SHORT FILM COMPETITION JURY
After losing my beloved grandmother in 2009, I decided life was way too short to be unhappy. So, in 2010, I quit my “good” job and convinced my husband to do the same and we drove our kids and all our worldly possessions 2000+ miles from Chicago to L.A. so I could pursue my dream of becoming a screenwriter and professor full-time. It was the best decision of my life.
In April of this year, I sold my third TV show, APEX, a one-hour sci-fi, to CBS Television Studios. In October 2020, I sold my second TV show, SUGAR MAMAS, a single-cam comedy, to CBS Television Studios. In March of 2020, I sold my first TV show, THE HONORABLE to BET/ViacomCBS. It first sold to the CBS Network in November 2019. Co-created with Everybody Hates Chris’s Ali LeRoi, the political drama is produced by Dr. Phil’s Stage 29 Productions and CBS Television Studios. Previously, I co-wrote the feature film PLAYIN’ FOR LOVE, directed by and starring Robert Townsend (Five Heartbeats), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Family Law), and Jenifer Lewis (Black-Ish), as well as wrote the feature film OF BOYS & MEN starring Academy® Award-nominated actress Angela Bassett (Black Panther) and Robert Townsend. I also co-produced and co-wrote the documentary feature film TUPAC SHAKUR: BEFORE I WAKE and have had my work optioned by Academy® Award-nominated director Lee Daniels as well as developed projects with Academy®
Award-winning producer Al Ruddy (The Godfather, Million Dollar Baby).
A proud and active member of the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), I am currently serving my fourth elected term as co-chair of the Committee of Black Writers (CBW), whose mission is to empower, increase visibility, and create career and networking opportunities for Black writers in Hollywood. In June 2020, I co-penned an open letter titled Dear Hollywood addressing systemic racism that went viral. It was featured in numerous publications, including the LA Times, Washington Post, Forbes, THR, Deadline, and Variety and I’m currently shopping a book deal titled Dear Hollywood: Black Writers’ Unapologetic Demand for Systemic Change.
A passionate Clinical Assistant Professor of screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University since 2016, I previously taught screenwriting at UCLA, Chapman U., Cal State, Northridge, and the American Film Institute. I received my B.A. in Entertainment & Media Management from Columbia College, Chicago, and my M.F.A. in Theater, Film, and Television from UCLA. In April 2020, I was honored in Variety’s Entertainment Education Impact Issue as a “top educator around the world”. I currently reside in West Los Angeles with my family but my heart still belongs to Chicago.
Named by Variety as “talent to watch,” Burton has directed 6 successful independent feature films, the latest of which are currently available on Netflix and Amazon: A Sort of Homecoming, with Laura Marano and Katherine McNamara, and For the Love of George, with Rosanna Arquette, Tate Donovan, Rex Lee & Kristen Johnston. Earlier films include Just Friends (AMC/WE), Temps, and Manna from Heaven (MGM/SONY). Burton helms Five Sisters Productions with her real-life siblings, through which she directed the pilot for the Emmy qualifying short form series Old Guy and produced The Happiest Day of His Life (MTV/Logo), Kings, Queens & In-Betweens, and Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God (Showtime). Burton has been selected for television directing programs including the recent DGA’s DDI Mentorship Program, the Disney/ABC Directing Program, the CBS Directing Initiative, the Ryan Murphy HALF Foundation, the SONY Diverse Directors Program, and ProjectHER, for which she wrote and directed the short pilot Good Eggs. Burton just completed her terms as Co-Chair of the DGA’s WSC and DGA’s Council of Joint Co-Chairs as well as Alt on the DGA’s National Board; she is a member of Alliance of Women Directors and Film Fatales. She’s currently working on an indie film, MidLife, and developing projects including Searching for Tamsen Donner, based on her mother’s award winning books; and Mercury 13, a drama inspired by the women tested for the original astronaut program, which has been named to the Athena List, the BitchList/Bechdel List, won a CineStory Fellowship, and is a Nicholl Quarterfinalist.
Sandrine Faucher Cassidy
Sandrine Faucher Cassidy is Senior Director of Festivals, Distribution & Talent Development at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She counsels and mentors students and alumni, helping them strategize their careers and Festivals and Distribution of their short films and independent features. She helps build that vital bridge between film school, the festival circuit and the film industry. Sandrine also runs the Distribution Department at School of Cinematic Arts and licenses the student shorts to Networks and Platforms around the world giving additional exposure to the filmmakers and USC Cinematic Arts. With over 30 years of experience in the film industry and international festivals dating back to her position as a film promoter at Unifrance, Sandrine has made a career specializing in the distribution, exhibition of short and features and the support of independent filmmakers As such she is often invited to participate in Festival Juries (Cleveland, Annapolis, Hollyshorts, Amarcort, Hot Springs, Indie Shorts, NOT Film Festival etc/) or participate in panels and round tables (Guanajuato Incubadora, Palm Springs, Austin Film Festival, Cannes Short Film Corner etc.) Sandrine is also a key collaborator involved in Production to international shorts and feature films.
Francois Scippa Kohn
Francois has been releasing movies since 2010, first in France with Chrysalis Films where he picked up and released notable movies such as Let the Right one In (Tomas Alfredson), City Island (Andy Garcia) or Primo Levi’s Journey (Davide Ferrario). Still in France he then specialized in Italian movies with Bellissima Films and distributed some remarkable titles among which Caesar’s Must Die (Golden Bear in Berlin for the brothers Taviani), Terraferma (Emanuele Crialese, director of Respiro and Golden Gate), The Hour Double (Giuseppe Capotondi). He then founded Distrib Films in France and quickly expanded to the US where this year marks his 100th movie released with his company Distrib Films US. Firmly independent, focusing mainly on high quality French and foreign films, François has worked closely with festivals such as Colcoa and built a strong network of connections within the industry with producers, sales agents, theatrical bookers, VOD aggregators, and all types of vendors helping to release each movie with a tailored and passionate approach.
From programmer, critic to finally producer and distributor, Pawel Wieszcz wore many film industry hats for the last 14 years in order to establish a new, mainly devoted to emerging cinematic talent as well as established one, curated, on-line film streaming service KINOSCOPE based in New York City but working globally along with its editorial and screening component. Formerly associated with many international film festivals in Europe and United States, including Film Society of Lincoln Center, New Directors/New Films – MoMA, ,Pawel started to focus on digital strategies, where while programming, I develop new, innovative models of film production and distribution across the world, that include also partnerships with Semaine de la Critique Cannes, Berlinale, Locarno, FiDMarseille, Visions du Reel, Agencia – Portuguese Short Film Agency, sixpack film, Talents Buenos Aires and also film schools like USC, AFI, Minshar Film School in Israel or London Film School.