists: Devon Dansky (Impact Producer – Iron Light Labs); Samantha Dols (Impact Producer, Optimist); Sarah Keo (Filmmaker); Jennifer Lynch (Senior Vice President – Corporate Social Responsibility at Paramount Pictures).
Moderator: Nekesa Moody (Editorial Director at The Hollywood Reporter).

Fresh Financing
Saturday, June 24, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Looking for funds for your next movie may be challenging, but doesn’t have to be a slog. Hear from our panel of filmmakers on the outside-the-box ways they’ve been able to put money together for their projects and learn the best approaches, tips and tricks for getting the financing in place for your next film.
Panelists: Bri Castellini (Manager of Creator Success, Seed&Spark); Giulia Caruso (Director of Catalyst and Industry, Sundance Institute); Domenica Castro (Executive Producer and Founder at 271 Filmss); Apoorva Charan (Producer, All Caps).
Moderator: Kristen Lopez (Film Editor at The Wrap).

One-on-Ones Session 1: Industry Executive Mentors
Saturday, June 24, 1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Don’t miss the chance to meet in person with an industry professional. These 15-minute one-on-one meetings give you the opportunity to ask burning questions about areas of the industry you are interested in working in or learning more about, general career advice, or ways to best position yourself and your work as you move forward. Limited seating – advance sign-up required. Filmmakers only.
Participants: Sarah Al-Qatou (Producer and Creative Executive at Hoorae); Opal H. Bennett (Producer at American Documentary | POV Shorts); Lamar Chase (Vice President, Scripted Programming at Sony Pictures Entertainment); Caroline Clark (Development and Production Executive at Kindred Spirit); Dana Cox (Literary Manager at Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment); Mike Dougherty (Director of Programming, Outfest); Kyle Jaeger (Manager at 2AM); Missy Laney (Director of Development at Adult Swim); Albert Lee (Motion Picture Agent at CAA); Lauren Lopez de Victoria (Creative Executive – Development & Production at Borderless Pictures); Ina Pira (Senior Curator at Vimeo); Olivia Mascheroni (Agent at Verve Talent and Literary Agency); Andria Wilson Mirza (Director of ReFrame); Peryn Reeves-Darby (Manager at Fifth Season); Sammy Ring (Creative Executive); Nick Romano (Creative Executive at 18hz); Lauren Shelton (Creative Executive at Ley Line Entertainment); Gabe Van Amburgh (Senior Manager, Film & TV Programmer at SXSW); Mireia Vilanova (Film Producer); Landon Zakheim (Programmer, Short Films at Sundance Film Festival).

One-on-Ones Session 2: Filmmaker Mentors
Saturday, June 24, 3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Don’t miss the chance to meet in person with an established filmmaker. These 15 minute one-on-one meetings give you the opportunity to ask burning questions about careers, aspects of filmmaking you are interested in learning more about, general advice, or ways to best position yourself and your work as you move forward. Limited seating – advance sign-up required. Filmmakers only.
Participants: Maria Camila Arias (Writer and Director); Thembi Banks (Director); Maylen Calienes (Producer); Valerie Castillo-Martinez (Producer); Andreas Deja (Director and Animator); Rona Edwards (Producer); Sam Feder (Director); Carolina Groppa (Producer); Parker Hill (Director); O’Shea” Myles (Producer); Lizzie Shapiro (Producer); Monica Skerbelis (Director, the American Pavillion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase); Valerie Steinberg (Producer); Angel Kristi Williams (Director); Katie White (Producer); Sarah Winshall (Producer); Eugene Yi (Director).

