2018 JMF Filmmaker Bios

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Fatima Aguillon, 18, is a Latinx filmmaker from San Antonio, Texas. An alumni of both the San Antonio Film School at Harlandale and SAY Si, Fatima has directed and helped create multiple short films since she was 14 years old. Her purpose in filmmaking is to create films that better represent marginalized communities and create social statements through the art of film. She is currently studying film at the University of Texas at Austin.

Kaitlynn Andrews, 15, attends North East School of the Arts for Cinema where she is in her second year as a filmmaker. She’s always loved writing stories, and aspires to become a screenwriter and see some of my stories on the big screen. The Doragon is the first film she’s ever created, and she got the inspiration for it from a very odd dream she had during Thanksgiving break last year. She chose to make her dream come to life in the easiest, most affordable and fun way possible: by creating an animation.

Lamia Bengelloun, 22, was born in 1996 in Rabat, Morocco. She studied ballet, contemporary dance, piano and photography. She then decided to focus on filmmaking and moved at 18 years old to London to study film practice and to Paris in 2017 to pursue her master’s degree at La Sorbonne. She directed Destiny’s Strings during the summer of 2017.

Dana Burtin (LyricalGenes), 17. My name is Dana Burtin (LyricalGenes), and I am an artist from Cleveland, Ohio making music to convey my message of relativity. I want to be in a position where I can create music to help others, like music has helped me through life. I want to influence a generation, like music influenced me to find my purpose. I feel my purpose in life is to GIVE BACK in any way possible! Therefore, music is my gateway to happiness. I try to create every song with a message that people can relate to.

Natasha Cánepa, 22, is a recent Animation graduate from Savannah College of Art and Design where she specialized in Character Acting. She has participated in several animation productions in college along with taking on multiple collaborative roles including storyboard artist, visual development artist, and compositor/clean up animator. Currently, she is working as an animator for Foobee while taking on freelance work, including animating logos and providing storyboards for the 3D film Metro6.

Anton Chystiakov, 20. My name is Anton Chystiakov, and I’m from Horishnie Plavni, a little town in the Ukraine. I study at Kyiv National I.K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University and am in my senior year in the faculty of sound directing. I love American cinema culture and hope someday I’ll come to America. 

Olive Couri, 22, is an Ohioan who recently graduated from Bennington College in Vermont. She now resides in Philadelphia, PA where she continues to make art. Stickie was a final project in animation that took nine months to complete. Consisting of hand drawn animation, stop motion, and after effects, it deals with memory and magical miscommunications.

Aaron Curtis, 19. Hello, my name is Aaron Curtis and I’m the director of Fighting Two Wars: The Story of Thalia Jane Ainsley. I directed this documentary while I was attending Full Sail University. The inspiration behind this film was understanding. A few weeks before the start of the project, I had a heated talk with a friend about religion, which ended in a long phone call to my grandma. She told me I should use my craft to talk about understanding. I was able to work with some super talented minds and tell a beautiful story.

Aias Dalman and Trixie Watson, 8. Aias was scouted by Young Moviemakers at the age of 5 and was offered a Crescenzo Grant to participate. Neither Aias nor his parents ever imagined he would enjoy acting, because of his age and because he was diagnosed with autism. In 2018 Aias was signed to one of Vancouver’s most prestigious Talent Agencies and has won many awards, including Best Film Overall at the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) Young Filmmakers Showcase for “The Fortune Teller” as well as Best Narrative at the Calgary International Film Festival for “Teen Chick”.

Trixie recently joined Young Moviemakers at the age of 8, though her expressive character and love for acting was evident since Trixie started with Arts Umbrella at the age of 3. This love for the performing was solidified with her first professional theatre performance at the age of 5. Since then Trixie has become the voice of Granville Island Kids market, and performed in shows at the Revue Stage as part of her school’s Musical Theatre program. 

Nina Rhina Datu, 20, is a student of Far Eastern University (FEU). Known for her talent in acting, Nina dreamt of being an actress as a child. Joining Teatro Kristiano helped her understand more about acting and discover more of herself, and led her as well to join FEU Film Society, which introduced her to the art of filmmaking. Since then, she has explored different roles in film production—from acting to writing and finally directing. Through all of these encounters, she wishes to continually grow and unravel more of her passion in life!

Bianca do Rego Silva, 23. I recently graduated film school with honors from Anhembi Morumbi University. During that time, my four short films have been screened in over 50 film festivals worldwide and won more than 10 prizes. “Uterus Diagram” addresses being a woman in today’s society, a theme that is very personal to me as I care a lot about human rights issues. With university finished, I’m now planning to do my Masters abroad.

