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Alumni Spotlight Archive

Spotlight Alums in 2018

Perry Janes Selected for Creators for Imagine Impact!

Perry Janes (SAC grad, with Highest Honors, 2012) has been selected as one of 25 creators for the inaugural class of Creators for Imagine Impact! This new program, the brainchild of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, seeks to reshape the Hollywood development process by taking a leaf out of Silicon Valley's playbook. By pairing emerging creators with established writers and show runners ("Shapers"), the program fast-tracks projects to completion over an 8-week period, culminating in a series of pitches to studio and network heads. Perry's project AMERICAN REFUGEE, a 60-minute drama concept for cable television, was selected from over 4,000 applicants. He will be working with Academy Award winning writer Dustin Lance Black. 

Yoni Goldstein and Meredith Zielke Selected for IFP Filmmakers Lab

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) recently announced the 20 feature films selected for the IFP Filmmaker Labs, IFP’s year-long fellowship for first-time filmmakers currently in post-production on their debut features. Combining documentary and narrative features together for the first time, the program runs May 21-25, 2018, at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP located in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Goldsteins's (FTVM '06) and  Zielke's (FTVM '06) A Machine to Live In was selected as one of the feature films. This sci-fi documentary paints a complex portrait of life and myth in the space-age city of Brasilia, a sixties-era architectural mega-project, and the flourishing landscape of cults, religious movements, and transcendental spaces that have emerged around it. The film is assembled from found documents and texts from key figures who were called to chronicle this monumental social experiment.

Yoni Goldstein (Writer, Director), Meredith Zielke (Director, Editor), 
Sebastian Alvarez (Producer). 

Ryan McDonough Talks about his Debut Film GROOVE in the DAILY

Ryan McDonough (FTVM '16) talks about his expeirences making the film GROOVE -- and how the FTVM program helped to fuel his confidence to "do something big." Read Ryan's full interview here.

GROOVE is is currently available on Amazon, Itunes, Xbox, Hulu, Google Play and Vimeo. 

photo courtesy of Ryan McDonough

Sophia Kruz (FTVM '11) Collaborates with U-M’s School of Education to Transform High School Classrooms with her Documentary LITTLE STONES

Kruz has recently partnered with LSA alumnus, Darin Stockdill (A.B. 1991), the design coordinator with the Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER) at U-M’s School of Education, on educational materials to use with her documentary, Little Stones. Together, they developed a program that would help teachers and students from around Michigan and across the country process difficult topics — genital mutilation, domestic violence, human trafficking, and economic precarity — by using Little Stones as a jumping-off point for difficult but important conversations. 

Above text excepted from Brian Short's Change Agents - read the entire article here

Alison Hacker (FTVM GMS Minor '17) Works in NBC Page Program

Alison Hacker (GMS Minor '17) is currently working in the NBC Page Program in NYC. Alison is on an assignment at Focus Features in the publicity department, one of her three-month long rotations during her year in the program. In additional to having three different rotations, Pages give NBC studio tours, work special events, and work with the audiences for Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Late Night With Seth Meyers.

A recent highlight for Alison was working behind the scenes for the televised production of Jesus Christ Superstar starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles (see set photo at right). Alison worked specifically with audience seating for the production, helping to guide and direct over 1400 audience members. She states she was surprised at the fact that "before the event, audience members checked in at a near-by hotel and then were all bused to the venue. [She] was told it was because they didn’t want to disrupt the community surrounding the Brooklyn-based theater." As a graduate of Michigan's theatre school with a minor in the FTVM department, Alison says it was "an incredible experience to see her two favorite artistic mediums come together on such a large scale."

Anna Baumgarten (FTVM '15) Featured in IndieWire

Anna Baumgarten's short film "Disfluency" was recently featured in IndieWire's "'Disfluency': Short Film with 'Sneaky Pete' Star Libe Barer Confronts LIfe After Sexual Assault," by writer Bailey Mount. Based on the real life experiences of writer/producer Anna Baumgarten, this short film shines a light on the ubiquity of rape culture and the aftermath of rape itself. Watch the full short here

Above, still from "Disfluency"

Congratulations to Anna for winning the Jury Prize in the
2018 Detroit Voices Competition at the Cinetopia Film Festival!