Roundtable: Representation & Artist Support
Sunday, June 25, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Our signature roundtable event returns! Hear directly from prominent agents, managers, and organizations involved in artist support and granting to learn about how they find the filmmakers they work with and what opportunities exist for your project. Bring your questions – we’ll rotate periodically. This event is first-come, first-served with limited seating so we recommend arriving early.
Participants: Lauren Holland (Agent at CAA); Angela Lee (Director of Artist Development at Film Independent); Jacqueline Mosher (Manager at Rain); Rosa Morales (Associate Manager of Narrative Film at SFFILM); Marc Mounier (Manager at Entertainment 360); Ugo Obioha (Agent at UTA); Maria Santos (Funds Program Officer at International Documentary Association); Matthew Takata (Assistant Director, Feature Film International at Sundance Institute); Joan Wai (Sr. Director, Mid-Career Talent Development Programs, AMPAS).

Roundtable: Development & Acquisitions
Sunday, June 25, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Our signature roundtable event returns! Hear directly from prominent development and acquisitions executives to learn about what they look for in selecting and supporting projects, how they build relationships with filmmakers, and how your work can stand out from the crowd. Bring your questions – we’ll rotate periodically. This event is first-come, first-served with limited seating so we recommend arriving early.
Participants: Angel An (Vice President of Acquisitions at Roadside Attractions); Will Baldwin (Manager of Development at Dynamic Television); Christine Davila (Head of Development and Production at Ojalá); Diego Najera (Director, Narrative Film at Participant); Arbi Pedrossian (VP, 20th Digital Studios);​​ Kiva Reardon (Vice President of Film at PASTEL); Caleb Ward (Vice President of Acquisitions & Development at Highland Film Group).

Juried award winners will be announced on Sunday, June 26, from the official selection, presenting them with awards and cash prizes worth $25,000, including five Academy Award® qualifying awards. This year’s ShortFest jury members include:

Best of the Festival Award
Angel An – Angel An is the VP of Acquisitions and Co-Productions at Roadside Attractions. She started her career in U.S. distribution over a decade ago at First Independent Pictures, where she managed the release of films such as BIG FAN. Since then, she has acquired for Cohen Media Group and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Titles she has brought to screens, big and small, include Emily The Criminal, Pinocchio, Judy, Peanut Butter Falcon, The Alpinist, Beatriz At Dinner, Lady Macbeth, and Renoir. She graduated from New York University with a B.A. in Art History.

Kiva Reardon – Kiva Reardon is Vice President, Film at PASTEL, the filmmaking collective founded by Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, and Mark Ceryak. Previously, she held the positions of Associate Director of Film Programs at the Academy Museum and Lead Programmer of Contemporary World Cinema at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). She has also worked with Hot Docs, the Miami International Film Festival, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). In 2013 she founded cléo journal, a publication dedicated to film and feminism, which ran until 2019. Her writing on film has appeared in multiple magazines, newspapers, and online. She has spoken at institutions around the world and served on numerous international festival juries.

Clay Pruitt – Clay Pruitt is Director of Programming, Impact Distribution at Seed&Spark’s Film Forward. He’s worked with the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, WME, Outfest, Palm Springs Film Society, AFM, and for the Film Independent / US State Department partnered program, Global Media Makers. He’s had the pleasure of working on many rewarding projects, including United Skates (HBO), Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow (Discovery, Dir. Rory Kennedy), American Epic (PBS), and I’m Fine (Dekkoo). He was a 2018 Film Independent Producing Lab Fellow and recipient of the Sloan Producing Lab Grant.

Best Animated Short
Geoff Marslett – Geoff is an animator, director, writer, producer and actor. His work often revolves around the romance of connection and the way exploration changes you and the place you explore. His major works include the feature films Quantum Cowboys, MARS and Loves Her Gun, as well as the short films Monkey vs. Robot, Everything Changes, and The Phantom 52. His work has screened at over a hundred different film and animation festivals including Sundance, SXSW, BFI London, Annecy Film Festival, The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Munich Film Festival, Champs-Elysees Film Festival, Berlinale, Toronto International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival and Guanajuato International Film Festival, as well as garnering great reviews from The New York Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Time Out London, Film Threat, IndieWire, The Austin Chronicle and Filmmaker Magazine. He grew up a cowboy with an interest in math, and has worked in both construction and physics before becoming a filmmaker. He adores feral cats, and still genuinely loves making things. He splits his time between filmmaking and teaching at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Irene Suico Soriano – Irene Soriano is a writer, film curator, and independent arts producer living in Los Angeles. Irene was selected to be part of the inaugural class of Outfest’s Programming Fellowship and co-curated the 2022 & 2023 editions of the Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival. She was Film Independent/Project Involve’s first Fellow to initiate a Film Programming track in 2003 and has since curated film programs for the Echo Park Film Center, Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), and The OutMuseum. Irene joined the Sundance Film Festival in 2022 as a Shorts Film Programmer.

