DOCUMENTARY FILM JURY
Marlene McCurtis is a digital and literary storyteller whose expertise spans directing and writing nonfiction television and documentary films, community media engagement, and teaching creative writing in diverse communities, including system-impacted individuals. She is in post-production on “Wednesdays in Mississippi”, her first documentary feature film about a little- known interracial alliance between women during the civil rights movement. The film was selected for the Cucalorus Film Festival Work-in-Progress Lab, the Athena Film Festival Work-in-Progress Lab, and the Oxford Film Festival Film Female Directors Retreat. She has directed several short non-fiction films including “Here I’ll Stay” about a powerful coalition between immigrant rights’ activists and local civil rights veterans in Mississippi for the online platform Field of Vision , “Moving Forward”, which premiered the Pembroke Taparelli Arts & Film Festival, about formerly incarcerated men and women finding their voice through theatre, and “Making the Journey” which follows poet Jimmy Santiago Baca into California State Prison in Los Angeles County to teach a writing workshop. Her most recent short “The Circle” is currently on the film festival circuit. She is a teaching artist and co-director at TheatreWorkers Project in Los Angeles where she works with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. She is also the co-founder and director of Yoga@, a grassroots program offering free/low- cost yoga to underserved communities in L.A. Marlene is an alum Fellow of the Firelight Media Documentary Lab, holds MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State and is a member of the DGA.
Ramey Newell is a visual artist and filmmaker based in British Columbia, Canada. Her moving image work has been screened at film festivals and in galleries, museums and other art spaces throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia, including: the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; Alchemy Moving Image Festival in Hawick, Scotland; Mountainfilm in Telluride, Colorado; Antimatter [Media Art] in Victoria, Canada; and many others. Ramey’s experimental and documentary films have also earned accolades such as the Jury’s Stellar Award (Grand Prize) at Black Maria Film Festival (2018) and Best Director at Mirror Mountain Film Festival (2017). Ramey holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from New Mexico State University, a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Media Practices from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver). She currently teaches video and documentary production at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus.
Vaishali Sinha directed/produced the feature documentary ASK THE SEXPERT (PBS, Netflix India) about a 92-year-old sex advice columnist in India who gains popularity despite the ban on sex education in schools in several states. The film traveled to over 40 film festivals, won Best Documentary Award at New Orleans Film Festival, a Critics Choice Award in India, and a Grierson Nomination for Best Entertaining film. Vaishali also co-directed/produced the award-winning documentary MADE IN INDIA about the personal stories behind the phenomenon of outsourcing surrogacy to India. The film premiered at Hot Docs Film Festival in Canada and aired on PBS in 2012. Variety called it “an engrossing feature” and The Hindu wrote “the film does not judge, it only states and allows the viewer that prerogative.” Vaishali has received support for her films from ITVS, MacArthur Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Catapult Fund, Firelight Media, Playboy Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures, The Fledgling Fund, Center for Asian American Media, Mozilla, Economist Magazine, Nextpix, Hot Docs Forum and more. She was awarded the Firelight Media Doclab fellowship in (2016) and Flaherty Seminar fellowship (2019). In 2020 she was a directing mentor at Firelight Media. and is currently a directing mentor at Video Consortium's inaugural mentorship program b Sony. Vaishali also acted as an early consultant for PERIOD END OF SENTENCE, the Academy Award winning short documentary. Vaishali is from Mumbai and currently resides in New York with her husband Fred Lassen, a Music Director and their 6-year-old son Luca.
NARRATIVE FILM JURY
Nicholas Buggs is an Executive and Advisory Producer specializing in independent films. As Co-Founder of Bonsai Creative Enterprises (Bonsai Creative), Nick has successfully leveraged a background in Management Consulting, Product Development, Project Management, and Strategic Planning to develop and implement strategic approaches to maximizing the potential in independent film projects. Considering himself a "catalyst for creatives", Nick works alongside business partner and best friend Christopher Barkley to help filmmakers eliminate the obstacles to bringing great stories to life. Since 2014, Nick and Chris have earned film credits on three award-winning films that have all made their way to distribution. As Bonsai Creative, Nick and Chris now set their sights on changing the game for filmmakers by providing actionable insights that lead them on the path to success. Their primary outlet for bringing these creative and business insights to the film community is as Co-Hosts of the 5-star MAKE IT podcast. With over 200 episodes to-date covering a wide array of film-related topics, the MAKE IT podcast continues to grow its audience and its influence throughout the indie filmmaking community. Nicholas holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering where he also studied Communications, Management of Technology, and Mathematics.
Chris Barkley was born in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee, and fell in love with storytelling after seeing The Princess Bride (which he's enjoyed over fifty times) as a child. Taking a unique path to storytelling, Chris began as a songwriter, having penned over 200 songs. The need to emote through the power of story drove Chris to co-found Bonsai Creative with his best friend, Nicholas Buggs. Their goal is to help independent film creatives tell stories in a meaningful (and profitable) way. Since then, Chris has worked as Executive Producer, Advisory Producer, Film Consultant, Story Consultant, and Brand Strategist on several feature films and is the celebrated Co-Host of the 5-star MAKE IT podcast. Chris’s highly-engaging and thoughtful interview style has enabled Bonsai creative to turn conversations into lasting relationships with creatives across the film industry. Chris holds a degree in Communications (Journalism and Marketing) from Middle Tennessee State University.
In 2021, Nick Frangione’s Buck Run, starring James Le Gros (Drugstore Cowboy), Kevin J. O’Connor (There Will Be Blood), Amy Hargreaves (13 Reasons Why), and Nolan Lyons (Boardwalk Empire), was acquired and released on over 10 VOD platforms including DirectTV and Amazon Prime. The atmospheric and delicate drama premiered Opening Weekend at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Buck Run won Best Feature at Flickers Rhode Island International and Fayetteville Film Festival; Best International Feature at Nordic International Film Festival and Santorini Film Festival, and the Orson Welles Award for Achievement in Directing at Tiburon International Film Festival. Critics have called the film “Evocative.” “Timelessly Melancholy” (Dennis Harvey, Variety). “A masterly done meditation on America’s working-class dilemma, broken fatherhood, abandonment, and acceptance” (Brazilian Press). Frangione debuted on the indie scene with his first feature, Roxie. Tommy Cook of Collider.com said of the film, “Roxie, at its heart, is a tragedy about lives spent reliving the past, an unmasking of the harsh realities of time and aging, on the need for a real connection and how any false one inherently corrupts and leaves you bare. It’s a testament to zero-budget filmmaking and how even the smallest of films can possess the greatest of ambitions.”