2016 JMF Filmmaker Bios

Srwsht Swaray Abarash, 19, was born in the city of Sulaimanya in Kurdistan, Iraq. At 19, he made his first film, Missing Facts. “They say I’m a natural born filmmaker,” he comments, but “I laugh (I don’t like big statements). I want my work to speak for me. People say, ‘Your parents are doctors, it’s weird you became a filmmaker.’ I say, ‘Hey, things happen.’ Although I’ve never studied filmmaking, people still find that hard to believe. But there isn’t any institution to learn filmmaking in Iraqi Kurdistan anyway! I’m a typical 19-year-old – I used to enjoy skating, then slowly wanted to show the horrors of my surroundings through art in a way that was different from the typical forms of media and TV News. Being an Iraqi Kurd and living in Kurdistan, we are always on the news—mass killings, human slavery, and torture by ISIS. So, I started filming with smart phones and using my little brother and friends as actors until some institution found out and started to give me a hand with equipment. With little water and electricity supply in this region, schools and public places keep closing and opening again because of the financial crisis. So, filmmaking is my escape; it’s the way forward for me. Without it, I’ll vanish into thin air, like a particle.”

Rajat Agrawal, 22, is a young director from Mumbai, India who has aspired to direct films from the age of 15. He has studied filmmaking in Mumbai and Los Angeles, which gave him a technical foundation for his creativity, and in 2014 was selected as an Assistant Director in Bollywood’s highest-budgeted film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. After completing this movie in 2015, he began working on scripts for both short and feature films and finally created his his critically appreciated short film, Kathputli (Puppet), an allegorical short about oppression of women within India.

Harry Anderson, 22, is an Australian filmmaker, currently based in Melbourne, Victoria. Harry graduated with a Bachelor of Film & Television from Swinburne University in Melbourne and is currently working as a television Producer/ Director for Melbourne-based Parable Productions. Additionally, Harry is continuing to create more short films in several different head of department roles.

Muhammed Awwad, 21, is a senior at the American University of Sharjah, majoring in Multimedia Design. He has been involved in numerous digital media projects, including film, 2D and 3D Animation and motion-graphics. He is trying to find his own way of looking at design, developing a concept that reflects both his personality as an adventurous youth and a professional designer.

Born to parents of Spaniard, African, and South American Native heritage in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Martin Blanco, 19, is a mestizo filmmaker specializing in writing, directing, and producing. Ranging from original films to marketing media, his work scrutinizes the relationship between modern socio-political values and ethnic identity through an existentialist, surrealist, and often absurdist lens. Blanco is currently pursuing a degree in Film & TV Production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Clayton Stansberry, 19, composes independent pieces as well as score, pursuing degrees in Music Composition and Entrepreneurial Management at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Optics for Love depicts the struggle to keep going when everything tells you otherwise, exploring the value and personal worth that can be obtained through a lack of love.

Marielle Boland, 19, is a filmmaker and sophomore in the Television, Film, and New Media Production program at San Diego State University. When creating content, she works to tell stories that do not get the chance to be heard often, and she lets the audience form their own opinions of the issues at hand. A filmmaker since middle school, Isabela Reid is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in English and Film, and a graduate of the Bay Area Video Coalition’s “The Factory” program for high school students. “A Harmonious Cacophony” was filmed in five days in San Luís Potosí, Mexico, and features Philadelphia-based mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, founder of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Malte Brænder, 18, has loved making film since he was seven years old. He began as a stop-motion animator, but soon became interested in live action as well. On his film Just, he comments: “A few years ago, I became very aware of the many assumptions we have in our society, one of these regarding the system of justice. Because of this realization, I began questioning the difference between justice and revenge. The film ‘Just’ is the result of this.”

Lana Bregar, 18, is a photographic technician based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is interested in art film and photography, and has exhibited at various locations in Slovenia (Galerija Fotografija, City Museum of Ljubljana). She has also made a few short films and wrote a screenplay for which she won first prize at the Academy of Radio, Film and Television in Ljubljana.

Eryk Carrera, 18, is a high school student in the Film School of San Antonio at Harlandale High School. Softball has screened at other festivals, including Cinefestival.

Denli Chavez, 18, is from Bacolod City, Philippines. She has been making films since she was 14 years old, although she has known she wanted to be a filmmaker since she was 10. Her film Killer’s Eye explores the idea that we are not born evil; rather, evil is something we experience firsthand before we actually do it. In her words, “this film stems from my deepest fears, experiences and even characters … which is why it is such an honor to be included in this year’s Josiah Media Festival.” After graduation, she plans to go to film school.