Gabe Van Amburgh – Gabe Van Amburgh is a Film Programmer and Senior Manager for the SXSW Film & TV Festival in Austin, Texas. Since 2011 he has directed all aspects of exhibition, including film print traffic, theatre buildouts, the transition to 100% digital DCP exhibition, plus a variety of valuable analytical and strategic contributions as part of the Film Team. Previously, Van Amburgh worked for seven years in many different technical roles at the Alamo Drafthouse, SXSW, and Fantastic Film Fest.

Best Documentary Short
Eugene Yi – Eugene Yi is a director, editor, and writer. His directing work includes Free Chol Soo Lee (with Julie Ha), which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. He is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of Brown University, where he studied neuroscience.

Maria Santos – Maria Santos joined the International Documentary Association as the Funds Program Officer in September 2022. She oversees all of the funding grants and provides year-round creative and strategic support to all IDA grantees. Previously, she was the Manager of Labs and Artist Support at the Sundance Documentary Film Program. During her time there, she was the lead on working with International Artists. Originally from Peru, Maria is an independent producer who has worked in distribution and artist development at organizations including ARRAY and Cinereach. In 2018, she was selected as a Film Society Industry Academy member and became a Third World Newsreel Production fellow.

Opal H. Bennett – Opal H. Bennett is an Emmy-winning Co-Producer at POV and Producer at POV Shorts. Her first season curating POV Shorts won the 2020 IDA Award for Best Short Form Series. Previously Opal was Shorts Programmer and Dir. of Artist Development at DOCNYC and Senior Programmer at Athena Film Festival. She has also worked with Nantucket Film Festival, Aspen ShortsFest, and Tribeca Film Festival. Opal is a member of the AMPAS Documentary branch. She has participated in various festival juries and selection committees for film grants. A Columbia Law grad, Opal holds a Masters from the LSE and received her B.A. from NYU.

Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes
Colin West – Colin West is an award-winning writer and director based in Los Angeles and New York. His films include Linoleum (2022 SXSW Film Festival)—starring Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Katelyn Nacon, Michael Ian Black, and Tony Shalhoub—and Double Walker, which was co-written by and stars Sylvie Mix. He was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Science in Cinema prize at SFIFF in 2022 and a New York Times critic’s pick in 2023.

Kate Mason – Kate Mason is a writer, performer, programmer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Originally from Pittsburgh, she started her indie film journey working in operations for the New Orleans Film Festival, where she still programs. At Film Independent, she programs and produces public screenings and one-of-a-kind events for film lovers, such as our Bring the Noise, An Evening With, and the Live Read series. Her first film, Serious Play, is premiering at Brooklyn Film Festival in June 2023. She loves the Camelot Theatres, Toucans, and Bootlegger Tiki.

Rosa Morales – Rosa Morales is the Manager of Narrative Film with the SFFILM Artist Development team.
Inspired by a lifelong passion for storytelling, she has built her career in supporting artist development programs that uplift voices of filmmakers from under-represented communities. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a focus in Media and Latinx Studies and was a member of the 2019 Industry Academy with Film at Lincoln Center. Born and raised in San Francisco, she is committed to cultivating and celebrating the bountiful art community in the Bay Area and beyond.

Best Live-Action Short 15 Minutes & Under
Albert Lee – Albert Lee is a Motion Picture Literary Agent at leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Albert is based in the Los Angeles office and represents many of the world’s leading directors, writers, producers, and actors. He began his career at CAA in 2015.