Jackie Droujko, 22, is a Sheridan Animation graduate with a passion for design and filmmaking. She is currently working at Titmouse in Vancouver as a character designer for a Dreamworks series.

Victor Escalante, 18. My name is Victor Escalante, and I haven’t been a filmmaker for very long. While I’ve worked on various other projects, this is the first I’ve called my own. My inspiration for “Brainwash” was the thought of what schools essentially do to students. While in the beginning I tried to write a horror film, it slowly became a message about what schools do to students all around America, however exaggerated. 

Sofiya Fayzieva, 22, is an old soul who is deeply connected to her home in Russia. She likes to tell stories about her family, pets, and food. Her RISD graduation film Oh, My Domovoi was influenced by Russian folk narratives and superstitions Sonya absorbed all throughout her childhood. These narratives feed her imagination everyday as she moves around the world to pursue her dream to become a filmmaker. Right now, Sonya is starting a new chapter at CalArts’ graduate program in animation.

Logan Fields, 22, is a senior at USC film school. He wanted to create an isolated, one-location musical number, and Darlin was the result of that desire. Along with co-director Chris Beyrooty, Logan wrote, casted, shot and edited the film in a week’s time.

Elias Flores III, 18, is a Mexican-American media artist from San Antonio, Texas who utilizes film and photography to tell fictional stories as well as the real stories of his family, community, and culture. An alumni of the Media Arts Studio at SAY Sí, he currently attends Northwest Vista College, pursuing a degree in Digital Video & Cinema Production. “La Cultura Perdida” (the Lost Culture) is a documentary examining the lives of six Mexican and Mexican-American artists, while “Skelefly” depicts Día de los Muertos as a child gifts their ancestor with food for the ofrenda. For Elias it is of utmost importance to support and amplify the voices of his community as well as those of marginalized communities all across the world.

Zach Goodwin, 17, is a senior at John Marshall High School who has been interested in the art of filmmaking for many years and has always wanted to get his foot in the door. In his junior year of high school, he began to learn editing, cinematography, and writing and is now fortunate to be an award-winning filmmaker. He hopes to continue his success by going to film school and pursuing a career in the film industry.

Alejandra Jimena Medina Gómez, 22. I am a visual artist and poet from Mexico City who uses embroidery, animation, collage and drawing to examine how gender roles shape identity. The Nameless Body emerged as an exploration of intimacy and routine in relation to inhabiting one’s body. As my first time animating in a short film format, the film was an exhaustive experience, but I learned a lot from the process formally and thematically. In the short term, my plan is to apply for my MA in Animation at the Estonian Academy of Arts.

Alex Haney, 23, is an award-winning director and writer committed to sharing diverse perspectives in his films as he pursues large stories with indie soul. The stories Alex is passionate about telling are ones which shine a light on the experiences of underrepresented groups within our world. His inspiration in writing and directing “Iconoclast” came in part from a desire to see more explorations of multi-cultural LGBTQ experiences in media. To learn more about Alex and his projects, visit AlexHaney.com.

Elizabeth Hewlett, 22, is a multimedia artist born and raised in San Francisco, CA. Her experimental short film Propel was filmed in downtown San Francisco. It explores the details of buildings by focusing on textures and patterns. The cinematography loosely follows graphic matching and strays away from traditional framing and camera movement to take us on a unique, limitless journey.  

Mohammad Talib Iqbal, 21, is a director, writer and film editor who started his filmmaking career in 2015. Fascinated by filmmaking, Talib started making short videos on the internet and is now writing his first feature film. In 2015, he started his film-making journey by creating a team called TTF Entertainment which now has over a thousand followers. His one-minute film Extra Baggage has been screened at The 60 Second Film Festival India, and will now be screened at The Josiah Media Festival. 

Vivek Jain, 20 (2nd Place Experimental). I am a 20-year-old aspiring filmmaker. My journey started four years back when I became inspired by Ship of Theseus, directed by Anand Gandhi. My first work was a documentary short called Being Smart, which won 3rd prize at the Josiah Media Festival. For me, cinema is the most complete form of art because you can blend various art forms into one. A Note to Myself is about the solidarity which we feel inside our head and our longing for a place that doesn’t exist.

Sine Juhl, 22, grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark and began making her first stop motion animated films with modelling clay on her kitchen table when she was 13 years old. She has also worked with live action, primarily as a cinematographer. She attended the youth film school Station Next, afterwards attended the European Film College, and now attends Fatamorgana, a school for art photography in Copenhagen. Besides animation, biology has always been one of her biggest interests, and this lead to her making the evolution-inspired animation The First Feather.

