Meet the TCFF Moderators for 2018!

Rod Birleson is an educator and documentary filmmaker. He earned a degree in secondary education at Eastern Michigan University in 1970 and taught 27 years in Michigan public schools before retiring from teaching in 1997. He began his filmmaking career by being one of the two key field producers for the groundbreaking film, “Roger & Me. Rod went on to work as a producer on “SICKO” and “Capitalism: A Love Story”. He has been active on the film festival from the start, acting as a moderator, panel member and volunteer for the Traverse City Film Festival. He is current TCFF’s newest board member. “I am honored and pleased to have the opportunity to serve as a TCCF Board Member. This film festival is the best example of all the good that can come from a community that works together.”

Doug Benson is an American comedian, marijuana advocate, television host actor and judge who has appeared on Comedy Central Presents, Best Week Ever, Trailer Park Boys and was a contestant on Last Comic Standing in the show’s fifth season. Today, Doug travels the country performing stand-up comedy and recording his live podcast, Doug Loves Movies.

Ira Deutchman has been making, marketing and distributing films since 1975, having worked on over 150 films including some of the most successful independent films of all time. He was one of the founders of Cinecom and later created Fine Line Features—two companies that were created from scratch and, in their respective times, helped define the independent film business. He was also a co-founder of Emerging Pictures, the first digital projection network in the United States and a pioneer in delivering live cultural events into movie theaters. Currently Deutchman is an independent producer, and a consultant in marketing and distribution of independent films. He is also a Professor of Professional Practice in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, where he was the Chair of the Film Program from 2011-2015. In 2017, Deutchman was awarded the Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sundance Art House Convergence for his service to independent film marketing and distribution.

Victor Fanucchi is a writer, filmmaker and educator. He began teaching at the University of Michigan in 2004 after working in Los Angeles for several years, where he made short films “Chekhov’s Gun,” “First Prince” and “Dream House,” and worked a variety of film-related jobs, including editing award-winning trailers for Sony Classics, October Films and Miramax, as well as organizing film series and filmmaker appearances at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Based in Ann Arbor, he continues to make features and shorts that play in film festivals around the country.

Philip Hallman

Phil Hallman is the Film Studies Field Librarian at the University of Michigan where he is a reference librarian and selector for the cinema studies books and periodicals for the Hatcher Graduate Library. Additionally, he works with the Department of Screen Arts & Cultures and is the Head of the Donald Hall Collection, a unique collection devoted to the study of cinema that includes over 20,000 dvd titles and some 3,000 screenplays. He teaches various library research classes for the department and curates the Projectorhead film series sponsored by SAC. He served as a juror for the 2011 and 2012 TCFF in the American documentary/feature film category. He presented a panel at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX entitled “Dig Deep: Libraries, Archives and Filmmaking.” He has presented conferences papers at the 2011 , 2012 & 2013 Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conferences and he is a member of the SCMS Media Archives committee. This spring, he co-organized an exhibit based on materials from the U-UM’s Robert Altman archive collection and oversaw a symposium devoted to Altman in June. Currently he is constructing a database for a research project entitled “Mapping the Motor City’s Cinemas.”

Aademy Award-nominated filmmaker Tia Lessin is the director and producer, with Carl Deal, of Trouble the Water (winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, the Gotham Independent Film Award and the Full Frame Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize) and of Citizen Koch which was shortlisted for the 2015 Oscars. Her documentary short Behind the Labels won the Sidney Hillman Award for Broadcast Journalism.

Tia produced Michael Moore’s last film Where To Invade Next (shortlisted for the 2016 Oscars), co-produced Palme d’Orwinning Fahrenheit 9/11, Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story and line produced Martin Scorsese’s Emmy and Grammy winning film No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. Her work producing the series The Awful Truth earned her two Emmy nominations, one arrest, and a lifetime ban from Disneyland. Tia is TCFF board vice president.

Michael Mittelstaedt is the founding director of the Motion Picture Arts Division at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Mittelstaedt worked as producer/director for Broadview Media of Chicago from 2001 – 05, during which he served as producer for the HGTV series New Spaces. Mittelstaedt also served as director, producer and editor of “America in the 20th Century,” a comprehensive series of documentaries, which chronicle the last century U.S. history, released nationally in 2001. From 2003 to 2005 he was lead producer and technology chair of For Global Progress NFP, directing their annual fundraising event in conjunction with UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine/AIDS Institute. Mittelstaedt has worked internationally in film in the Czech Republic and Peru. His independent film works have been featured at The New York Festivals, Seattle Underground Film Festival, Rooftop Films N.Y., Michigan’s Own, and Visions D.C.

Thom Powers is the documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival; and artistic director of America’s largest documentary festival DOC NYC. He hosts the podcasts Pure Nonfiction and “Documentary of the Week” for New York’s public radio station WNYC. He created the weekly screening series Stranger Than
Fiction at New York’s IFC Center, now in its 14th year. He programs for the Miami Film Festivaland Sundance Now. Before working as a festival programmer, Powers spent a decade directing documentaries for HBO and PBS. Twitter: @thompowers. Instagram: thompowers1.