Liz Cardenas – Liz Cardenas is a 2022 Independent Spirit Award Winner (7 Days, Tribeca | Cinedigm) and 2019 Nominee (Never Goin’ Back, Sundance | A24) and was also nominated for the Producer Award at the 2023 Spirit Awards. Selected by The Gotham for the 2023 Cannes Producers Network and the 2018 Rotterdam Lab, she’s also a Film Independent Fellow and was included in the 2019 LATINXT, a curated list of emerging Latinx creators from an initiative by Zoe Saldana, Robert Rodriguez and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Other notable credits include award-winning films, A Ghost Story, Acidiman, Materna and Jules Of Light & Dark.

Lizzie Shapiro – Lizzie Shapiro (Producer, The Space Program) produced Brittany Snow’s Parachute and Aristotle Torres’ Story Ave in competition at 2023 SXSW. Parachute received Special Jury Awards for Directing and Performance, Story Ave received the Special Jury Award for Cinematography. She is premiering Bad Things and Songs About F*****g at Tribeca 2023. She produced the 2022 Independent Spirit Cassavetes Award winner Shiva Baby (SXSW ’20, TIFF ’20) and Mickey and the Bear (SXSW ’19, Cannes ’19). Lizzie is a Co-Executive Producer on the Adam McKay/Emma Seligman Sugar Baby HBO Baby series. She is the recipient of the Janet Pierson Champion Producing award and Independent Spirit Producing Award.

Best International Short
Matthew Takata – Matthew Takata is the Assistant Director for the Feature Film Program’s international work at the Sundance Institute. His focus is on international outreach and selection for the Institute’s Screenwriters and Directors Labs in Utah, FFP’s international labs, which have included India, Jordan, Greece, Mexico and Cuba, and the annual Sundance/NHK Award. Previously, Takata worked in development at GK Films, following a stint at Key Creatives and International Creative Management. Takata attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Valerie Castillo-Martinez – Valerie Castillo Martinez is a Filipina-American filmmaker, who founded IndieFlip, to make stories of underrepresented subjects with stories that crosses cultures. Her shorts have played in Berlin, Venice, Toronto, Busan and SXSW and won numerous awards worldwide. Her first feature as writer and producer Death of Nintendo premiered in Berlinale Generation in 2020 and received a Special Jury Award in screenwriting from the LAAPF. She is a Project Involve Fellow, a Berlinale Talent and a Vilcek Foundation New American Perspectives participant. She is currently the Assistant Director of Production Administration and an adjunct assistant professor of screenwriting at Columbia University.

Ugo Obioha – Ugonna (“Ugo”) Obioha has recently joined UTA’s Motion Picture Literary Department as an Agent. Born and semi-raised in Nigeria, Ugo has spent a majority of her professional career as an attorney, trying a variety of legal matters including consumer protection rights, breaches of contract, and divorces for many high-profile clients. Despite legal advocacy being her first vocation, Ugo’s passion for entertainment, media and the arts drove her to empower and assist friends and colleagues in pursuing their creative endeavors along the way.

Best U.S. Short
Aitch Alberto – Aitch Alberto is a writer/director born and raised in Miami, Florida. Aitch has adapted and directed the NYT’s Best-Selling young adult novel Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sanez. The film was produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Eugenio Derbez and made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film will be released this year. Aitch has most recently been featured on Variety’s 10 Directors To Watch for 2022 and Indiewire’s 22 Rising Female Filmmakers.

Arbi Pedrossian – Arbi Pedrossian is a development executive who has overseen over 65 genre short films for Bite Size Halloween on Hulu. He has also developed and produced feature films based on shorts, including Clock on Hulu and the upcoming Appendage, which premiered at SXSW 2023.