FTVM Alums James Janisse ('11) and Chelsea Rebecca ('12) Talk Horror in Their New Podcast

James Janisse (FTVM '11) and Chelsea Rebecca (FTVM '12) have begun a podcast about Horror film entitled Dead Meat (an offshoot of James's popular YouTube show Kill Count). In the first episode, James and Chelsea introduce themselves and give a context for their love of the genre. Chelsea cites Mark Kligerman's horror film class as "the best class, hands down [she] ever took." Listen to the full podcast here. 

FTVM Alum Natalie Lomske ('16) Wins Grand Prize in Screenwriting Contest

Project Cinema MI recently announced the winners of their 2017 screenwriting contest, and screenwriting sub-major Natalie Lomske (FTVM '16) won the grand prize. This accolade not only includes a monetary reward but also involves Natalie's script being produced into a short film by Brauer Productions and screened at the State Theater in summer/fall of 2018. 

Alum John Nelson ('76) Wins Oscar for Best Visual Effects and Appears at AAFF

John Nelson (pictured at left, front) won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for Bladerunner 2049 on Sunday, March 4, 2018.

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at 5:00 p.m., Nelson presented a free illustrated lecture in the Michigan Theatre Main Auditorium as a part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. In the lecture, Nelson illustrated how he and his team created some of the 1,190 visual effects shots for Blade Runner 2049. Using before-and-afters, he detailed the visual effects production process from design to principal photography to post-production. 

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Julia Mogerman (FTVM '15) Wins Big Break Screenwriting Contest in Drama Category


Julia Mogerman won the Big Break Screenwriting Contest Award in the Drama category for her screenplay, Stray. The Big Break Screenwriting Contest offers film and TV writers in 11 genres the chance to win up to $80,000 in cash and prizes. Grand prize winners also get flown to Los Angeles to meet with managers, producers, and executives.The grand prize winners for this year will be announced in February at the 2018 Final Draft Awards show.

Anna Garcia (FTVM '17) Stars in National Duracell Commercial

Anna Garcia booked her first national commercial as the star of Duracell's most recent spot. It was directed by comedy legends Tim Heidecker and Eric Warheim. Watch the commerical below -- and check out Anna's website to see what she's been up to! 

Jackie Turner (FTVM '12) To Create New Documentary on the Future of Bananas

FTVM Alumna Jackie Turner would like you to know that bananas do not grow on trees. Figuratively or literally.  And that's important, because as consumers we rarely consider the consequences of our consumption, especially when those consequences occur thousands of miles from our grocery stores.

Having just completed a masters degree in ecological sciences at Imperial College London, Jackie is combining her skills as a former professional video producer and editor with her love for science and food to start a new project.  On her team are six other ecologists newly graduated from Imperial College London.  This international team is determined to create a documentary film about bananas: "Bananageddon" will focus on small banana producers who are innovating banana production by growing other edible banana varieties and growing these bananas in complex, biodiverse agroforestry systems. Jackie considers herself a science communicator and hopes to use her media skills to communicate important science topics.

Most recently, she authored an article for Science Magazine."

Spotlight Alums in 2017

Sultan Sharrief (FTVM '06 and Visiting FTVM Production Faculty '11-'14) and Street Cred Detroit Youth Cred Win Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Grant

Sultan Sharrief and his Street Cred Detroit Youth Crew recently claimed one of the 29 Knights Art Challenge Awards from the Knight Foundation for their work "When It All Changed, A Virtual Reality High School Tour." Sharrief's  project is a follow-up to the TV show Street Cred he and his crew created for PBS and is meant to spark conversations about empathy and race. 

When It All Changed is an interactive 360 Video performance piece that will be used to inspire positive dialog about social change. In the year 2072 two sisters, Nia and Eve, can't get enough people to "unplug" from technology to join their compassion movement. So they find a way to send a memory back to the past that they hope will inspire people to start the compassion movement sooner. The film puts you in the body of a 16-year-old Black girl in Detroit as she tries an ambitious project to bring several sparring groups in her neighborhood together. It's Eve's memory of the day when it all changed for her future. 

Sophia Kruz (FTVM '11) Participates in Shinola x Girlgaze "Girls with Purpose" Fall '17 Campaign

#Girlgaze is a digital media company, based in Los Angeles, that promotes and highlights the work of female Gen Z photographers and directors. Their mission is to close the gender gap by creating visibility and tangible jobs for girls behind the lens. Shinola (Detroit) has recently partnered with Girlgaze to highlight five Girls With Purpose who use art and creativity to promote social change. Sophia Kruz, Director of Little Stones, and Founder of the non-profit Driftseed, is a part of this campaign. 