V Prasad

V Prasad – A screenwriter and director, Prasad’s produced work includes the theatrical release Ocean of Pearls, which was developed in the Film Independent Screenwriters Lab. Other screenplays include Sid Says, which won the Lawrence Kasdan Scholarship in Creative Writing and Radha’s Prayer, developed in the IFP/West Director’s Lab. Prasad holds an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute and teaches the craft at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. Over the years, his students have come from all walks of life, from film students to building contractors, doctors, kindergarten teachers and even a Bond girl. As a story consultant, Prasad has lent his expertise to many companies including Working Title, BET, and Lion’s Gate providing development notes on projects as diverse as The Punisher and State of Play. In addition to his work as a filmmaker, instructor and consultant, Prasad has also served as a programmer for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles specializing in films from South India and the Indian Diaspora.

Yeidy M. Rivero  (Chair of the Department of Film, Television, and Media) – Her research centers on television history, media and globalization, and race and ethnic representations in media. She is the author of Tuning Out Blackness: Race and Nation in the History of Puerto Rican Television (Duke University Press, 2005), Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960 (Duke University Press, 2015), and co-editor (with Arlene Dávila) of Contemporary Latino Media: Production, Circulation, Politics (New York University Press, 2015). Her new book project, tentatively titled The Original Miami Sound Machine: Cuban Exiles, the Cold War, and the Emergence of Miami as a Media Capital, examines propaganda-oriented entertainment radio produced in Miami and targeted to Cuba and Latin America during the 1960s.

Jack Segal is a retired US diplomat who served overseas in Russia, Israel/Palestine, Greece and Botswana, and as a member of the START arms control negotiating team in Geneva. As a senior diplomat, with his wife Karen, they created the first U.S. Consulate General to central Russia. Jack went on to become a member of the National Security Council under President Clinton and was senior political advisor to the NATO operational commander in Afghanistan. With Karen, he currently co-chairs the local chapter of the World Affairs Council (“The International Affairs Forum of Traverse City” – and he teaches at the local college and to graduate students online. He enjoys political humor, particularly U.S. presidential campaign promises.

Matthew Solomon (PhD, UCLA) is an associate professor in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where he teaches film history and film theory. He is the author of a 2015 book about The Gold Rush for the BFI Film Classics series, and the author of Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century, which won the Kraszna-Krausz Award for best moving image book in 2011, as well as the editor of Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon, which was published with a critical edition DVD. He is at work on a book prospectively titled “Méliès: Incoherent Glimpses of the Modern World.

Oliver Thornton

Oliver Thornton is an EMMY® Award-winning writer/producer who has worked with broadcast stations and independent production companies to produce a range of projects from PSA campaigns to full-length documentaries and series. He was the co-writer and co-producer of the EMMY® Award-winning Think Squad series on Detroit Public Television as well as the documentaries Blue Ice: The Story of Michigan Hockey and Detroit Titan Court Report: Legends & Traditions broadcast on FSN Detroit. His recent projects include Feel Grand with Jane Seymour, a nationally distributed talk show through American Public Television, as well as pre-production for a documentary on filmmaker John Sayles.

Lesley Alicia Tye is a writer and instructor of screenwriting and film at Interlochen Center for the Arts. She earned her BFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California and her MFA in Creative Writing from National University. Lesley has also taught seminars for Michigan Writers and Northwestern Michigan College’s extension program. Previously she worked in Los Angeles in film and television, with credits including casting assistant, below-the-line agent with Casala, Ltd, and Costume Designer for the feature Two Coyotes and short The Millennium. Her flash fiction has been published in the anthology Bite from Trachodon Publishing. She has written several feature length screenplays, and was co-writer for the television pilot Devin’s Chronicles for Caspian Sea Entertainment. Here in Traverse City Lesley is co-creator of the Mash-Up Rock ‘n Roll Musical Troupe, writing and directing all of their shows including the upcoming The Little Prince and the Man From Mars, and she recently directed Old Town Playhouse’s production of Young Frankenstein.

Rebecca Reynolds is a writer/producer and co-founder of 8180 Films and the co-creator/producer of the popular true crime podcast Hollywood and Crime. The podcast’s new series, The Wonderland Murders, debuted at #1 on iTunes on the Wondery audio network in May. Twitter: @HollywoodnCrime. Facebook: Hollywood & Crime.

Terri Sarris has been a media educator and maker for nearly three decades, teaching courses at the University of Michigan in film, video, television production, documentary, sketch and situation comedy, and dance for the screen. In 2016, along with filmmakers Kazuhiro Soda, Markus Nornes, and filmmakers from the University of Michigan, she co-directed The Big House, a feature-length direct cinema documentary which has screened recently at the Image Forum in Tokyo, at Cinetopia and the Ann Arbor Film Festival in Ann Arbor, the FREEP in Detroit, and at Berlin Critics’ week. Her previous films have been screened and awarded at numerous festivals including Sundance, Heartland, Detroit Docs, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Sarris is a member of the musical toy trio Little Bang Theory, which plays original live scores to classic silent films.

Raphaela Neihausen is Executive Director of DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival (now in its ninth year), Split Screens Festival  (now in its second year) and Stranger Than Fiction, a weekly series at IFC Center (now in its fourteenth year). From 2011 – 2014, she launched the Montclair Film Festival, as Executive Director. Prior to that, she worked for seven years at Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman), advising Fortune 100 companies on strategic growth. Neihausen co-hosts WNYC’s “Doc of the Week” and executive produces the podcast Pure Nonfiction. She also produced the feature documentary Miss Gulag and the 2017 Oscar® nominated short film Joe’s Violin. She holds a BSFS/MA from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.