Kristen Lopez – Kristen Lopez is an award-nominated entertainment journalist and film editor for TheWrap. She has been published in Variety, MTV, and Forbes. In 2023 she published her first book, “But Have You Read the Book: 52 Literary Gems That Inspired Our Favorite Films,” for Turner Classic Movies and Running Press. A Sacramento native in her free time, she’s the host and creator of the classic film podcast Ticklish Business.

Best Comedy Short
Fawzia Mirza – Fawzia Mirza co-wrote/starred in the feature film Signature Move (world premiered SXSW). Her award-winning shorts have screened all over (Hamptons, Blackstar, Short of the Week, Mumbai, Mardi Gras, BFI Flare, Iris Prize, TIFF), and her short Auntie is available on The New Yorker. Her feature screenplay Heirloom was named to the 2022 Muslim List (by The Black List). She’s in post on her directorial feature debut The Queen Of My Dreams (Canada/Pakistan), a mother-daughter dramedy with the touchstone of Indian film icon Sharmila Tagore. The screenplay was in TIFF’s Writer Studio/Filmmaker Lab, and stars Amrit Kaur (Sex Lives Of College Girls), Nimra Bucha (Ms. Marvel), Hamza Haq (Transplant).

Katie White – Katie White (she/her) is an Emmy award-winning producer. Her fiction work includes Best Summer Ever (SXSW 2021/Hulu), a musical feature hailed as a ‘Critics Pick’ by The New York Times, praised widely for its groundbreaking inclusivity, and the Emmy-nominated queer comedy Bridesman, executive produced by Grindr, which received a 2022 Tribeca X nomination for outstanding episodic achievement. She is developing her second feature documentary with TIME Studios. Katie is a 2022 Sundance Catalyst Fellow and 2021 Sundance Producing Fellow, as well as co-chair of the Documentary Producers Alliance’s Membership Committee.

Kyle Jaeger – Kyle Jaeger is a manager at 2AM with a focus on representing emerging creators across film, television and theater. Kyle represents such artists as Eboni Booth, Halina Reijn and D. Smith. Previously, Jaeger worked at ICM Partners as an agent in the firm’s TV literary group.

Best LGBTQ+ Short
Apoorva Charan – Apoorva Charan is an LA based producer who was born in India, raised in Northern California, and started her producing career in Singapore. Her producorial feature debut, Joyland premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (2022) and won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, the Queer Palm, and the Independent Spirit Award for Best International Film 2023. It was the first film from Pakistan to make the shortlist for the 95th Academy Awards. An alumnus of Columbia University’s MFA Film program, Charan was a 2019 Project Involve fellow, a 2020 Film Independent Creative Producing Lab fellow, and a 2022 Sundance Creative Producing Lab fellow.

Andrew Carlberg – Named by Variety as one of “Hollywoodʼs New Leaders,” Carlberg is an Academy Award-winning film, television, new media, Broadway, and Los Angeles stage producer. Andrew’s extensive credits include, but aren’t limited to, ABC’s Castle, DirecTV’s Full Circle, Broadway’s Romeo and Juliet and Side Show, the worldwide hit improv-based show The Blind Date Project, the Neil LaBute penned feature films Some Girl(s) and Dirty Weekend, actress Jennifer Morrison’s feature directorial debut Sun Dogs (Netflix 2018), the Official Sundance Selection The Blazing World (short and feature), HBOMax’s The Fallout, the Academy Award-winning short Skin and the Academy Award-nominated short Feeling Through.

Sam Feder – Sam Feder is a Peabody Award-nominated film director and writer. Sam created The Netflix Original Documentary, Disclosure (Sundance, 2020) and is currently developing the scripted TV series, Weimar with Executive Producers Lilly Wachowski and Bruce Cohen. Sam’s films explore the intersection of visibility and politics along the lines of race, class, and gender and their filmmaking practice models inclusion and equity in the industry.