For more on Sophia's work, please click here

Supriya Kelkar (FTVM '02) Hosts Two Local Book Signings for Her New Book, AHIMSA

Supriya Kelkar hosted two book signings for her new book, Ahimsa (Tu Books, 10/2/17), a middle-grade novel that takes place in British-ruled India in 1942. After Mahatma Gandhi asks each family to give one member to the non-violent freedom movement, 10-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life and joining. But it turns out he isn't the one going. Her mother is. As the family gets more and more involved in the resistance, Anjali is forced to confront her privilege and her prejudices to ensure their little part in the movement gets complete. (School Library Journal Starred Review; ALA Booklist Starred Review).

Book Signing Locations
Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor Sunday​, October 8th, 2017 at 3p.m. & ​Barnes & Noble in Northville on Friday, October 27, 2017 from 6-9 p.m​.​

Anna Garcia's (FTVM '17) Film to Screen at Three Upcoming Festivals This Month

Garcia's film Anna Garcia Does a One Woman Play, a work made possible through M-agination Film and an incredible team of FTVM students and alumni, is screening in three upcoming festivals, two of which are local: The Royal Starr Film Festival (Royal Oak, MI; Oct. 12-14, 2017); The Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival (Grand Rapids, MI; Oct. 21, 2017), and the Orlando Film Festival (October 19-26, 2017). Watch the trailer here - and come out and support Anna if you can!

About the film: The highly intense, overbearing and imaginative Anna Garcia arranges to do a one woman play, and to have a documentary made about herself doing the play. There’s just one problem: she doesn’t have a script or any idea what her play will be about. Watch as Anna desperately scrambles around Ann Arbor, trying to get other people to write her play as she pieces together her “chef d’ouevre.”

Ryan McDonough (FTVM '16) Wins Best Director Award for GROOVE

Ryan McDonough won the Best Director Award from the Long Island International Film Expo for his film Groove, which chronicles New York City subway musicians and the unique lives they lead. Upon the film's debut this July, Ben Strack, of the LI Herald, interviewed Ryan about his work. McDonough claims, “I was inspired by the kind of indie film makers…who have the attitude of, ‘Don’t wait for someone to let you do something. Just go make it happen.'" To read the full article about Ryan's journey in making Groove, please click here; to listen to his interview at the LIIFE Film Expo, please click here.

photo courtesy of R. McDonough
(Sydney Shepard in Groove)

Matthew Kane (FTVM '12) Writes STITCHERS Episode

Matthew Kane 
wrote season 3, episode 7 ("Just the Two of Us") of Freeform's Sci-Fi series Stitchers. Written by Kane and Jeffrey Alan Schechter, the episode first aired on July 24, 2017. Read more about the series and access Kane's episode here.

Noah Stahl (FTVM '11) Produces First Film

Noah Stahl
's first movie as a producer, Patti Cakes, screened at the Michigan Theater on August 30 and 31, 2017. An underdog movie about a young woman from Jersey with big dreams of making it as a rapper, The New York Times claimed it was "impossible not to root for" and described the lead Danielle Macdonald as "simply a revelation."  Watch the trailer here

Zack Arnold (FTVM '02) Shares Knowledge on Networking

Zack Arnold, now an in-demand editor in the world of scripted TV, with credits for cutting shows like Burn Notice, EmpireGlee, and Shooter, was recently featured in Robert Hardy's article “Empire” Editor Has 7 Steps to Network Successfully in Hollywood" ( Blog, August 14, 2017). In the article, Arnold shares his experiences and gives advice about how to network and build relationships with people in the business. "If you want to succeed in the film industry," he claims, "You need to keep showing up, keep doing incredible work, and keep building authentic relationships with the people who matter." To read the entire article and view Zack's 7 steps to success, please click here.

Josh Gibert's (FTVM '15) Film Chosen as Finalist in Detroit Voices 2017 Competition

Black Trust Fund Baby vs. Remote Therapy (Dir. Josh Gibert, 5 mins) A bratty college drop-out distracts himself from his woes with technology, but an encounter with his step-sister triggers a supernatural revelation.

Josh Gibert is a 24-year-old, local actor/director and University of Michigan alum. In 2015, he was chosen to participate in the prestigious Sundance Institute’s Screenwriter’s Intensive: Detroit. Josh is currently producing and starring in his own web series, is developing a Detroit-set pilot, and is working to bring challenging narratives and compelling characters to the screen.