Weijia Chen, 22, did not major in film in college, but in 2014 she attended screenings of stop-motion animation at Zhejiang Art Museum, where she was impressed by experimental animation shorts from Europe. She was so amazed by the medium that she decided to make an experimental animation film as her graduate work, incorporating her favorite female poet Szymborska’s “Still Life and a Balloon,” which evokes the lost things depicted in the film. Inspired by Japanese director Beat Takeshi, her recent work Diamond Button also explores the intersection of the sad and the beautiful.

Brothers Daniel and Adam Cooper, 21, have been making films together since childhood. They are proud to have won at the Josiah Media Festival the past two years and honored to participate again this year, one last time. This year’s film, “Model No. Human,” is an attempt at and celebration of the Sci-Fi genre. It combines some of the Cooper Brothers’ greatest influences and favorite films and TV shows, such as Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” telling a story of human emotion and pain. Daniel is graduating from NYU Film School in December and is excited to start an internship at The Weinstein Company. After school, he plans on going into development on a feature film with Adam.

Je’Jae Cleopatra Daniels, 21, works with Reelworks, a teen filmmaking program in Brooklyn, New York. Their film Mx. Enigma focuses on the intersection of the filmmaker’s religious and gender identities.

In the words of Cora Dawn, 22, “I struggled for a long time trying to develop my own style as a filmmaker and writer. Narrative and documentary films did not inspire me. During my final years at Penn State, I found myself drawn to experimental artists like David Lynch and Chantal Ackerman. I was lucky to have a professor who motivated me to be dark and gritty with “A Beautiful Face”. I realized my style comes from revealing the mood within a film rather than the plot.”

Alexandre Degardin, 21, attended an arts high school in Angoulême, France, after which he began a BA program in graphic design. Developing an interest in film, he moved to Paris to begin a program at ESRA Film School. And after three years there, he decided to further perfect his knowledge in lighting and left for one year to New York, where he had the opportunity to work with Matthew Barney and Daniel Katz, an Oscar-winning director of photography. He also began work on a documentary portrait of New York, which has screened and placed at other film festivals.

Devon Delmar, 21, is a 3rd year film student at the University of Cape Town, currently in production on his graduation project Under The Static.

Sabrina Diekow, 18, and Nicolas Hibbard, 18, are co-directors of Mostar: Unstuck in Time, have long been interested in travel cinematography as they travel the world as students of a nomadic high school. On a week-long trip to the town of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, they learned the personal stories of people in a city shaken by civil war. Inspired to share their findings with the world, they set out to create a succinct, emotive work that would grasp Mostar’s condition. Sabrina is currently working on an animated narrative short film which will be released in the spring of 2017 and plans to go to school at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, while Nicolas will complete his final year of high school.

Ruby Rae Drake, 20, is from San Francisco, now living NYC, where she is a sophomore at Columbia University. She started making films in 8th grade when she participated in the SF Art & Film for Teenagers Film Workshop. She came up with the idea for 2by2 because she wanted to play with the idea of splitting the screen and interacting storylines. She is currently working on a short film about sisters.

Jada Brevett and Anastasia Drew, both 18, studied together at The Arts Educational School in London. Their close friendship makes working together not just fun, but effortless, as they know exactly what each other wants. They carry on creating new, interesting and witty shorts together. Now graduated, the duo is about to embark on the 3-year journey that is University, to gain a degree in filmmaking.

Janice Dublin, 22, was born in Florida and developed both a logical and creative brain. Her interests in psychology, art, and storytelling led her to the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she recently graduated with an Animation degree. In her own words, she comment, “Seeing drawings and puppets come to life is amazing to me and I love telling their stories! With my work, I hope to incite conversations between people, no matter how small, and inspire others to create something themselves.” “Bright Night” is her first film.

Aaron Dunleavy, 22, is a filmmaker from Blackburn in England and a recent graduate of University of the Arts London. His debut short film, Throw Me to the Dogs, won 9 awards on the festival circuit, with praise from Academy award- winning director Danny Boyle, and was screened at some of the most prestigious BAFTA and Oscar® qualifying festivals in the world. Shot in his hometown with a completely local cast and a shoestring budget, his latest short, The Truants, was entirely improvised, childhood-inspired and street-casted with non-professional actors.

Anastazja Fedorowicz and Malgorzata Hryhorowicz, 23, are filmmakers graduated from Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK. They have continued working together in Norway, currently focusing on music videos. Tide is their academic final project prepared for a course in experimental media. This short film uses dance as an artistic device to express the theme of journey. Six female performers take us to their personal world of physical and emotional movements, creating unusual depictions of femininity.