Best Midnight Short
Nick Romano – Nick Romano is a Creative Executive at 18hz, Walter Hamada’s horror production company which has an exclusive production deal with Paramount Pictures. Previously, he was at New Line, where he worked for execs Nikki Ramey and Celia Khong. He began his career in 2018 at ICM Partners in the mailroom before landing as a motion picture literary assistant to Bryan Diperstein and Harley Copen. The Queens-born exec graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in screenwriting. During his time there, he completed multiple internships with stints at A24, Bleecker Street, Scott Rudin, and Dimension Films.

Sarah Lash – Sarah Lash is the Senior Director, Acquisitions at Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE), responsible for acquiring premium content for the company’s network of digital channels, including Glamour, GQ, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and WIRED. Lash started at CNE in 2014 as a consultant, helping to shepherd the acquisition of dozens of short films and series for digital distribution. Prior to joining CNE, Lash was Senior Vice President of Sales and Acquisitions for ATO Pictures where she executive produced the release of TERRI, negotiated deals for all acquisitions, and oversaw ancillary sales. In 2009, Lash produced the No Borders co-production market, organized by the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP). Prior to that, she was the Head of Domestic Sales for Cinetic Media where she was instrumental in the sales of various titles for the Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca, and Toronto film festivals. Lash has also served as an agent at ICM, as Vice President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions at IFC, and as Director of Acquisitions at Lionsgate. Lash has a BA in English and Philosophy from Colgate University.

Coral Wright – Coral Wright serves as Director for The Spectacle TV Team at Netflix. She started her Netflix journey in 2018. As a content leader, she believes storytelling has the power to change the world. Since joining Netflix, Coral has worked on iconic shows such as Wednesday, Sweet Tooth, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, Kaleidoscope, Raising Dion, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Prior to Netflix, Coral was a Creative Executive at Hasbro Studios. There, she and the team oversaw the adaptation of Hasbro’s biggest brands such as DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, BUMBLEBEE, SNAKE EYES, OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, and MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC. She’s a proud graduate of Carnegie Mellon and Emory University. In her free time, this Los Angeles native loves tacos, hiking, and live music.

Best Student Documentary & Best Student U.S. Short
Parker Hill – Parker Hill is writer/director from New York City who works across narrative and documentary stories. Parker’s debut feature documentary Cusp (Sundance, U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker) was released by Showtime in 2021 and garnered nominations from the ASC, IDA Awards and Cinema Eye Honors for best cinematography. Parker has directed several short films, including One Good Pitch (Tribeca 2016), Homing In (BFI London Film Festival 2017) and Sanderson to Brackettville (Vimeo Staff Pick). Parker is a published photographer and a commercial director with Tomorrow.

Francis Román – Francis Román is an Ecuadorian-American writer, director, and creative. She’s the Senior Film & TV Festival Programming Manager and leads the Shorts Programming at SXSW. She has a passion for film and event production. She co-founded The Direct Line production company. She also co-hosts and produces How to Texas, a podcast spotlighting crew in the Texas film industry. Making art with friends and watching films brings her immense joy and she would love to do it forever.

Lauren Shelton – Lauren Shelton supports Ley Line’s film group (Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Green Knight). A graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, Lauren’s prior experience includes AwesomenessTV, Universal Pictures, and Vertigo Entertainment.

Best Student Animated Short & Best Student International Short
Christine Davila – Christine Davila is currently the head of development and production for Ojalá, Tanya Saracho’s company – which has an overall TV deal with Universal Content Productions. Prior to Ojalá she developed and produced for Warner Bros Stage 13. As a former film festival programmer, she worked with Sundance Film Festival, Morelia Film Festival, Curacao Rotterdam, among others.

Florentina Almonte – Florentina Almonte, Content Acquisitions Executive at Shorts TV International, is responsible for managing all aspects of acquisitions for the US, EMEA, and LATAM, as well as licensing the Oscar-nominated short films for theatrical and digital releases. Florentina is an experienced television and film professional with a background in many aspects of the business. She has also developed original programming concepts in the US Hispanic market. For a significant part of her career, Florentina was the Programming Director of the US-Hispanic network HITN-TV, serving in various managing capacities and developing the programming strategy. Florentina also worked at A+E International Networks as a managing liaison between A+E’s global and the US teams and developed marketing initiatives for History en Español US.