The Detroit Voices Competition program will take place on the closing night of the Cinetopia Festival, Sunday, June 11, at 7:30 PM at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. A closing night party will follow. 

Film & Video Studies Alum Ted Houser ('05) Joins Alums from Detroit Voices in Retrospecive

2014 R. Stern; 2017 Task Force – Small town American deals with the opioid crisis.

Ted Houser is a filmmaker and Co-Director of the Detroit Film Society. His films have played at film festivals locally and nationally, including the Cinetopia Film Festival and Virginia Film Festival. After studying Film at the University of Michigan he relocated to Los Angeles, working in the mainstream Entertainment Industry. After moving back to Detroit, Ted has worked with local organizations like DAFT (Digital Arts Film & Television) to help student filmmakers tell their stories.  

The Detroit Voices Retrospective will take place in Ann Arbor on Sunday, June 4 at 3:15 PM. These alumni will appear in person to share their latest work and reflections on life since taking part in Detroit Voices. 

Colin Rich Edits Film to Premiere on ABC

Colin Rich (FTVM '09) was the Editor on John Ridley's "Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992." The film was released on Friday, April 21, 2017, in theaters -- a week before its television premiere on ABC on April 28. Pegged to the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles uprising, the feature documentary takes a unique and in-depth look at the years and events leading up to the city-wide violence that began April 29, 1992, when the verdict was announced in the Rodney King case. To read more about the film, please click here

Sophia Kruz Gives UMTedx Talk about Her Documentary, LITTLE STONES

In February of 2017, Driftseed co-founder Sophia Kruz (FTVM '11) gave a TEDxUofM talk entitled The Combat of Women Cultureto a sold-out audience on her new documentary Little Stones, and the power of art and culture to empower women and girls around the world. Watch her video here

Spotlight Alums in 2016

Andrew Day Interviewed on CTN

Filmmaker and FTVM Alum Andrew Day (FTVM '16) was featured on CTN's "Let's Watch the Ann Arbor Film Festival" (host, Dana Denha) on November 16, 2016. The show includes Day's discussion of his time and experience with the Festival, a showing of his film "The Human Body, Our Friend," and ends a discussion of his work. 

Sophia Kruz Hosts Test Screening at Michigan Theater

Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and former PBS producer Sophia Kruz (FTVM '11) along with cinematographer Meena Singh, hosted a test-screening of their 90-minute documentary Little Stones, at the Michigan Theater on October 5, 2016. The film explores the role of art in the global empowerment of women and girls. From a graffiti artist in the favelas of Brazil raising awareness about domestic violence, to a choreographer in India using dance to rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking, Little Stones profiles four artists who have found innovative ways to use their art to tackle the most pressing issues facing the women in their communities.

Hena Ashraf Attends UCLA and Wins Scholarship

Hena Ashraf (FTVM '08) entered UCLA's MFA in Film Directing program in September 2016. After graduating from UM, Ashraf moved to New York where she worked for various media institutions such as Black Public Media and the Tribeca Film Institute, amongst others. Her films, such as Small Delights (Best Emerging Filmmaker, Queens World Film Festival) feature characters whose multiple identities characterize them as outsiders and who thus struggle to fit in. These themes have been developed from her own personal experiences as a young Muslim woman growing up in the U.K. and America. Ashraf is also the 2016 recipient of The Farah Tahir Scholarship from the Islamic Scholarship Fund. Congratulations, Hena!

2013 Alums' Film Opens Shorts Program at Rooftop Festival in NYC

2013 FTVM Alums Roddy HydukJosh Buoy, and Meredith Finch -- of the Ann Arbor production company Snowday -- have created a film selected to open the shorts program at the Rooftop Film Festival in NYC (2016).

Stations -- shot over the course of 10 days at 120 stations in all five boroughs, blends scripted scenes and pure documentary to offer a captivating glimpse of New York life. P.Claire Dodson of The Atlantic says of Hyduk, "Roddy [...] has always been fascinated by the subway." Hyduk confirms, "There are so many layers of information to be absorbed within the context of each individual station [...] Imagining what's happening simultaneously across the entire system sparked my initial curiosity." Hyduk's end goal is that "through the sum of all of the stations represented, the unique texture of New York might reveal itself in a new and compelling way" (qtd. in Dodson, The Atlantic)

Stations was directed by Hyduk and produced by Josh Buoy, Meredith Finch, and Chelsea Hyduk. 