Hannah Gautrey, 19, is a student filmmaker raised in Cambridge and currently studying at Arts University Bournemouth in the United Kingdom. She has always had a strong passion for the arts as well as for storytelling, and since the age of 15 has combined the two through short film. Inspired by art, politics, people and the bizarre and unexplained, she enjoys all aspects of filmmaking—from the writing and directing process to production design and aesthetics—as well as experimenting with different genres (short fiction, animation, documentary, experimental). She hopes to continue making films post-university, developing a particular, distinctive style to the portfolio of work she creates throughout her career.

Geoffrey S. Glenn, 18, is a graduate from the North East School of the Arts in San Antonio, Texas, and now goes to college at New York University. He has written and directed films, such as Memories Upon Memories, which have made it into the likes of SXSW and LA Film Festival. He hopes to go into the field of either directing or producing.

Fierrany Halita, 22, is a student at Binus University in Indonesia, studying art and animation. Aquiescence is her fourth short film but her first animation project, inspired by her lifelong love for landscape painting and everyday experiences of change, endings, and beginnings. The film features a tree as its main character, because trees have much longer life spans than humans, living for a thousand years and acting as witnesses to history. In this way, the tree acquiesces to the change in environments.

Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Christian Hanna, 23, is a film student at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where he works on a variety of fictional shorts, documentary shorts, and promotional work with a variety of collaborators. Though he has been making films for three years, film has been part of his life since for as long as he can remember. As he states, “I’ve always wanted to tell stories, and by doing that, I have wanted to change people’s lives; to touch them, to help them, to guide them. Which is why I became a filmmaker. … I’ve always believed that being a storyteller is a gift, and if we are given this gift, we must always use it to inspire those around us.”

Hadley Hillel, 21, grew up in Seattle, Washington and made his first film at the age of 7. In 2008, at age of 12, one of his short films was accepted into the Northwest Film Forum Children’s Film Festival. Hadley has since written and directed over 20 short films that have been shown in 35 national and international film festivals, have won more than twenty-five jury and audience awards and were nominated for two student Emmys. At the age of 18, Hadley wrote and directed ERNIE and spent the following two years in post-production while attending Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. He chose to construct all sets in the world of the film out of cardboard to emphasize Ernie’s disconnect from the world around him and the homogeneity of his surroundings. Hadley has a number of upcoming projects in development including a sociopath romantic comedy short and a darkly comedic feature.

Vivek Jain, 18, was first inspired to make films by Ship of Theseus, a film by Anand Gandhi. He regards cinema as the most complete art, and is motivated to make films not only by his passion but because it also helps him explore different aspects of his own life via various characters, conflicts and events. He has been making films for the past two years and is currently in post-production on a new fiction film titled David, Are You There?, as well as scripting a new, untitled short film.

Tyler Michael James, 22, is a film director based in Los Angeles whose goal is to make you laugh uncomfortably and question your existence. In 2016, he launched his production company Ad Opus, which aims to improve the quality and format of modern day commercials. His short film, Panopticonvict, was his film school thesis project and was funded through Kickstarter donations. The script was based on a short story by the same name, written by Clayton Davis.

Jesse Hu Jenkinson, 18, is a freshman  at UT Austin, where he aims to double major in Design and Film. He attended Communications Arts High School in San Antonio and was a part of SAY Sí’s media program during his junior and senior years. All Lovely Things was created over the course of his senior year of high school at SAY Sí, drawing inspiration from Orpheus and Eurydice, Persephone, and the work of David Lynch. He is currently working on a script entitled Minutes Between, which he hopes to produce while at UT.

Irdit Kaso, 22, is a 2015 graduate of the Academy of Film and Multimedia at Marubi in Tirana, Albania, where she majored in Screenplay and Directing. She was 21 years old and in her senior year when she made “Capsule” as her final thesis project. About the film, she states, “The inspiration for the movie came to me by the everyday problems and locations I see in my country and I also wanted to address the social issues of financial difficulties and divorce.” She is currently working on her next movie and working with her crew to create their own production studio.

Aaron Koka, 11, is in 6th grade, and made the film Schools, Education and Children when he was in elementary school, with the help of his father, his school principal and members of Congress. He loves to make films about issues that are related to children and people. His recent film on data, which he performed in and narrated, has been nominated to International Film Festival in Berlin.

Anne-Marie Bjerre Koch, 17, is from Denmark, where she is in her third and final year at a film school called Station Next in Copenhagen. Written and directed during her first year at Station Next, “On the Edge” is her first film, which highlights the encounter between two completely different people and how they affect each other’s lives. Anne-Marie has been selected to be part of “Young Nordic Filmmakers,” via which she will be going to Germany and Norway to produce films with other talented filmmakers her age.