Lauren Lopez de Victoria – Lauren López de Victoria is a Puerto Rican producer with an MFA from Columbia University. She was a recipient of the PGA Debra Hill grant, a Film Independent Project Involve Producing Fellow, and a Sundance Producing fellow. Lauren is currently an executive at Borderless Pictures.

MOZAIK Bridging the Borders Jury
Keely Badger – Keely Badger is Executive Director of MOZAIK, a new millennial-led philanthropic organization committed to exploring and modeling new practices in philanthropy with disruptive, creative, and catalytic potential. Based in Los Angeles, CA, Keely leads the foundation’s strategic grantmaking, programs and community engagements, working with a range of nonprofit organizations in the local, national and international advocacy space. As a millennial expert and advocate on international human rights and development issues. Keely pioneers’ durable solutions for underrepresented voices, communities and causes by working to democratize philanthropy through participatory grantmaking praxis.

Arameh Etemadi – Arameh Etemadi is a versatile media professional with extensive experience in television production, documentary direction, journalism, and film criticism. Since 2007, she has been recognized as a film critic for Iranian Film Magazine, where she is known for her insightful articles and film reviews. In 2014, she won the award for Best Art Interviewer from the Iranian Society of Film Critics and Writers (ISFCW). Currently, Arameh Etemadi works as a film critic for Film-e Emrooz Magazine, and her writing has also appeared in a range of other publications, including Chelcheragh, Hamshahri Javan, Shargh Newspaper, Tehran-e Emrooz, and 24 monthly magazine. She was born and raised in Tehran, where she began her professional career as a journalist and film critic for Hamshahri and Naghsh Afarinan in 2004. She holds a master’s degree in Journalism and has studied Social Communication Science in Tehran and Arameh Etemadi completed post-production courses at UCLA. In addition to her work as a film critic, Arameh Etemadi is also a talented writer, director, and live TV show producer. Her documentary on the life and works of “Mohamadreza Lotfi” was released in 2015, showcasing her skills as a director. In 2022, Arameh Etemadi directed and produced two documentaries about cryptocurrency. Furthermore, she co-founded and served as Artistic Director of the Sheed Film Festival in Dallas, TX, in 2016 and 2017.

Vladek Juszkiewicz – Born in Glasgow, Poland. He graduated from the Szczecin Technical University with a degree in Engineering. While attending the University he became a member of The Szczecin Technical University Choir, serving as a President and manager of the group. His travels with the choir to 18 counties including the United States where he visited the White House. When he moved to Warsaw, he became the manager of the Polish international star singer Maryla Rodowicz. After immigrating to the United States, he worked on 11 films with the late Paul Leder. In 1999 he founded the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles and served as a director till 2019. Now is serving as the Festival’s Programmer. Served on the juries of the Los Angeles Hungarian Film Festival, the Los Angeles South East European Film Festival, New York Polish Film Festival and Palm Springs International Film Festival. Awarded by the Polish Government with the Cavalier & Officer Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and Gloria Artis for promoting Polish culture abroad.

Deborah Kolar – Deborah Kolar is Managing Partner of Kean & Kolar Communications, a company formed in 2008 specializing in strategic guidance to the global screen industry. The company’s services include awards campaigns, US and International media strategies, corporate and personal representation, film festivals and markets, events management and entertainment industry consultation. Credits range from award-winning films such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Babylon,” “Rocketman,” “Fences,” “The Big Short,” “Selma,” “Noah,” “Nebraska,” “Flight,” “Hugo,” “True Grit,” “The Fighter,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Shutter Island,” and “Up in the Air,” to documentaries and numerous, prestigious international films. Kolar has worked on International publicity campaigns for films that include I Could Never Be Your Woman, Underworld Evolution, Aeon Flux, Rize, Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man and Jan Sverák’s award-winning Empties. Kolar produced Andrew Baird’s science fiction neo-noir film “Zone 414” starring Guy Pearce, distributed by Saban Films and Netflix and Co-Executive Produced John Irvin’s “The Boys & Girl From County Clare” starring Colm Meaney, Bernard Hill, Andrea Corr, Shaun Evans, Charlotte Bradley and Patrick Bergin, distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Kolar is a former member and Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of BAFTA-LA and an Executive-Producer of the British Academy Britannia Awards. Kolar was a member of the BAFTA VR Advisory Group and on the Advisory Board of Irish Screen America.