The film has been featured in The Atlantic and Fast Company

Paul Sutherland Directs Unique Promo for Livonia Public Library

Paul Sutherland ('08)
  directed a promotional video for the Livonia Public Library, promoting their summer reading program in an unconventionallly engaging way. The video features Phoenix Freerunning Academy ... and some very limber librarians.

The video was recently featured on the Late Late Show with James Corden on May 25th, 2016. 

Joe Reed Co-Produces Viral Video on Women in Sports Broadcasting

The viral video "#MoreThanMean - Women in Sports Face Harassment" was co-produced by FTVM alumnus Joe Reed ('12). The video features real men reading real comments made about sports reporters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro – to their faces -- in an attempt to increase awareness about harassment of women in sports broadcasting. 

Jacqueline Wood Recognized in Cincinnati's CITYBEAT

Cincinnati's Citybeat recognized FTVM Alumna Jacqueline Wood ('06) in their 2016 Arts & Nightlife Staff Picks Feature as "Best Attempt to Use Corporate Foundation Money to Pay Avant-Garde Filmmakers."  With her $15,000 from People’s Liberty, filmmaker C. Jacqueline Wood’s ambitious Mini Microcinema project paid more than 140 artists working in experimental film, film installation and poster art. Wood programmed the Globe Gallery in Over-the-Rhine with 28 screenings over eight weeks and (with the help of arts volunteers committed to her cause) spent every last penny of said grant, paying each filmmaker, artist, curator and otherwise for their time and work. The Microcinema will be back in action at The Carnegie in Kentucky in 2016, with screenings through April 22. 

Text extracted from Citybeat, "2016 Arts & Nightlife Staff Picks." 
Photo credit, Jesse Fox, Citybeat

Sultan Sharrief Creates YouTube Channel to Address Hollywood's Lack of Diversity

Sultan Sharrief's (FTVM '06 and Visiting FTVM Production Faculty '11-'14) YouTube show What's Really Going On?  premiered with a two-part episode entitled, "What if Deadpool was Black? (How Chunky Monkey Can Explain Why the Oscars Are So White)." In the episode, Sharrief addresses the underlying complexity of the "Oscars So White" issue, citing seven reasons that he believes to have collectively contributed to the lack of diversity in Hollywood. In future episodes, Sharrief plans to continue to explore the lack of diversity in the industry, beginning with his process of developing his new reality TV show, STREET CRED, a show that challenges inner city youth to apply their street smarts and inherent grit to compete for a chance at a dream film internship. 

Spotlight Alums in 2015

Will O'Donnell Receives Honorable Title

FTVM's Will O'Donnell ('15) claimed the title "Young Alumnus of the Month" (January, 2016) and was featured on the UM Alumni Association's website. In an interview with Alexander Bernard, O'Donnell reveals the details about his post-graduation adventures. After backpacking in Europe for two months, he moved to New York in hopes of becoming a Production Assistant. Recently, O'Donnell has worked on two Woody Allen films, Showtime's new series "Billions," and Hulu's new comedy "Difficult People." He states, "[W]hile the hours are unhealthy 90 percent of the time (14 hours is a standard day), I really do love what I do and consider myself lucky to be a part of so many great productions." When asked where he is going after his work on "Difficult People" ends, O'Donnell responds, "[...] Sometimes part of being a production assistant is that you don't know what your next gig is until your current one ends. Sometimes you don't even know where you'll be working on Friday. You just have to do your best work, maintain all of your connections, and figure it out. It keeps me on my toes."

Spotlight Snapshots Through the Years

Tricia Williams ('15) placed second in the first round of a stand up comedy competition at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank. She qualified to compete in the second round, which was held on February 24th, 2016 at 8 pm. Pictured - Tricia front and center, with the many other FTVM alums and friends who turned out to support her.

THE PICKLE RECIPE premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in February of 2016. FTVM alumni on the project: Director of Photography Geoffrey George (pictured), Josh Ficken (key grip), Chris Miller (grip), and Eddie Rubin (producer).

FTVM Alum Shrihari Sathe ('05) recently produced the film A Woman, A Part, a film about an exhausted, workaholic actress, Anna Baskin, who abruptly extricates herself from a successful but mind-numbing TV role, returning to her past life in New York to reinvent herself.