Tarun Lak, 21, recently graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida, majoring in Computer Animation, and currently works on commercials in Los Angeles. He grew up largely in India and moved to the US to pursue his dreams of working in animation. Rupee Run was completed for his senior thesis film at Ringling, and the richness and diversity of Indian culture was a huge inspiration.

In 2008, YouTuber-turned-filmmaker Jon LeVert, 20, was nothing more than a kid who made silly videos around his home in the south suburbs of Chicago for his own personal enjoyment. Initial enjoyment became a passion as Jon entered and excelled in his high school’s top-rated broadcast and film program, graduating in 2014 and entering Columbia College Chicago, where he is currently a junior studying film and photography. Jon’s filmmaking, including “The Righteous Men,” is inspired by human error and social injustice; facing adversity and unexpected plot twists are trademarks of his films.

Gio Lingao, 23, is a Filipino filmmaker whose works explore the deconstruction of his personal experiences and lost memories. He has been making short films since 2013. His new short film Colours Outside and upcoming feature debut August are currently in progress. He lives in Las Piñas City, Philippines.

Having lived abroad due to his father’s military service, Aaron Longoria, 19, finds that his creative interests dwell in the realm of individual perception and perspectives. Currently a sophomore, Aaron studies Cinema and Journalism & Mass Communications at the University of Iowa. One of his most recent films, “Waiting,” found success at the Mister Vorky one-minute film festival, winning Best Foreign Film.

Freja Maegaard, 21, is based in Hvidore, Denmark and is a graduate of Station Next film school.

Kristina Mileska, 22, is a Toronto based filmmaker and a graduate of the Film Production Program at York University. She has written and directed three short films: Asteroid (2015), Florence and the Fish (2014) and The Forbidden Room (2013). Her work has screened internationally, gathering awards for her short narrative films. Kristina focuses on creating visual stories with minimal dialogue that feature prominent female characters.

Kyle Misak, 21, has been a filmmaker for six years, in which time he has directed numerous music videos, promos, commercials, short films, and two feature films. He does not plan to attend film school at this time, but rather to continue learning and growing by creating my own shorts and features. Steven Spielberg is his favorite director and biggest inspiration, and his hope is to become a successful feature film director in the near future, bringing magic to the big screen for all audiences.

Heather Mooney, 21, is a recent graduate from Fairfield University in Connecticut, where she studied film, television and media. In her words, “I decided to become a filmmaker because I think film is a beautiful platform to have a voice in social justice issues, while expressing deeply held beliefs. I believe filmmaking is an incredibly influential medium with the ability to challenge people’s opinions and get them to think deeper. I love filmmaking that goes beyond standard conventions so I hope to be able to create more pieces soon!”

Esteban Noyola, Jose Mendoza & Miguel Gomez

A filmmaker in the Factory film program and a student at Berkeley City College, Esteban Noyola, 20, started off making funny YouTube videos with his cousins at age 7 and later developed an interest in special effects and narrative film, making several films in the Factory program. Jose Luis Mendoza, 20, is an incoming student at UC Santa Cruz majoring in Computer Science and interested in filmmaking. He has been making films since his senior year in high school, with his first short film entitled Epic Failure, and intends to continue involvement in all aspects of film production. Miguel Gomez, 20, is also a filmmaker in the Factory and a student at El Camino High School. He directed Staying Inside, a narrative about a young man who does not want to leave his apartment.

Marion Nyffenegger, 20, made her first film when she was 15 years old, and her deep interest in filmmaking has not stopped since then. She is excited that her second animated film has been selected for screening at Josiah Media Festival. “I’m very interested in the process of life,” she writes. “To die is one part of it…and so is my movie about it – dementia.” After completing high school and an art preparation school year, she will be starting a university program in animation this September.

Rogelio Pedroza, 17, is a high school student at the Film School of San Antonio at Harlandale High School.

Bianca Rêgo, 21, created “What Makes a Good Party” as a project for a class on art direction at Anhembi Morumbi University. “We had the challenge of producing a film with food in it somehow, and I had this idea about a party that didn’t happen (which may or may not be based on real events). It was shot in one day at my house; it was a very simple production.” Her upcoming plans are to finish her final year of university and then attend a Masters program in the US or UK.

Julia Retzlaff, 19, is a filmmaker who attends San Francisco State University. She has been making short films and music videos for 5 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In her films and photography, Julia is inspired by the city’s light and color and its relationship to her subjects. Currently, Julia is working on an experimental film inspired by the movement and camera effects of Takashi Ito.