Jonathon Kane and James Ehle, 22, graduated from Huntington University’s digital media arts program in 2018, where they worked in a number of head crew positions on award-winning short films. They co-wrote and developed the short film “The Concourse” as their 2017 senior project, which won awards at the Indie Best Films Festival, the Independent Shorts Awards, Los Angeles CineFest, and garnered several more Official Selections at other festivals. In 2015, Jonathon became an international filmmaker when he served as assistant director on two documentaries filmed overseas in Japan.

Anne-Marie Bjerre Koch, 19 (3rd Place Narrrative), is a filmmaker from Denmark. She graduated from Station Next in 2017 and has attended film workshops around the world, most recently in Palestine. Break is a moving and inspiring story that focuses on different kinds of love–from love for family to the desire to love whomever one chooses. Break is about making one’s own choices, which we can all relate to regardless of cultural differences.

Dennis Sungmin Kim, 21 (3rd Place Animation), was born in Seoul, South Korea, and has been interested in creating film and animation since a very young age. EI was his first film at the University of Pennsylvania. The entire production took ten months, and entailed the traditional method of using pencil, paper, paint, and digital means to composite the film. After completing his mandatory military duties in South Korea, he is back at the University of Penn and is looking forward to creating new films.

Hanna Kim, 21 (1st Place Animation), is originally from South Korea and currently studies character animation at California Institute of the Arts. She has been making short films for three years and will be making her graduation film this school year. While studying animation, she realized she had a love for illustration and wanted to make a film that felt like a moving picture book. “Raccoon and the Light” is inspired by many children’s books she read and adored while growing up.

Angel Leal, 18, is a young filmmaker based in San Antonio, TX. In high school, he attended the SAY Sí youth media arts program beginning in his Sophomore year. In May 2018, he graduated from Harlandale High School and is currently a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin. He has worked on several film productions, including Test Drive, which he wrote and directed.

Dan Lesser, 20, is originally from Sydney, Australia. He now lives in Southern California, where he attends Chapman University’s Dodge College of Media Arts, majoring in Film Production with an emphasis in Directing. Dan has always had a passion for connecting with others and pursues this passion through the medium of film. He has written and directed three award-winning films, which have screened in LA, Seattle and NYC. In the coming years, Dan plans to direct many more films that connect with audiences and make them laugh.

Zoë McCall, 16, has been a student in the cinema program at North East School of the Arts for last three years. Her film The Menger and Her Apparitions addresses overlooked subjects such as San Antonio’s rich abundance of history, and she hopes to create future documentaries and experimental commentary on similar subjects. After high school, she plans to attend School of the Art Institute of Chicago or UT Austin to continue to pursue filmmaking.

Brynne McGregor, 21 (3rd Place Experimental), is a junior at The Ohio State University majoring in Film Studies and Video Art. She has been making short video works for the past five years. Wait Pretty Butterfly is an exploration of authorship and what it means to be an original filmmaker apace with appropriation and sampling. She also composed and performed the cello score soundtrack for the film.

Carol Nguyen, 20 (1st Place Narrative), is a 20-year-old Vietnamese filmmaker based in Toronto. Her films often explore the subjects of cultural identity and family through a second-generation lens. In 2017, Carol was selected as an ambassador for TIFF’s Share Her Journey campaign, as she strived to empower diverse voices and women through her own stories in the film industry. In 2018, Carol was selected as a Sundance Ignite Fellow. Today, Carol attends Concordia University in Montreal.

Nhu Quynh Nguyen, 20, was born in Germany to Vietnamese migrants. She first discovered filmmaking as a tool for self-expression in 2017 during her voluntary work at Luksuz Produkcija, a media NGO in Slovenia. There, she was able to experiment with documentary and fiction on socio-political topics with a particular interest in mental health, digitalization, and her bicultural background. In the future, she wants to continue filmmaking alongside her medical studies.

Andrei Olănescu, 22 (1st Place Documentary), is a student at National University of Theatre and Film in Romania and aspires to be a director someday. A Christmas Story arose last winter as an idea for fulfilling final exam requirements. I would like to thank Alexandru Văduva for supporting me and contributing to the sound and editing of the film. Because of a girl, I began making films in high school with friends, and it changed everything in my life forever.

Arlette Elizabeth Salt Pardillo, 20, is a young Cuban filmmaker affiliated with the Movement of Audiovisuals in Nuevitas, a creative space that focuses on media literacy, community and alternative media.  She has been making films for a couple of years, and because of what she learned there she passed my exams to study filmmaking at the Superior Institute of the Arts at the University of Arts of Cuba, where she started a month ago.

