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Mentorship Board

Heather Courtney is a 2014 Guggenheim fellow. She won an Emmy, an Independent Spirit Award, and a SXSW Jury Award for her film Where Soldiers Come From, which was broadcast nationally on the PBS series POV. It made several Top 10 films of 2011 lists, including Salon’s Best Non-fiction, and was supported by many grants and fellowships including from ITVS, the Sundance Documentary Fund, and the United States Artists Fellowship. She has directed and produced several other documentary films including award-winners Letters from the Other Side and Los Trabajadores, both broadcast nationally on PBS. They were supported by a Fulbright Fellowship and an International Documentary Association Award. She is currently co-directing and producing, with Anayansi Prado, a Ford- and MacArthur-funded feature documentary about undocumented immigrant students in Georgia, called The Unafraid. She currently splits her time on this project and freelance projects between Georgia, Texas and Washington, DC, and has been an adjunct professor at the University of Texas. Prior to receiving her MFA in Film Production, Heather spent eight years writing and photographing for the United Nations and several refugee and immigrant rights organizations, including in the Rwandan refugee camps after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Jamie Dobie is the Executive Director of Peace is Loud, a leading nonprofit founded by filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney that uses personal narratives to expand the reach and influence of women at decision-making tables. The organization has led social impact campaigns for films including Pray the Devil Back to Hell, I Came to Testify, The Armor of Light and The Uncondemned, and represents renowned women human rights leaders on its speakers bureau, including Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee. She was previously the community engagement and education manager for the PBS series POV, where she managed broadcast campaigns for 40+ documentary films and created accompanying educational content. Films include: Laura Poitras’ The Oath; Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s American Promise; DA Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus’ Kings of Pastry; and Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix’s The Light in her Eyes. Jamie has worked in various roles on film productions around the world. Recently her short film Shivani premiered at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in 2017, and was an official section at AFI DOCS and Twin Cities Film Fest, among other festivals.

Maria Finitzo is a two-time Peabody Award-winning social issue documentary filmmaker whose body of work that has won every major broadcast award including the Alfred E duPont Award and has been screened in theaters around the world. Finitzo’s films have tackled a variety of subjects, from the controversial science of stem cell research (Terra Incognita), families struggling with low-wage jobs (Hard Earned) and the psychology of adolescent girls (5 Girls), all explore different realms of storytelling by investigating the important social issues of the day. She is a long-time associate of Kartemquin Films, and in 2014 she founded Film Arts Productions, LLC a Chicago-based production company dedicated to producing independent fiction films. Her first feature narrative film, Those Left Behind, which she wrote and directed, is currently in distribution, and her second narrative feature, The Passion of Grace, which is currently in development, is based on an award-winning story by Alice Munro. The Dilemma of Desire, a film that explores female sexual desire, is Finitzo’s next documentary project.

Erin Heidenreich is a director, writer, and producer of award-winning documentaries, short films, commercials and branded content. She is passionate about capturing stories that show alternative perspectives to accepted societal norms. She directed Girl Unbound, shot in Waziristan (premiered at Toronto International Film Festival), Rising Sons, shot in The Democratic Republic of the Congo (premiered at DOC NYC) and narrative work including The Stories We Tell Ourselves. Erin executive produced The Other Shore (SXSW Film Festival), produced Mission Congo (Toronto International Film Festival), and executive produced Made in India (Hot Docs) and 2nd Unit directed for Emmy-Award winning Doug Pray’s Levitated Mass (Los Angeles Film Festival). She co-founded Cinetic Media in 2001 where she shepherded many films including Little Miss Sunshine, Supersize Me, Napoleon Dynamite, Jesus Camp, and Bowling for Columbine, among others.

Jennifer Kushner is the Director of Artist Development at Film Independent, an LA-based nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling, where she oversees many Artist Development programs that support over 100 filmmakers annually through professional mentorship, labs and grants. During her tenure, Film Independent helped develop many award-winning films including Afternoon Delight, C.O.G., Imperial Dreams, LUV, Mosquita y Mari, Natural Selection, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Talullah, Spa Night, Valley of Saints and the documentaries Call Me Kuchu, Rich Hill, Sunshine Superman, Tomorrow We Disappear and The Light in Her Eyes. She received a Bachelor of Science in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and an MFA in Production from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Before joining Film Independent, she worked as an assistant to director Dennis Dugan on I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and as development assistant at Sobini Films. As a filmmaker, she was one of four writers selected for the 2008 Screenwriters Colony Writers-in-Residence Program on Nantucket.

Rachel Pikelny is an award-winning filmmaker who currently serves as Director of Production at Siskel/Jacobs Productions and is a 2017 Impact Partners Documentary Producing Fellow. She is currently producing two feature documentaries with Siskel/Jacobs Productions, and is also directing a short film about a young breast cancer survivor who reclaims control with an elaborate mastectomy tattoo. Previously, with Kartemquin Films, she produced The Trials of Muhammad Ali, which premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, aired on PBS’s Independent Lens in 2014, and won the 2015 News and Documentary Emmy for Best Historical Long-Form Program. Rachel also served as co-producer on Kartemquin’s film American Arab (America ReFramed, 2016), as associate producer on A Good Man (American Masters, 2011), and as producer of the PBS short film The Creative Proposition (2013). Previously she assisted The Kindling Group on their documentary miniseries The Calling (Independent Lens) and Kurtis Productions on Cold Case Files for A&E and American Greed for CNBC.