Madeline Rocco and Nicholas Popkey, both 22, are recent college graduates from the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, CA (Scripps and Pitzer, respectively). The two became friends in their senior year of college and decided to collaborate together after helping each other on their individual senior theses. Nicholas is from Boise, ID and has been making images since he first got his hands on a camera and hopes to eventually work as a cinematographer; Madeline is rom Brooklyn, NY and has been making home videos with friends since adolescence and is working towards becoming a creative producer. Both are currently reside in Los Angeles, where they are working on a number of upcoming film projects. Since graduation, Nicholas has been shooting, directing and editing music videos as well as a webseries called MonoGAYmous; he’s also found work on two small indie films as a grip and a Best Boy Grip respectively. He’s saving up money to eventually get an MFA in Film.

Alexia Salingaros, 18, is a high school filmmaker who has developed her passion for creating films since the seventh grade. Her dedication and commitment to the filmmaking process allows each piece to inhabit its own unique world. With deep explorations of the human experience, Alexia channels her feelings through her work, exposing the audience to the same emotions she felt in those moments of creation. Salingaros will pursue her passion for filmmaking at New York University this fall.

Duncan Senkumba, 23, is a Ugandan-born filmmaker based in Marlow, UK. His film Masso Awwo

(Right Ahead) was produced when he was a student at UCA Farnham.

Bruno Wesley Soares da Costa Araújo, 19, is a filmmaker in the city of Condado, Brazil, where he completed high school. He has always been involved in social and student movements as well as film, and in high school focused on short films about the state. After high school he completed a degree in History from the Federal University of Campina Grande in Cajazeiras, Brazil, studying the history of education as well as film history, focusing specifically on its social and cultural history.

Kiernan Sjursen-Lien, 21, is an LA-based agender artist with a passion for historical nonsense, animals, and anything with a good dose of heart. They currently attend CalArts Character Animation program, and have done work for various studios in the animation and comics industries, including Disney, Nickelodeon, and BOOM!. On the side, they enjoy making shorts, comics, songs, and books. They also enjoy singing ballads to their cat, who appreciates them with stoic silence.

Sinead Stoddart, 21, is a second-year animation student at UCA Farnham in England. Her current work includes two short animations completed in 2016, which are making their way around the festival circuit, including One Too Many, Sinead’s first solo animation made whilst at UCA Farnham. This stop-motion has currently shown at over 30 festivals internationally since January 2016 and has received nearly 20 official selection laurels, whilst winning a Finalist Laurel and a “Best Use of Yarn” prize. Sinead is currently planning her work for her third-year graduation film, entitled Tone Death.

Lukas Väth, 23 was born in Dachau, Germany in 1993 and has been studying directing at HFF Munich since 2013. From his passion for the Sci-Fi genre, he was inspired by films like Stalker, Blade Runner, and of course 2001: A Space Odyssey to create his futuristic short film Aurion in 2013. Since then, he has written and directed two other Sci-Fi movies (The Slow and the Everlasting and The Light Ground). His upcoming feature, about an old man and his mysterious digging of a hole in his garden into a parallel universe, will continue that path.

Emma Wright, 20, graduated from Bond University and attained her bachelor degree in film and television in September of 2015. After completing a foundation program at the age of fifteen, she gained early entry into her degree which she completed just after turning eighteen. During her time at Bond she worked on many short productions. She directed short films Gone Cold and Transcendence, produced graduation film Odyssey, was 1st AD on film noir Wings of Violet, and sound recorder and designer for graduating film The Kids From Yesterday. She averaged a distinction across her classes and topped numerous subjects, as well as being placed on the Vice-Chancellor’s List of Academic Excellence. Emma’s background is in acting, having trained extensively in Meisner and Chubbuck, participated in numerous workshops, and performed in both amateur and professional productions. She has appeared on television shows Mako Mermaids and Camp, and most recently made her Sydney debut in a production of That Eye, The Sky at the New Theatre. Anchor is a very personal story for Wright, and one she feels very privileged to have worked on alongside such a gifted cast and crew.

Bad Luck is the collective effort of 5 filmmakers, who were told by the powers that be to try to make a film. Those filmmakers were, and are: Quinne Larsen, a cartoonist in Los Angeles; Kiernan Sjursen-Lien, an agender animation artist, cartoonist, and writer; Yotty Kim, a Korean-American who specializes in animation, design, dogs and hamsters; Katherine Chi, a New York born, Taiwanese-American animator, storyboard artist, and perspiring capybara enthusiast; and Olga Sokal, an illustration and animation artist who was visiting Chernobyl instead of writing her bio. Together, they had Bad Luck. The end.