Abhijit Patro, 20 (3rd Place Documentary), is an independent filmmaker from Odisha, India and has just graduated from Maharaja Ranjitsinh Gaekwad Institute of Design, MSU Fine Arts in Vadodara, India. Abhijit is most interested in documentary film, and his work addresses issues underrepresented in Indian culture. JOHAR was his first ethnographic documentary that sheds light on the culture, customs, and artistic traditions of the Santhal tribe, the largest Adivasi community in India.

Map Pesqueira, 18. The Girl Effect was inspired by the work and ideals of the local non-profit group Women’s Global Connection. North East School of the Arts produced this film during Map’s senior year of high school and it screened at the 800lbs Film Festival in San Antonio. Map is currently perusing a Bachelor of Science degree in Radio/TV/Film at The University of Texas. She hopes to continue to create projects that shed light on smaller organizations that work to make the world a better place.

Chris Plimmer, 21, is an award-winning stop motion animation artist from Yorkshire, England. From the age of eight, Chris has been obsessed with sculpting clay and creating characters, with the goal of one day watching his own characters move on the big screen. Recently he succeeded in creating his first short film Face Value, which explores a world where people can change their faces, shopping for the perfect one as if updating their iPhone. He has many more films in the works in the years to come.

Wynter Rhys, 19, is an award-winning director, writer, and editor from the Seattle area. Her aesthetic and storytelling style represents the controversial and abstract thoughts that push the boundaries of society. She wants her films to ignite raw truth and get under the audience’s skin. She believes that as a director she begins a story, but that the story resolves itself within the mind of her audience. She is pursuing her BFA in filmmaking at Savannah College of Art and Design and is a National YoungArts Alumni.

Kaitlyn Rosas, 18, was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She is a recent graduate of the North East School of the Arts, where “Holy Ground” became her last project. As she writes: “I hope this film is able to shed light on the founding families of the San Fernando Cathedral and encourage others to look into their own family origins. I wanted to bring attention to something that not so evident while strolling down Main Plaza in downtown San Antonio.” She currently attends the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Alexia Salingaros, 20, is a New York City-based director and colorist (born in San Antonio, Texas) who is currently enrolled in the film program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her directorial projects, including “Lady of Paint Creek” (2016 SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Best High School Short), have screened at over 100 film festivals world-wide. Her new short film “Junction” marks her transition from high school to college filmmaking, giving viewers a surreal glimpse into the loving, albeit painful, relationship between two women who find themselves on an emotional journey with one another.

Hannah Saunders, 22, is from Jacksonville, FL and just recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in June 2018, after attending high school at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Bois Mort was created as the capstone project for her time there, and with its production, her passion for film and animation only grew. She is currently working at Bento Box Entertainment in Atlanta, GA, and working independently on more short animated projects.

Luke Scribner, 22, is a recent graduate from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He writes: “The idea of By the Slice came to me few months before senior year and served as my final project. I spent two semesters developing the film from start to finish, taking it through several story and character changes. With the help of my professors, peers, and family, I ended up with a film that I am truly proud of.”

Daniel Seif, 23. I created Test Drive based on a real story about my uncle Tony, so it has a lot of personal meaning for me. I originally decided to make films because I felt I could say whatever I wanted in them, and I have been creating films for two years now. I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in media studies and am in pre-production for my second short film.

Jake Shiptenko, 20. I am currently a junior in the writing/directing track of the Film program at the VPA School at Syracuse University. With my work, I try to shed light on the stresses that affect relationships between people. In Overexposed, I aim to capture the overwhelming jealousy that can emerge when someone close obtains something you dearly desire. Through this, I hope to provide catharsis for viewers by showing the stressful complexity of our emotions.

Shivang Singh, 21. I am a 21-year-old dreamer with a knack for storytelling. I have been a filmmaker for two or three years and am currently working as an Assistant Director for the Netflix Original Sacred Games. I belong to the country of India which is ‘the biggest democracy in the world,’ though its practice is superficial. My film focuses on the conflicted land of Kashmir, where several schools were burned due to government security killing a militant. I aim to shed light on the humanitarian issues in my country.

Cecilie Elmholt Skou, 18 (2nd Place Narrative), loves to tell stories through pictures and to work with actors, in particular children. She is interested in the universe children inhabit, which shows in her debut movie Soaring Soldiers. She makes her first appearance in this film, though she has worked in film before as a camera operator and assistant director. As she states about this film, “I lost a person really important to me, and I felt the need to express my feelings in a different way. I tried to make the film as personally as I could, which ended up being both a good and a bad thing. The title is based on the toy that the main character and his best friend play with in the film. Those soaring soldiers are one of the many things from my childhood and life in general that I put in the movie.”