Vera Mijojlić – Vera Mijojlić is a cultural producer who founded the South East European Film Festival, SEEfest ( in Los Angeles in 2006. She has curated major film retrospectives for the UCLA Film Archive and Austin Film Society, and initiated a national tour of landmark short films with the Los Angeles Filmforum, which was presented at the Pacific Film Archive, Harvard Film Archive, National Gallery of Art, and MoMA. In addition to the 2018 Women in Leadership Award from the City of West Hollywood, she has received multiple recognitions from the State of California, as well as the County and City of Los Angeles. Vera began as a cultural reporter and film critic in Sarajevo, where she was also the location manager for the N.Y.-based Jalbert Productions documentary of the historic 1984 Winter Olympic Games. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade, and has a distinguished record in humanitarian work.

Chale Nafus – Chale Nafus was born in Dallas during World War II, he attended public schools, spent summers on his sister’s ranch in Comanche County in the 1950s, learned Spanish from schoolmates, and dreamed of getting out of Dallas. After getting through freshman year at SMU, he worked at Texas Instruments before realizing he really needed a college education. After attending the University of Texas at Arlington (B.A., English), La Universidad Autónoma de México, and UT Austin (M.A., English/RTF), he began a long college teaching career at Texas Southmost College (Brownsville), La Universidad de Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Kingsborough Community College (Brooklyn), and finally Austin Community College (1973-1998). At the latter, he founded the Department of Radio-TV-Film, taught classes in film studies, and for seven years served as Chair of Humanities (Northridge Campus). Retiring in 1998, Chale spent 4 years traveling and writing before joining the staff of Austin Film Society as Director of Programming (2002-2015). He is now totally retired and happily serving on the boards of Austin Film Society and OUTsider Fest as well as the advisory committees of IndieMeme (South Asian film organization) and Cine Las Americas.

Ramin Niami – Ramin Niami is an award-winning Iranian American writer, director, and producer of feature films and documentaries. After studying film at Polytechnic of Central London (University of Westminster) and making festival favorite Michael, presented by the BFI (British Film Institute), Niami worked on films for Channel 4 and BBC. Ramin’s filmography as director includes feature debut Somewhere in the City, which features a star-studded cast including Bai Ling and Sandra Bernhard and premiered at the Seattle Film Festival, thriller Paris, shown in main competition at the Tribeca Film Festival, award-winning documentary feature, Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn, and romantic comedy Shirin in Love starring Nazanin Boniadi and Riley Smith. These films were released theatrically and shown on networks like HBO, CINEMAX, TMC, and Showtime. His most recent film, psychological horror/thriller Eye Without a Face released in US, Canada by Cinedigm, UK by 101fils, and Eastern Europe, and is currently available on all major platforms. As producer Ramin’s work includes Iranian New Wave director Amir Naderi’s first English language film Manhattan by Numbers, and Naderi’s latest film, Magic Lantern, which both premiered in the Venice International Film Festival. Ramin has several documentary and narrative projects currently in development.

Bijan Tehrani – Bijan Tehrani, an award-winning film director, film critic, and writer, works as Editor in Chief of Cinema Without Borders and President of Cinema Without Borders Foundation. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children’s books. He has been writing film critics for several publications during the last four decades. For the tenth anniversary of Cinema Without Borders, Bijan has received Ambassador of International Cinema Award from South east European Film Festival, Friend of the Festival Award from the Polish Film Festival, LA and Gateway to International Cinema.

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