Tan Pin Pin is a producer, director, and Singapore’s preeminent documentarian who chronicles the pauses, gaps and silences in her country’s history, memory and representation in thoughtful and self-reflexive ways. Her award-winning films include To Singapore, with Love, her critically lauded 2013 film which was banned in Singapore, Invisible City (2007) and Singapore GaGa (2005). They have screened at Berlinale, SXSW, Flaherty, Hot Docs and Visions du Réel. They have been awarded at Cinema du Réel, Dubai, Busan and Taiwan. She has recently completed In Time to Come, a time travel documentary. (Photo credit: Karine Azoub)

 

PJ Raval is an awardwinning filmmaker and cinematographer whose work explores the overlooked subcultures and identities within the already marginalized LGBTQ+ community. Named one of Out Magazine’s “Out 100”, PJ’s film credits include TRINIDAD (Showtime, LOGO) and BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, which follows the lives of three gay senior men, described by indieWIRE as “a crucial new addition to the LGBT doc canon.” BEFORE YOU KNOW IT screened theatrically and broadcast premiered as the season finale of AMERICA REFRAMED on PBS, and was awarded the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association Excellence in Documentary Award 2016. PJ recently completed CALL HER GANDA which follows the events surrounding Jennifer Laude, a trans woman who was discovered dead in a motel room in Olongapo City, Philippines with the prime suspect being a US Marine. CALL HER GANDA world premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and recently won the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Best Documentary Audience Award at Toronto Inside Out and the Grand Jury Award Special Mention at Outfest. Also an accomplished cinematographer, PJ shot the Academy Awardnominated Best Documentary TROUBLE THE WATER. PJ is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, 2016 Firelight Media Fellow, and a 2017 Robert Giard Fellow.

Joanna Rudnick is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and life-sciences marketing creative director living in the Bay Area. Her directorial debut In the Family, told her very personal story about coming to terms with her genetic risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Since its national broadcast on PBS in 2008, In the Family has been broadcast in at least 10 other countries around the world, and screened as part of the successful effort to pass the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act. She also directed the award-winning film On Beauty documenting former fashion photographer Rick Guidotti’s effort to broaden the world’s narrow view of beauty. Ms. Rudnick began her career as a producer for the American Masters series at PBS/WNET in New York, focusing on feature biographies of people important to America’s cultural history. Ms. Rudnick contributed to “The Story Within: Personal Essays on Genetics and Identity”, published by John Hopkins Press, and also served as Supervising Producer on Crossfire Hurricane, a documentary about 50 years of music by the Rolling Stones. Joanna Rudnick has a Bachelors in English from Northwestern University and a Masters in Science and Environmental Journalism from New York University.

Tracy Droz Tragos is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose credits include the HBO film Abortion: Stories Women Tell, about personal stories of unplanned pregnancies, which premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, and Rich Hill, about at-risk teenagers living in her father’s hometown in rural Missouri, which won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Tragos’ first film, Be Good, Smile Pretty, won the Emmy Award for Best Documentary in 2004 and was lauded for its honest exploration of the profound and complicated feelings of loss caused by the deaths of American men in the Vietnam War, some 35 years later.

Lou Wallach is the founder of Wallach Media LLC, an Independent Production and Consulting Company based in Manhattan. Since its inception in January of 2009, Wallach has produced and consulted on numerous projects for clients including Comedy Central, AMC, IFC, YouTube, Comedy Central UK, MTV, Time Inc. Digital Studios, BBC America and National Geographic. Previously, he was the Senior Vice President, Original Programming and Television & Digital Development at Comedy Central, where he developed and oversaw production on numerous television projects, such as “Chappelle’s Show,” “The Colbert Report,” “Crank Yankers,” “Stella,” and “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.” Prior to joining Comedy Central, Wallach served as Director of Creative Affairs for Fox Television Studios (“The Shield”) and as Manager of Comedy Development at CBS Entertainment (“Everybody Loves Raymond”). Most recently, as Executive Producer of National Geographic Channel’s “Explorer,” Wallach oversaw the redevelopment and production of 25 one-hour episodes which premiered in November 2016 and aired in 171 countries.

Kristi Whisler. As Director of Documentary Film and TV for Participant Media, Kristi Whisler sources and develops documentary content and provides support to the company’s documentary film and television slate from development through post-production and release. Notable titles Kristi has worked on include Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence, Alex Gibney’s Zero Days, Morgan Neville’s The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble and Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning CITIZENFOUR. Kristi holds a B.S. in Radio/Television/Film and Spanish from Northwestern University.