Johannes Siversten Stilhoff, 19. Storytelling has always been important to me. I am fascinated by the way in which a story often seems to develop on its own, without any real interference from the writer—like a river you can’t stop from flowing. This film made complete sense during writing and thankfully also during shooting and post-production. In order to intensify its emotion, I used a minimalistic style of storytelling so as not to “tell too much”. To me writing is an essential part of directing. I can’t imagine writing a story without subsequently directing it. 

Matthias Strasser, 18. I am an 18-year-old filmmaker living in Switzerland and currently attending precollege for film studies. I made the film Get Lost for a senior project in high school. In making this film, I learned to appreciate the art of animation and the work behind it. I especially started to appreciate Pixar and the film Wall-E, which was a huge inspiration for me.

Kenneth Strawn, 18, is a writer, director, and editor born and raised in San Antonio. He found a love for film during his junior year in high school and decided to enroll in the North East School of The Arts Cinema Program, where he would study film for two years before attending The Watkins College of Art, Design, and Film in Nashville Tennessee, where he is currently enrolled.

Max Michel Thillaye, 23 (1st Place Experimental). Max’s filmmaking dissects moments by rupturing indoctrinated routines while striving to bare the constructs of existence in society. Thematically, his films address adaptation, but also shed light on ripping free from such structures. Having always harbored an avid interest in audiovisual work, Thillaye perceives filmmaking as a tool to transmit the complete human experience. Thillaye is originally from France, but has spent his last four years in Berlin.

Nirmal Thomas, 22, is an Indian filmmaker best known for Hosa Belaku and Defence or Sentence. He is in constant need to film whatever interests him and has been making short videos since he was 11 years old. He considers himself to be a digital producer and loves making documentaries. He is not a big fan of Gandhi but feels one of his quotes keeps him going: “Whatever you do in life is insignificant, but it is important that you do it.”

Rylie Torres, 17, currently attends Communications Arts High School. The inspiration for her  short film HATS is the children’s story Caps For Sale, which started as a joke and evolved into a heartfelt story about a mom and her sacrifice. This film was produced at Serendipity at Fiorella, an events venue owned by her parents. In the Fall of 2019 she plans to attend UTSA or Texas A&M, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. But with film and photography as her passion, who knows where life will take her next.

Daniel Tritt, 20, is from Melbourne, Australia and is fascinated with visual storytelling. Over the last few years, he has worked on a range of projects in various roles, largely experimental shorts and docs, including Breathe (director), Human Touch (cinematographer and colorist), and Pointe of No Return (cinematographer). He is currently co-writing and shooting Ash, which follows the story of two young, troubled teenagers as they burgle abandoned houses in Australia’s bushfire season.

Gabriel A. Valbuena, 24, is a Spanish/Cuban filmmaker and alumni of the College of Motion Picture Arts at Florida State University. Growing up hearing the fairytales of the cultures he grew up with, Gabriel’s films have always leaned toward the fantastical. With If, he sought to create a story world that explores the regret we have in overthinking where our lives might be had we made different decisions. At the film’s core is the myth-like telling of a story about a father and daughter in search for one another and chasing alternate realities.

Sebastião Varela, 21 is originally from Lisbon, Portugal and currently studies filmmaking at the Kingston School of Art in London. He works in film both in Portugal and the UK as a director and director of photography, utilizing a variety of formats, such as digital, Super 8 and 16mm. Most recently, Sebastião directed the film Creating Neptune as a university project, a visual journey that portrays the primordial mystical imagery of the ocean and an homage to the experimental film director Kenneth Anger.

Kierstin Wilkins, 18 (2nd Place Documentary). I’m a student at Rice University currently majoring in English and Social Policy Analysis. I was introduced to film two years ago in a video tech class, and went on to take another film class during my senior year, at the beginning of the #NeverAgain Movement. Noticing the activism in my own school, I thought that documenting students’ voices to promote the March For Our Lives would be a helpful use of my film skills. I ended up with a poignant video that galvanizes viewers to engage further in advocacy. The students I interviewed and the teachers who encouraged me to pursue filmmaking continue to inspire me to be a better filmmaker and more engaged person.

Mel Wong, 24 (2nd Place Animation), is an artist from Hong Kong and is currently based in London, working as an animator in the visual effects industry. In 2016, she graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design, where her award-winning short Leave With Me was produced and later screened in over forty film festivals. An attempt at creating a non-conventional 3D aesthetic, the film includes hand-drawn animation. Her involvement in writing, storyboarding, production, and music make her creations personal and intimate.

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